When I joined the maths department of Linwood High School in 1962 Rod had been there (also teaching maths) for 2 years. In the four years I spent there before leaving for Europe we got to know each other well both professionally and socially (Friday evenings at the Lancaster Park Pub) and I realised he was a man of extremely wide interests: He was extraordinarily well read and could make appropriate or amusing comments to most things which we discussed in the staffroom. He also coached a hockey team in winter and managed the sailing club in summer, he was a keen tramper and had a hut in the mountains near Arthur’s Pass at Bealey, he had an intimate knowledge of church history and the liturgy in general, he played the recorder and was in charge of the lighting for all school productions. Our musical interests were, however, slightly different: he maintained (and enjoyed the provocation!) that music died in 1750 with the death of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Promotion in the secondary service was impossible in those days without spending a couple of years in a country school and so in 1965 Rod left Linwood to do country service at Methven High School. This was a marvellous opportunity to visit him for a Hāngi or even for a “field trip” for the Linwood senior maths classes.
He returned to in 1967 and I (now married to Brigitte) a year later to a changed school. There was a new Headmaster (Jim Orman) and several of my friends from earlier were no longer there (Don McAra and Michael Eaton had left to teach at the Teachers College and Brian Barrett for a music job in Perth). Rod became the head of the maths department and an erstwhile pupil of Rod’s, Lester Davison, had also joined the maths department. The story of how Lester and I became involved with the school music I have mentioned under Linwood High School. Rod also played a central role in the establishing of a choir.
By this time both Rod and Lester were responsible for the school timetable, a huge undertaking that had to be accomplished every year in the last weeks of the summer holidays in order to be ready for the ca. 1400 pupils and their teachers in the first week of February. Whether it was planning on their part or just a happy accident, I do not know, but there was a time when each of us had senior classes in maths or additional maths or physics. We arranged that we would bring our classes to the hall and that we would teach them to sing the Bach chorale: “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”. Although these classes were predominantly male, there were sufficient female voices to make a four part choir. I had written out the vocal parts for four instruments, so that we divided the three classes into four voices (S, A, T, B) and sent them with their instrument to the four corners of the hall to learn their parts. In a relatively short time we came together to sing in 4-part harmony and the sound was remarkably good. Most astonished of all were the pupils themselves, who had had no idea what they had been about to produce. In fact most of them agreed that it would be good to do more singing like this and so from that day on, we had a school choir. The strength of the group was added to, when the coach of the school’s first fifteen said, that it was compulsory for all rugby players to join the choir!
This was also the beginning of a much closer friendship with Rod. He bought himself an oboe and a bassoon to play in the school orchestra and when nobody was playing the school’s tuba he played this in the Brass Band, which Lester had started. He visited me at our house in Mathesons Road to plan a new School Song Book, which was used every day for morning assemblies when the choir and orchestra or brass band took part.
Although the choir, orchestra and band were indispensible for the total theatre works which followed, they were started because we felt they were essential components of what we considered was a healthy cultural atmosphere. In the first year therefore, we performed works, which we thought were good and possible for young people. Among those were Handel choruses, parts of Carmina Burana (both using choir and orchestra and brass instruments borrowed from the band) and the Finale from Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” (orchestra alone). On one memorable occasion the choir was invited to a rehearsal of one of the big Christchurch choirs, which was hoping to recruit younger singers. We took our music for “Unto us a Child is born” and the “Halleluiah Chorus”. The school choir had hardly started when the members of the adult choir (who knew both works by heart) joined in making for an overwhelming experience. Somewhat later, perhaps inspired by this, Rod and I decided to join the Royal Christchurch Musical Society where we spent several happy years singing second tenor.
Rod was passionately interested in computers. The first ones appeared in the 70s and, compared with present day computers, were rather primitive instruments. He organised a first computer course for anyone on the staff at Linwood, to which Brigitte also took part. They were, however, still very expensive machines and it was not until after we reached Switzerland (in the late 80s) that we could afford one. By this time he too left the school to take up a job at the Canterbury University Department of Computer Science, where he stayed until the end of his working life.
Since retirement he has worked on his invented language: Ðola
Works influenced by Rod Harries: