City Choir finds a new home
Last week the Christchurch City Choir's office and library moved into new premises at the Wigram Air Force Museum site after almost two years of working out of containers and living rooms.
The Music Centre on Barbadoes Street (the former Sacred Heart Convent) was so severely damaged in the February 2011 earthquake that it required demolition. In June, the Choir was given only a two-week window to remove the library collection and office equipment from its former home. Janine Heeringa, the administrator at the time, commented, "Being in that building, upstairs, packing up the office stuff with Jennifer [Sutherland] and Tony [Wright] was scary. You could see daylight through the wall going up the stairs and it was only a couple of days later that we had another serious quake, putting an end to the Music Centre as we remember it. Sadly, we were only allowed on the ground floor and most of our archives were unable to be retrieved as they were on the third floor."
The library was initially stored in a warehouse facility on the removal company's site with no access to it by anyone. It was becoming increasingly important to find somewhere more permanent to put the collection. Janine says, "We needed to get orchestral music out desperately and couldn’t. I was making enquiries about storage facilities around the city, somewhere we could actually get to the music. No one had anything the right size for the right price. Prices for containers were sought but we had nowhere to put one."
Jono Brent, the Choir board's chairman, passed on his sister-in-law's suggestion to try the Air Force Museum at Wigram because she had heard that they were helping people with heritage collections. A phone call to Thérèse Angelo, the Air Force Museum's director, had a fantastic result: they would allow us to position the library in its container on their premises, under their security, until their new building was ready. In November 2011, the container was delivered to Wigram.
Though the library was now safely stored, Georgie McCormick, the Choir's librarian, had to work in very trying conditions to keep it operating, battling the elements inside a cold metal box with no lights or heating. The library is an important resource not only for the Christchurch City Choir but also for other choirs and groups all over New Zealand. Hiring out our music scores provides a regular source of income for the Choir and forms an important historical and cultural asset.
As part of their commitment to earthquake recovery, the Air Force Museum also offered the Choir a three-year tenancy of the now-empty RNZAF Guard House and Recruitment Building on Harvard Avenue. The building recently became available after serving as a temporary office for Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management staff and so we now have a semi-permanent home for our library and office staff. Over the past week or so, Bob C'Ailceta and Tony Wright reconfigured the shelving to fit the spaces available in the new building and the collection was moved in. The office equipment was set up and the phone and internet lines connected with help from Stephen Belkin and Felicity Richards. The building has shower facilities and even a jail cell! A lovely tearoom will be available for meetings, and anyone visiting the office should stay for a cuppa.
The Air Force Museum has helped other organisations, including the RSA and the Lyttelton Museum, in similar ways. Janine Heeringa says, "I was blown away by their generosity and their ease of operation. Nothing has been too hard for them. They have been generous hosts and willing helpers where they can." As a way of thanking our new landlords, the choir sang at the opening of the Air Force Museum's new facility on 19 February in the presence of the Governor General and other dignitaries.
New office address: 25 Harvard Avenue, Wigram, Christchurch 8042
Postal address: PO Box 1652, Christchurch 8140
Telephone: 03 348 0228