Air New Zealand Accordion Orchestra 1984 Tour U.S.A and Canada

Air New Zealand Accordion Orchestra 1984 Tour U.S.A and Canada

Written by: Fay Schaw
Publication: Accordion Federation of North America Newsletter
Date written: 1984

When President Aglora asked the New Zealand Accordion Orchestra for a "story" on its activities, he didn't dare hope for an odyssey. But here it is, a delightful and interesting account of the group's recent adventures.

A few years ago, this group, on its first tour in Europe, developed the concept of the camping/bus tour. Their bus is large enough to carry all their instruments as well as their camping gear, which certainly beats high hotel rates.

No one was named as the author of this report, but we assume it was a joint effort by the three directors: Harley Jones, Heather Masefield and conductor, Fay Schaw.

This, the third International concert Tour for this group, was a wonderful experience for all who took part, for the warm friendships that were made and the many memorable sights seen.

The party left New Zealand in the cold of winter and walked down the steps of their aircraft into the sweltering heat of the Hawaiian summer. It took a few days for us to acclimatize. For our first concert, held at the Ala Moana Shopping Center, it was like playing in a sauna, with the temperature at 95 degrees. Three of the young players had to be carried from the stage. Never mind, we survived and the audience gave us a great reception. Our time in Hawaii was spent in sight-seeing and giving the final polish to our programme, prior to AFNA.

For most of our members, the AFNA Festival was a keenly anticipated highlight, since competitions here in New Zealand are on a much smaller scale. Our individual players did very well and our sponsors, Air New Zealand, were more than happy to carry our trophies home free-of-charge, a great relief for us as our baggage volume was an ever-present worry and the beautiful trophies certainly added to it.

Los Angeles

We were delighted with the audience's reaction to our performance at AFNA. Receiving a standing ovation in the middle of our programme certainly made all the long hours of practice and fund-raising worth while. Many friends were made amongst the accordionists and it is hoped that many will visit New Zealand so that we may return the friendship and hospitality that we received. Thank you, to the executives of AFNA for hosting us so admirably.

While in Los Angeles we performed at Disneyland, a most exciting experience, not only to visit and enjoy the wonders of Disneyland but to be part of the entertainment as well. We also performed for the Pacific Travel Agents Association at Lawry's Out Door Center. This location is right next to a railway line and a long freight train went past for almost the entire length of the "Marriage of Figaro," an interesting experience. Our final appearance in Los Angeles was at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.

The group received an invitation to visit a luxury home in Huntington Beach and were taken on a "house hopping' boat tour of the canals, visiting the homes of neighbours, a most enjoyable day.


Our tours are a little different from other orchestras' tours as we travel "under canvas." From Los Angeles, we flew north to Seattle to begin this part of our journey. At our first campsite, sleep was a little difficult to come by, as not only were the airbeds a trifle unfamiliar but it so happened that our camp was located in a commuters' triangle. On one side was Sea-Tac Airport, on the other, the railway line and on the third, the freeway. By morning we were convinced that Washingtonians didn't sleep, or at the very least had conspired to keep us awake.

Morning came and we packed away our tents and headed for Vancouver travelling through lush green valleys and forests of tall spearmint-coloured pines. As luck would have it, our camp for our first stay in Canada was run by - wait for it! - an accordionist, and he traded us a performance at his weekly salmon bake for our accommodation, we were able to enjoy our first taste of fresh salmon, before it is crammed in to 425 gram tins, Yummy! In Vancouver we performed for the local New Zealand ex-patriots at a function organized by the America-New Zealand Society, and during the day took time to visit the famous city sights, such as Stanley Park.

British Columbia - The Rockies

From Vancouver we made an early start because we had a 12-hour bus ride to Prince George, way in the north of British Columbia. The Prince Georgians treated us like royalty and it was lovely to stay with the locals in their homes. A mayoral reception was given prior to our concert which was given to assist the local children's hospital. It was a proud moment for us as the audience rose for our National Anthem, this for the first of many times on our tour. We also made our first TV appearance here in Prince George.

Our next journey was eastward to Jaspar National Park in the Rockies, where everyone after being scared silly by the ranger on arrival, regarding the BEARS, ended up being disappointed at not seeing one at all! In Jasper, the night temperature fell to -5 degrees, and our orange tents were turned white. The next day saw the arrival of more than one or two new sleeping bags and warm jackets in camp. Our concert was given at the Jasper Park Lodge, for the opening dinner of the famous golf tournament. We had the guests dancing in between the tables during some of our more lively numbers.

From here we moved on to the Banff National Park where we made the mistake of pitching our tents on the rather sparse patches of grass. After they were all pitched and anxious warden told us that the grass had taken THREE years to grow. This was completely beyond our comprehension as in New Zealand grass grows like the proverbial weed, up to two inches a week. For the record, we shifted our tents. While in Banff we gave a concert at the majestic and world famous Banff Springs Hotel.

Montana - Idaho - Seattle - Los Angeles

Four days were spent in Montana, two at the Double Arrow Ranch and two in Missoula. While in Montana we gave five performances and really enjoyed the western ranching atmosphere: spurs, denims, ten-gallon hats, log cabins and all. We all managed to survive a horse ride or two, and our thanks must go to our great friend Tom Collins for arranging this portion of our tour.

For our stay in Idaho we camped in Coeur d'Alene, beside the lake. Here and in Spokane our hosts were the local Folk Clubs. They put on some most interesting functions, including a Square Dance. While in Spokane we were fortunate to be able to spend a day at the inter-state Fair. This was so interesting for us, as coming from a farming country we were able to see and compare the different breeds and machinery and of course we loved the atmosphere it was so American.

Our final stop in the northwest was Seattle, back at our rather noisy camp site. However by now we had learnt to deal with airbeds and sleep was not so evasive. Well-known accordionist Joe Spano arranged a most successful afternoon concert and we were filmed at the Seattle Center by TV Channel 5 for live 6pm NEWS broadcast. Our luck held contrary to all projections and the weather was crystal clear for the three days we were in Seattle. This allowed us to pack away all our camping gear ready for the flight home.

We spent the final two days in Los Angeles before the long flight back to New Zealand. For two years we had worked and saved for this tour and it had been even more successful than we had dared to hope. In five weeks we had given 23 performances and received 22 standing ovations. Thank you Air New Zealand for the support that made this tour possible. Thank you America and Canada. You have given us five weeks of memories that will stay with us forever, warm memories of beautiful scenery, of memorable occasions and most importantly of friendly people.
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