School of Music leader dies at the coast

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Bill Hawkey… honoured with an MBE (NZ) in 1974, he later received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2014.

THE Canberra and south-coast music communities are mourning ANU School of Music’s former director Emeritus Prof William (“Bill”) Richard Hawkey, who died at Moruya District Hospital over the weekend. He was 87.

Born and raised in Timaru, NZ, he studied music at University of Canterbury in Christchurch. There he played piano and the pipe organ and formed a choir in a disadvantaged suburb involving children of all ages, while serving as the accompanist and later conductor of the Christ Harmonic Society for 14 years. He led a group of 153 choristers to London, to represent NZ at the Commonwealth Arts Festival in 1965.

After working as a music teacher St Andrews Presbyterian Boys School and later at the University in Christchurch, he moved to Australia to become the foundation head of performing arts at Torrens College of Advanced Education in the late ’70s. He moved to Canberra in 1979.

As deputy director at the School of Music from 1979 to 1995, he was involved in establishing preschool, primary school and pre-tertiary music programs. He became director from 1996 to 1998.

He founded and directed the Canberra School of Music community choir, now The Llewellyn Choir. From 1980 to 1992 he was an organist and choirmaster at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and served as patron and committee member with many arts committees, including  Pro Musica Inc, Ausdance, the Australian National Operatic Aria Competition and the National Eisteddfod Society.

He was named Canberra Artist of the Year in 1996. In the same year he retired to Akolele on the south coast with his second wife Elizabeth Oliver-Hawkey – to “farm, fish and read”, he said.

Once down at the coast, he quickly became involved in communal music activities, becoming conductor and music director of Montague Choristers in Narooma and The Nomad Singers in Merimbula and president of Sapphire Coast Music Society.

With his combined choirs he was able to introduce oratorios such as “Creation” and “Elijah” drawing on soloists from Canberra, the opera workshop at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and people from within the choirs in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado”, “The Gondoliers” and “Trial by Jury”.

Alongside the choral activities, with the backing of the Montague Choristers, he introduced the Visiting Artists Concert Series.

In addition to music, he and Elizabeth were also fundraisers for Mahboba’s Promise and he became community representative on the Eurobodalla Cultural Infrastructure Feasibility Committee.

Honoured with an MBE (NZ) in 1974, he later received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2014.

After once again “retiring”, this time to Dalmeny, NSW, he died surrounded by his family on the evening of Saturday, February 2, and is survived by his widow Elizabeth, children Sue, Chris, Dave, Jill and their families.

A service to celebrate his life will be held at the St Paul’s Anglican Church, Tilba Street, Narooma, from 11am on Thursday, February 7.



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