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H i s t o r y  &  H e r i t a g e

Leys Orchestra has been active in various forms throughout the history of the Leys Institute. The Leys Institute Orchestral Society was formed in 1912 under the conductorship of Mr T Adams. This was a full symphony orchestra with 70 players that gave two concerts each year. The orchestra has taken various names and forms, been in recess, and been revived since that time. 

Since the Second World War, the group has been active as a community chamber orchestra continuously since at least 1972, and most probably since 1958 when the orchestra, along with various other clubs and the winter series of lectures, were re-established. 

David Britten has conducted the orchestra since November 1990. During the past 30 years we have given more than 90 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 many 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, as he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name after 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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