Once a month, Ed and Juliet Cooke push back the furniture in their expansive living room, pack in up to 100 chairs and hold concerts that have become a beloved feature of the Wairarapa musical landscape more than 40 years.
A lifelong love of classical music and a passion for sharing it with others is the inspiration behind the long-running concert series, now known as the Greytown Music Group.
Through their extensive contacts in classical music circles, the couple attract world-class performers, as well as the cream of the New Zealand chamber music scene.
A non-profit venture, the concerts continue with the help of trusts and councils to cover overheads. Price of admission is $25 and all the proceeds go to the performers.
* West Coast neighbours at war over excessive classical music
* L’Arpeggiata in New Zealand for concerts
* Nelson chamber music a boost to the economy
* Charm of cello wows music festival
The Cookes have held more than 220 concerts, featuring everybody from celebrated Russian concert pianist Halida Diniva to virtuoso Kazakh violinist and conductor Marat Bisengaliev.
Regular concert-goer Rhondda Colban said the Greytown performances elevate the level of culture available to people in Wairarapa. She was constantly astounded at the quality of musicians the Cookes were able to attract.
She enjoyed the intimacy of the venue and the variety of performances from traditional to challenging contemporary work.
“The physical proximity of the performers creates a lovely experience. I’m happy for days after,” she said.
Often the musicians stay in the Cookes’ Wood St home, and the couple have built relationships with musicians from across New Zealand and around the globe.
At the couple’s golden wedding anniversary celebrations recently, son Wendell put together a multimedia video with best wishes messages recorded from many musicians who had played at their home in the past.
Music has been woven through both their lives and those of their three children, Merran, Grayson and Wendell, all having been involved with various roles in Wellington orchestras, overseas bands and local musical productions.
At one stage, the entire family was playing in the band supporting the Masterton Amateur Theatrical Society’s production of Oliver!
Originally from Wellington, Ed and Juliet moved to Wairarapa on their return from travelling all over central Asia. The Cookes are both lawyers and still consult for their former law firm, WCM Legal.
Since retiring from fulltime work, Ed has taken on aking his own stringed instruments. In the past five years, he has built 12 violins, four violas and a cello.
The larger of the instruments was played by New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cellist Ken Ichinose at a recent concert at the Cookes’ home, which showcased top American violinist Mark Menzies.
The musicians and audience were impressed with the fine sound produced by Cooke’s cello.