Violinist bows out for veteran

Frances Hodgkins Retirement Village resident George Bulleid gives New Zealand Symphony Orchestra...
Frances Hodgkins Retirement Village resident George Bulleid gives New Zealand Symphony Orchestra violinist Beiyi Xue some tips yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.

Even New Zealand Symphony Orchestra musicians are reluctant to argue with someone who has played an instrument for 70 years.

So, NZSO first violin Beiyi Xue, of Wellington, was only too happy to let 97-year-old violin veteran George Bulleid take a bow at Frances Hodgkins Retirement Village yesterday.

And Mr Bulleid was anything but retiring when given the chance to play second fiddle.

"I haven't done that for many years," he said with a broad grin.

"The last time I played was about 16 years ago. I was an inspired amateur for more than 70 years, but I always loathed orchestral playing."

Ms Xue and NZSO colleagues violist Belinda Veitch, assistant sub-principal emeritus cellist Brigid O'Meeghan and first violinist Ursula Evans put on a one-hour performance at the rest-home and had afternoon tea with residents.

"It's lovely to be able to bring music to people," Ms O'Meeghan said.

"The spectrum of our orchestral community goes from zero to 100, so it's really nice to come to them, because they can't always come to concert halls.

"I love these visits. They're a very attentive and intelligent audience, because they have a lot of knowledge and have lived long lives. It's very important for them and very fulfilling for us."

It was something of a homecoming yesterday for Ms O'Meeghan, who is the great-granddaughter of Chinese pioneer, merchant and goldminer Choie Sew Hoy, who migrated to Dunedin in 1868.

"I've got a strong connection here, as my mother [Nancy Hoggan] and grandmother [Violet Sew Hoy] also came from Dunedin," she said.

Choie Sew Hoy was buried in Dunedin when he died in 1901, before his body was exhumed the following year to be shipped back to China aboard Ventnor. The ship sank off Hokianga and his remains, along with the majority of 498 other bodies, were lost.

The NZSO played its final 2012 Dunedin concert, "Beethoven 7", at the Regent Theatre last night.



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