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TRIBUTE: Family members, seated, and the choir from Opera North, of which Joan Kennaway was founder and director. Photo/John Stone

Music is the language of the soul, the emotions and the secret to happiness.
Appreciation of that language was among the loving, everlasting gifts Joan Kennaway gave to her family, friends, pupils and audiences, said speakers at ''Joanie's'' funeral in Whangarei today.

There were two standing ovations during the service: one after a recording was played of her performance in the 1970 Mobil Song Quest where she came second to Kiri Te Kanawa's win; the other after Rick Kennaway paid tribute to his beloved wife.
The couple met at singing competitions in Auckland when they were in their early 20s and were married for almost 58 years.

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As with many of the performances featuring Joan Kennaway, her farewell was drenched with the beauty of music, the joy of life and the talent she nurtured and coaxed from her choirs, cast and pupils.

Speakers outlined her early success — runner-up in that 1970 Mobil (now Lexus) Song Quest; winner of Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga and Gisborne aria contests; a national touring concert artist (including with the Sydney Opera); an acclaimed musical theatre director; later one of New Zealand's top singing teachers and voice coaches; director (with help from Team Kennaway) of Opera in the Garden; yet more achievements, not least being awarded a Queen's Service Medal.

Among speakers was Kawiti Waetford, a former pupil who went on to become a protege of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. He sang ''a joyful aria'' as Ms Kennaway would wish and which was a theme of the day, then spoke emotionally of his ''greatest teacher''.

Others talked about a loving, compassionate, funny, elegant, gracious, gently assertive perfectionist; a passionate shopper, loyal, trustworthy friend, a bon vivant who with Rick threw many a party, had a penchant for champagne and a high-kick party trick that could see her toes touch the top of a door frame.

The latter was one of ''six facts about our mother you might not know'' shared by her daughters, Jackie and Bronwyn.

Ms Kennaway's casket, painted in her favourite turquoise-teal colour, was carried in by family to the beautiful singing of the Opera North Choir she founded and had directed for many years.

During the service the choir, with Emma Couper as soloist, sang a superb Nun's Chorus', and hundreds of people joined in a splendid rendition of All Things Bright and Beautiful.

The casket was carried out to the song Climb Every Mountain, not only reflecting Joanie's can-do attitude and zest for life, but one of the musicals in which she proved what a shining star she was.