The lights go down and the crowd grows quiet. On stage are dozens of children and young people with guitars, ukuleles, banjos and piano accordions. Maurice and Frances Liebert are at the front of the group. This is Guitar Parade 1958.
This exciting event is captured in a collection of recently deposited material from the Liebert’s children. Included are lacquer discs of performance recordings, shellac and vinyl commercial audio discs, as well as a concert programme and posters. The family has worked with Frances O’Brien, the Audio Collection Developer at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision to bring the material into the Archive.
A deposit is the first step for new items joining the archival collection. A deposit agreement is written which outlines that the depositor retains ownership of the items which are then stored safely in the Archive. A condition report is also written and Frances notes as much information as possible about each object (for example, that a disc is a 10-inch lacquer disc, 331/3 rpm, the title and production date, track listing etc). This information is entered into the Archive’s Collection Management System. The discs are sent to the climate-controlled vault at Avalon, and the posters and programme are held by the Documentation collection.
Later, this deposit will be fully catalogued and digitised. There are however digitisation workflows and a queue of other material to be digitised ahead of it. As this deposit has recently arrived in the collection, it will be some time before it is digitised.
“Maurice and Frances Liebert were both music teachers in Christchurch,” Frances O’Brien says. “They owned ‘Maurice Liebert’s Studios’, sold musical instruments and produced student performances in the 1950s. These Guitar Parade concerts had up to 80 musicians. They ran from at least 1952 to 1958 and were held over three days at the Civic Theatre – which sat 1,200 people. It was a big operation!”
It certainly was. Frances says “in the Guitar Parade concerts they would perform over 20 songs. The Liebert’s were both in their 20s during this time. Frances Liebert played the organ, mandolin and piano accordion, while Maurice sang and played guitar. As music teachers they were much loved and noted as being kind and supportive.”
These performances were recorded live. “Some companies had portable recorders and would go to special events like concerts, weddings and parties. The recording would be made then and there, and the disc would be handed over at the end.” says Frances. “As technology advanced, the recordings were later made onto magnetic tape, which was easier to use and more durable than direct to disc. This was done with the Guitar Parade recordings, which was then dubbed to a disc. Most towns had their own little recording studio that could do this.”
At the Guitar Parade, the Liebert’s and their students played all together as a band but there were also solos. In the Civic Theatre the applause recedes and to the front of the stage comes Carole Bourdot. Among the dozens of music students in the show, a 17-year-old Carole features in the 1958 programme with a number of solo vocal performances. She had been learning Spanish guitar and remembers that “one practice Maurice asked, ‘is anyone able to sing?’ I quietly answered, ‘well, I do sing with a band.’ That was the beginning of one of the most exciting times of my life. Even after years of performing on stage this heralded the best three nights I had yet experienced.”
“My absolute delight was to perform a solo accompanied by Francie on the Civic Theatre Organ,” says Carole. “We performed the very sad and emotional If Anyone Finds This, I Love You. The song received great acclaim and I felt like a real star. We often received flowers after the performances and one of my bouquets had a note saying, ‘from an admirer’. To this day I do not know who sent it.”
Carole says that while she has continued singing, she was never a very good guitarist. She did however keep the Spanish guitar, which is pictured, and also has her own copy of the 1958 programme. In the photo on the programme cover, she is sitting in the third row from the top, seventh from left.
All of us hold on to personal items for a long time, even if they can’t be used or played. At Ngā Taonga, Frances was contacted by the Lieberts’ son, David. He and his siblings had discussed what would be best for their family recordings. “We decided to deposit the material because we can’t easily preserve it and, in some cases, have no way of playing the recordings,” he explains. “Also, our hope is that depositing the recordings will allow access to the material for interested family members and the general public.”
While the Liebert family discuss the future of this material, they control what happens to it. “I feel that retaining ownership is the best option for our family for now,” says David. Ngā Taonga receives deposits like this one where the depositor retains ownership. The other option is donation, where Ngā Taonga become the owners. David boxed up the material and shipped it from Christchurch to the Wellington office of Ngā Taonga. “I’ve found the process so far to be very easy. Frances has been extremely helpful,” he says.
Some of the discs showed a small amount of damage and wear and tear. This is certainly not unusual for items that are decades old, and consumer vinyl was never intended to be an archival format. Organisations like Ngā Taonga have the facilities and specialist staff to properly preserve these important records.
Back in the Civic show, the final item is the New Zealand national anthem. The show comes to an end and the lights brighten. The huge crowd are on their feet showing their admiration for Guitar Parade.
This was an important moment in Carole’s life and the dozens of other students performing. The event has become an important family recording for the Lieberts. It is also important taonga – a unique recording of a New Zealand musical performance. It will be kept safe in the Archive for the future, preserved and made available to be enjoyed and admired.
Many thanks to David Liebert and his family for depositing this material and supplying comments for this article. Huge thanks too, to Carole Bourdot, for sharing her memories and photographs of performing in Guitar Parade.
Written by David Klein.