Maurice Charles Taylor - obituary

Wanganui lost one of its musical identities recently with the passing of Maurice Taylor at Wanganui Hospital on 31 July 2016.

He was born in Wanganui on 23 September 1927, and lived in the city continuously since 1939, when his father became headmaster of Aramoho School.

After leaving school at age 14, Maurice pursued a career in cabinet-making working for local firms such as: Fry and Treloar, Dickson Display Co and Carter Merchants.

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After making a decision to start a new business he joined his friend Jim Eyers to open Carpetland in Victoria Ave.

Then he started his own business Taylor Made Furniture for two years and finally Maurice Taylor Furniture Ltd manufacturing and retailing furniture in upper Glasgow Street, before retiring some 23 years ago.

Throughout his life he pursued an amateur singing career and was recognised as one of New Zealand's premier bass-baritone soloists.

Maurice developed a large solo repertoire which he drew on when asked to perform at all manner of functions and occasions - at hundreds of weddings, funerals, church concerts, Rotary meetings, rest homes and civic occasions.

In particular he sang Negro spirituals with great feeling, also old Scottish ballads and songs from the shows, art songs, lieder and comedy numbers. He always was most appreciative of his accompanists like Muriel Tinker, Audrey Eyers and Nelson Tizard. As the bass in the very entertaining St Andrew's Quartette, Maurice got to sing for the Queen Mother in 1966.

In 1963 he entered the Mobil Song Quest - beaten in the semi-finals by a little known young soprano from Gisborne called Kiri Te Kanawa. He later sang with Kiri on several occasions.

In the 1970s and 80s he was frequently engaged by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for big works such as Berlioz' Romeo and Juliet, Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and concert performances of operas like Peter Grimes and Turandot, and especially for Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the Choral.

He turned down attractive opportunities to pursue a professional singing career preferring instead to prioritise family, the local church, business and community interests.

Even so he was in demand for his fine voice and he became something of a specialist in oratorio singing Messiah, The Creation, Elijah, Belshazzar's Feast, Bach's B minor Mass, St Matthew Passion and many other works with all the choral societies around the country.

He thought he'd sung over 150 performances of Messiah in all.

In all his musical ventures he was fiercely loyal to Wanganui and proud to represent his city wherever he travelled on singing trips.

Locally, his talents also led him into amateur theatre and Amdram where he was soon taking solo roles - his later performances as Don Quixote in 'Man of La Mancha', and as Johann Strauss I in The Great Waltz are probably the best remembered.

As a business man Maurice enjoyed the world of commerce, even had a brief foray into exporting.

Active in Rotary and subsequently Probus, he was awarded the highest honour in Rotary, the Paul Harris Fellowship.

He was involved in numerous community projects, particularly through Rotary, such as the historic street in the museum, which he made a significant contribution towards. But perhaps the activity that he became best known for was the annual Carols by Candlelight.

For a number of years his powerful voice led enthusiastic singing at Virginia Lake just before Christmas.

He received the Mayors award for civic service in 1985 recognising his contribution to the cultural life of the city. He was an elder in St Andrew's Presbyterian church, committed to various ministries (mainly practical) within the church and ran an incredibly popular Friday night youth club in the 1970s.

In his latter years it was his greatest joy to make things and fix things for others - the quintessential 'bloke in his shed'. He was a big man in both stature and presence, with a big heart and warm personality.

Maurice Taylor is survived by his wife Gladys, three children, nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
*Complied by family and friends