New years honours: Barbara Thompson

By Hannah Norton

Local lifelong pianist Barbara Thomson's ivory-tinkling fingers will soon be wrapping around a Queen's Service Medal.

The Kensington resident's been involved in music and the performing arts in Whangarei since the early 1950s, for which she is being recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours list.

"My reaction was - 'oh no, I don't deserve this'," she said.

"But then I realised someone has gone to the trouble of nominating me - it would be churlish of me to turn it down."

Since 1953, she has had several roles for the Northland Performing Arts Competition Society, first as committee member and secretary, then festival co-ordinator and treasurer. The annual festival runs over four consecutive weekends in September, with competing sections in music, dance and speech.

She has also worked with Whangarei Theatre Company as a rehearsal and orchestral pianist since 1957, and has assisted the company's junior theatre group as a tutor, singing repetiteur and pianist. She has been pianist and musical organiser for the Whangarei Repertory Society Music Hall productions since 1974, and has assisted with several drama productions and general organisation for the Octagon Theatre.

Of her widespread involvement she simply said: "I just do things for people - when they ask, I say yes."

She was awarded life membership of Whangarei Theatre Company in 2003, life membership of Whangarei Repertory Society in 1992, and life membership of the Northland Performing Arts Competition Society in 1974. She also received a Whangarei District Council Civic Award in 1989. She is also a life member of Whangarei Senior Citizens.

For many years, she's has also been a pianist for senior vocal groups, entertaining at retirement homes, and the Whangarei Senior Citizens organisation. She also worked with Whangarei Youth Music, having tutored recorder students since 1983, and is an established adult recorder consort.

"Music means quite a lot to me and I am thankful my mother insisted I learn piano as a child. In hindsight I realised she would have made a few sacrifices to allow me to play."

- Northern Advocate

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