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Comeback piano concert noted

Internationally renowned pianist Stephen Le Pledge, who grew up in Wairarapa, played a sold-out concert in Greytown at the weekend.

Coincidentally, Greytown is the place where Le Pledge hammered out his first scales and chords while living in Wairarapa with his family between the ages of four and ten.

“I do feel like it’s my musical home, really,” De Pledge said.

His Masterton-born mother Robyn Le Pledge was even something of a public figure, working as a Greytown councillor.

“She was just one of those people who was really involved in the community – even now people say they still remember her.”

Le Pledge said his first memories of piano also involved a neighbouring apple orchard.

“My teacher lived at the back of the apple orchard that sat next to our house, so for my lessons I would walk through the orchard – it was brilliant,” he recalled.

“I was allowed to eat the apples on the way home from my lesson, that was the reward.”

Le Pledge said he was lucky to have an “amazing teacher” in Greytown: “I was so lucky to have her, it wasn’t a chore to do music so I would just go there all the time. That kind of teaching is crucial.”

After leaving school, Le Pledge continued studying and working as a musician, building an international reputation before returning to New Zealand to teach at the University of Auckland.

Included in Saturday’s repertoire were twelve short pieces by New Zealand composers that received their first live performance.

Each piece was written to support Auckland-based pianist Rae De Lisle’s Fit 4 Piano series, a method for learning the piano.

“So one piece uses big jumps, with your arm doing big jump movements; another uses fast fingers – things like that,” De Pledge explained.

“They sound brilliant. You don’t need to know about their studies to enjoy them.”

The concert took place with Greytown Music Group, run by Ed and Juliet Cooke who Le Pledge used to
visit as he was friends
with their daughter.

“I remember going around when I was about six or seven, and Juliet would play some tunes on her flute and I’d go, ‘Wow, that sounds amazing’.”

Juliet Cooke has been running the Greytown Music Group with her partner Ed since 1977, and said it was good to see a revival of concert going after low attendance numbers due to covid.

“Now, rather than worrying about whether we have a good audience we worry about how many people we have to say ‘no’ to,” Cooke said.

Close to 80 people attended the Saturday performance, and Cook said they have been amazed at the numbers booking for concerts.

“We are beginning to think we need an extension of our living room!”

The next Greytown Music Group gig, which features Armstrong Hambleton Lui Trio, takes place on July 2.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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