Through the years...

History - 1960

Written on June 4, 2012

The inaugural meeting of the Federation took place at Wakefield House in Wellington on Saturday 20 February 1960, but several months of preparatory work lay behind it. Frank Terry of Blenheim was the founder of the organisation.

There has been at least two earlier attempts to form a national body representative of the amateur operatic movement, but without success. The benefits of co-operation, of communication and of speaking with a united voice - so obvious now because societies have experienced then, were not readily discernible in the days when an operatic society functioned pretty much in isolation from its fellows. But in the closing months of 1959 Terry, ably assisted by Elsa Cresswell, put himself in touch with every society whose address he could discover and managed, by virtue of this enthusiasm and persistence, to persuade 14 of them to send representatives to the inaugural meeting. Terry himself chaired the meeting which lasted a full day. The aims of a national body and the hopes and fears of the societies represented were canvassed in detail, and it was unanimously resolved to form a Federation and to impose on member societies a "foundation levy" of $8.40 (four guineas in the then currency).

During the ensuing months, Executive members gradually came to grips with the problems which were to become the standard heads of day-to-day Federation activity - copyright questions, the availability of scores and scripts, the compilation of a list of producers willing to travel. Television was just beginning and the Federation engaged itself almost immediately in correspondence with the Ministries of Internal Affairs and of Broadcasting, seeking for the amateur operatic movement a place in the new medium.

Laird Thomson (then Managing Secretary of Auckland Operatic) had much experience in work of this kind and it was largely a tribute to him that the infant Federation was able so quickly to begin to make itself heard. Overseas connections were not forgotten and the Federation became, almost at once, a member of NODA.

In November the Executive held its first formal meeting and adopted pretty much by accident a pattern which was to be faithfully followed for years to come. At the invitation of Mae Hansel, they went to Palmerston North for the weekend because there was a show on- "Bless the Bride". They started work on the Friday night, continued throughout Saturday, saw the show on Saturday night as guests of the Palmerston North Operatic Society, finished their meeting on Sunday morning and then went home. The major item on their agenda (and they actually spent eight hours on it) was a draft constitution. By 31 December, the Federation had 31 members, and $73.10 in the bank. The Executive, with due prudence, transferred $40 of it to a reserve fund.

The Federation had begun.

Executive - 1960

President Frank Terry (Blenheim)
Vice Presidents Laird Thomson (Auckland - North Island); Len Barnes (Nelson - South Island)
Executive Tim Blennerhassett (Wellington); Hugh Duncan (Blenheim); Douglas Dyer (Gisborne); Mae Hansel (Palmerston North); Cedric White (Napier)
Hon Secretary Elsa Cresswell
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