Gramophone Room a music oasis
With a turn of the dial, Daphne Kyne’s life changed for the better seven years ago.
She discovered Palmerston North’s classical musical station The Gramophone Room, owned and operated by John Ward.
When Mrs Kyne left war-damaged London in 1952 for a fresh start in New Zealand, she was expecting a few changes, but not a classical music “desert” with practically no classical music broadcast or performed.
“I didn’t even think about music. I was just so shocked when I got here and there wasn’t any.”
In the English capital she was just a 20-minute bus ride from Albert Hall and had a season ticket to the Proms.
“So coming out here was like falling into the Sahara Desert.”
Mrs Kyne is such a fan of The Gramophone Room that she helps with publicity and the opera programme rotation. She also writes an introduction and plot resume for each opera broadcast.
Mrs Kyne was inspired to share her story after being told of a conversation about the station at a funeral of an European immigrant and realising she felt the same.
Classical music had been part of European cultural heritage since about 1700, she said.
Mrs Kyne listens to the station from the minute she gets up to the minute she goes to sleep.
She is reluctant to go into the garden if it means getting out of earshot of her favourite station.
As a girl, Mrs Kyne was keen on classical music, but her parents said they did not have room for a piano; their house was also bombed twice in the Blitz.
She taught herself music appreciation by reading books and is particularly interested in how opera came to be written and the interaction between composers.
Mrs Kyne said Radio New Zealand Concert had too much talking and the music was mostly “terribly modern or terribly ancient”.
The Gramophone Room, which celebrated its 12th birthday last month, uses Mr Ward’s extensive record collection.
“I wouldn’t even begin to count how many tens of thousands John has got,” Mrs Kyne said.
She cannot imagine life without the station now.
“If [John] kicks the bucket before I do, I tell him I’m going to clobber him.”
The radio station is a great asset for Palmerston North and she would like the city council to promote it more.
“If I didn’t live here, I would want to come and live here,” she said.
“It’s a big plus for Palmy that they really ought to build up, I think, or at least make known.”
The Gramophone Room broadcasts advertisement free 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on low power frequencies 106.7 FM and 107.3 FM.
A more varied programme runs on 88.1FM, with ballet, opera, choral and Gilbert and Sullivan music, plus the The Goon Show.
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One decade of non-stop music
That’s 10 years, seven days a week and 24 hours each day that classical music has been available on 106.7 FM in Palmerston North and on 88.1FM in Feilding.
He plans to celebrate the anniversary of his one-man enterprise by re-enacting the first day.
“We turned the station on and took off down Te Awe Awe Street listening to the music on our car radio,” he said yesterday.
“When we reached the roundabout [at Albert Street] we decided to stop for a coffee and to talk.
“I turned the radio off, but could still hear the music. Then I realised that it was coming from the car parked next to us. A man was sitting with one leg out the door, listening. He was waiting for the end of the music before he turned off the radio.”
Known affectionately as The Gramophone Room, the radio station has earned Mr Ward a Queen’s Service Medal for his services to broadcasting.
He argues that the station actually has a staff of one man and one cat with Mr Ward’s wife, Marjory, supplying back-up in the form of victuals for both at regular intervals.
Alexander, the vocal Abyssinian cross, has become a firm favourite with listeners and has plenty to say in response to questions from the boss.
Mr Ward said the idea for the station came during a visit to Auckland and an encounter with a classical music station there.
“I had been thinking about the degredation of music on the Palmerston North airwaves,” he said.
Then he discovered the Auckland station with its “wallpaper Mozart”.
“It was marvellous,” said.
When he mentioned this to a friend at Massey Radio, he was told the idea had been considered here, but was told the music base required was considered to be too expensive.
“I’ve got a few records,” he said in a massive understatement.
From this conversation grew the idea that his gramophone room should take to the air waves.
Right through the 10 years he has continued to seek higher quality in all aspects of his operation and is now in the preliminary stages of going digital.
In the meantime the music keeps pouring out.
Three years ago, he started a second station in Palmerston North on 88.1FM, broadcasting a non-stop programme of lighter classics, jazz and old favourites.
“Our house is always full of music,” said his wife, Marjory.
“It is an ever-present part of my life. When I visit friends their homes seem quiet and when I return I enjoy listening to the music again.”
She said many people did not realise that love of high-quality classical music spread right across the board.
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