Music underscored an accomplished life

By John Maslin

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MUSICAL FIXTURE: Muriel Tinker accompanied the best, played for royalty and is a name synonymous with Whanganui's musical history. PHOTO/FILE
MUSICAL FIXTURE: Muriel Tinker accompanied the best, played for royalty and is a name synonymous with Whanganui's musical history. PHOTO/FILE

WHEN THE Chronicle interviewed Muriel Tinker in her Whanganui East home two years ago the reporter was taken by a framed plaque on one wall which summed up her life perfectly.

It read: "Gone Chopin. Bach in a Minuet. Offenbach sooner."

The play on musical history is front and centre and it underlined Mrs Tinker's life to a tee.

Sadly, after a full life in which she was became part of the fabric of Whanganui's musical scene, she died peacefully at Masonic Court on May 5, aged 94.

She started learning the piano as a 6-year-old, when she was a student at the Avenue Primary School (where Wanganui Intermediate now stands). An interest and feeling for music was something she inherited from her parents Cliff and Beatrice Hingston.

Muriel Tinker has been a part of Wanganui musical life for more than 60 years and has accompanied soloists and choirs to great success.

Her parents were very fond of music and it rubbed off on their daughter.

She started learning the piano to be able to play with her parents.

After secondary schooling at Wanganui Girls' College, she got a job with a local furniture store. It was during this time that she accepted the role as deputy accompanist with the Wanganui Male Choir.

She eventually became the choir's premier accompanist, a position she held for 45 years until 1999.

In her younger days Mrs Tinker said she used to faint on stage because she was so nervous. But over time her confidence grew as she accompanied other artists and she began to accept more public engagements.

That included singing solo (she was a contralto) on Whanganui's radio station (then 2ZA).

In an interview in the Chronicle in 1986, she recalled the idiosyncrasies of some performers she played for.

"One singer kept her throat moist by eating pickled onions backstage.

"The aroma was such I wondered how I'd get through that concert," she recalled.

Mrs Tinker was so much part of Wanganui's life that she was awarded the title of city pianist.

She played at Vice Regal receptions and was the official accompanist for the Royal Variety Concert staged when the Queen Mother visited Whanganui in 1967. That was an occasion she held dear.

She always said a sense of humour carried her through and enabled her to cope with any on-stage emergency.

"I still remember having to stand on stage all on my own and when the Queen Mother got to a certain spot in the aisle, curtseying to her before going to the piano to play God Save the Queen."

After the concert she and other performers were introduced to the Queen Mother. Well aware she had to curtsy before royalty, "when she got to me I looked at all the jewellery around her neck and almost forgot".

When Mrs Tinker received a Whanganui community award in 1983 she said it wouldn't have been possible without the support of her late husband Allan and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, who both survive her.

"And I have a Christian faith which I draw on for all my performances".

Her ability at the keyboard led her to a lifelong career as a professional accompanist, and she was recognised as one of the best in the country.

She played for the stars, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major, local bass Maurice Taylor and for countless concerts by the Wanganui Male Voice Choir.

She also played the organ at St Paul's Church for at least half a century and was not a bad contralto singer either, getting some tuition from Sister Mary Leo.

"I sang with the national orchestra in a performance in Palmerston North that was broadcast too. I sang The Last Rose of Summer. I'll never forget that," Mrs Tinker said.

In between a hectic musical life, she worked for a number of local businesses and schools, including the office of the Aramoho Primary School.

Her advancing years didn't dim her abilities. She continued to get out occasionally and play at rest homes, usually with copies of the lyrics she handed out for the audiences.

As recently as December 2014, Mrs Tinker appeared at a concert put on by the Wanganui Community and Male Choirs.

The Chronicle's reviewer said her appearance on stage was "the icing on the Christmas cake at this festive occasion".

As a special guest artist for the concert, she played the well-known Carl Reber composition Remembrance.

The reviewer said that unlike many of the renditions over the years, "she didn't perform it as a jolly romp, but rather showed the subtlety and sensitivity this piece requires".

Her name is immortalised in an award from the Wanganui Competitions Society - the Muriel Tinker Cup.

It's probably just as she would have liked it.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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