The Taihape Musicians Club, in the building of the old Cascade Brewery

The Taihape Musicians Club was conceived in the early 50s by a group of local enthusiasts who all had a love for the Big Band Jazz music of the late war years.

Musicians involved were from all over the district – from Raetihi in the north to Hunterville in the south. In the beginning these musicians would get together and practice their music in the Mangaweka Hall until they were offered a room at the Taihape High School, which they gladly accepted.

It was decided in 1955 to find permanent premises for the group and form a club. Local lady Pat Burney, who was a staunch supporter of the group, worked at Wright Stevensons in Taihape, who at the time ran a real estate office. She had inside information that the Cascade Brewery building was coming up for sale and suggested to the group to look at it as a clubroom and investment. The current owner was a local farmer who leased out the majority of the building to Government Departments including MAF and the Social Welfare of the day.

After looking the building over the group decided the downstairs cellar would make an ideal clubroom. The popular jazz clubs of the day like Ronnie Scotts in London and New York were all situated in smoky underground cellars and this really appealed to the local musos. Alex McLean from Raetihi (who was a major player in the original group) had spent time in England during WWII as a fighter pilot for RAF and had first-hand knowledge of these hip jazz clubs. 

The group decided they would put an offer in for the Brewery Building (The brewery was originally Joseph Khutz’s first NZ brewery, which also has a very interesting history). Their offer of 7500 pounds was accepted. The problem they now faced was to raise the money! No one in the group had any spare cash so Pat Burney came up with a master plan. The group would approach local business people and the farming community and offer debentures (shares) for sale to raise the purchase price. They managed to sell 3500 pounds of shares and Alex McLean’s fiancé Edna, offered to put up the balance.

The group faced a huge task before they could get started in the cellar. During the renovations when the brewery ceased trading they envisioned the cellar would never be used again, so it was used as a tip. It was full to the roof with concrete rubble. They all pitched in, cleared up the cellar and the Taihape Musicians Club was born. This was 1958.

The group got organised, practiced hard, and took on as much work as they could find. They managed to pay off all the debentures and the personal loan in 5 years. During this time the club membership had grown from its handful of supporters to over 200 full members and hundreds of associate members. A cap had to be put on membership, and major functions had to be held in the Town Hall to accommodate everyone. 

The cellar was used for monthly club nights. The music group (now called the “TMC Big Band”) was the resident group at the club nights and local musicians were invited to sit in with the Big Band on these nights.

The aim of the club from its beginnings was to create a centre to foster musicianship, provide a unique venue for the community, and provide quality entertainment for its paying members. This mindset has been the basis the club has strived to adhere to over the remaining years. 

The club has been in operation now for more than six decades. During this time it has played an essential role in the fostering of local music and musicians in the district, including providing rehearsal facilities and tutoring for high school students, music workshops, dance groups and as a function facility for other social clubs.

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Do you know something about the Club's history that isn't covered here? Or perhaps you have some old photographs of the first gig? We would love to hear from you.

Alternatively, feel free to email us at hello@taihapemusiciansclub.org.nz.

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