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H i s t o r y  &  H e r i t a g e

Leys Orchestra has been active throughout the history of the Leys Institute, with periods of recess due to the two world wars and the great depression.

The Leys Institute Orchestral Society was formed in 1912 under the conductorship of Mr Tom Adams. This was a full symphony orchestra that gave two concerts each year. The orchestra was re-formed in 1927 after being in recess following the First World War and the global flu pandemic, continuing for nine years under the conductorship of Harold Baxter until 1935. 

After the Second World War, the orchestra was re-established in 1958, along with various other clubs and the Leys winter series of lectures. In 1965 the Leys Institute Orchestra and the Savage Club Orchestra amalgamated, and the group has been active as a community chamber orchestra since. 

David Britten has conducted the orchestra since 1990. Over the past 33 years we have given more than 100 concerts, most often in the Leys Institute Hall, but also at various Council facilities, schools, retirement villages, and theatres. The orchestra has participated in the Auckland Heritage Festival each year since 2007. 

Heritage Music Collection

The orchestra’s music catalogue lists more than 1,012 sets of instrumental orchestral parts. While some of the music was purchased directly by the Leys Institute Orchestra, most of the collection comprises music donated to the orchestra by orchestras, individuals and other groups over the decades, e.g. Bohemian Orchestra, Aeolian Club Orchestra, Auckland Savage Club Orchestra, Mt Eden Normal School Community Orchestra, Alfred Marbeck, Albert Orchestra, and various others. 

At the outbreak of World War I more than two dozen orchestras were active in Auckland, ranging from professional and amateur classical orchestras, and orchestras catering to society events, to orchestras that accompanied dramatic productions and silent movies. The music extant in our collection is a valuable legacy of the wealth of music played across the city a century ago. 

The repertoire largely comprises light classical music suitable for an amateur orchestra, popular dance music 1900-1935, light entertainment and musicals 1878-1940, and patriotic music 1910-1920. 

This heritage music collection is housed in the Leys Institute main hall, which is currently not readily accessible due to an earthquake risk closure order.  

Eric Mareo

We are privileged to hold a set of the publisher gratis copies of the orchestral music by Eric Mareo. This colourful personality first made headlines in Auckland in 1933 with his ‘Mareo Symphony Orchestra’ and ‘Mareo Operatic Society’. But his name unfortunately is better remembered for two scandalous court cases in 1936 involving the death of his wife and her lesbian affair with Freda Stark. 

The piano versions of this music are widely available, but we appear to hold a unique collection of the orchestral versions. The music, published by JH Larway, was popular in London and further afield, dating from 1923-1929. 

Leys Orchestra gave the world premiere performance in 2017 of the ‘Andromeda’ Overture, playing from the manuscript. This was written in 1959 under the name of Eric Curtis, after he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name following release from Mt Eden Gaol in 1948. This was the last work written by Eric Mareo before his death in 1960. 

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