When Sarah Mathew, wife of the surveyor Felton Mathew, arrived at the Waitemata Harbour in 1840, it was to assist her husband select a site for the capital of Aotearoa, New Zealand. The couple soon moved into a tent in the area we now call Britomart. In a box beside the tent was what Sarah refers to in her diary as, “my devoted piano”.
Once their house was finished, the piano moved in with her and it became indispensable as an entertainment in the home. Playing the piano well was considered an essential accomplishment for a young woman in society. In this concert, Dr Polly Sussex gives us a glimpse of recreational music in pioneering life in early Auckland using examples from the musical scrapbooks of the family of early missionary Henry Williams.
Now held at Auckland Libraries, these scrapbooks of hand copied music contain fine examples of the sort of music played. Not many families had grand pianos at that time, so the practical second-best was the square pianoforte on which Dr. Sussex will perform to conclude our Spring series for 2019.