A generous professional

16:00, Mar 11 2014
Les Andrews
PROUD MOMENT: Les Andrews received a Queen’s Service Medal for services to entertainment in 1991.

Singer Les Andrews has died aged 96.

He is survived by wife Sonia, his son David Andrews and daughter Jenny Birrell.

Mr Andrews was a keen supporter of the arts and was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for services to entertainment in 1991.

Through the Les and Sonia Andrews Cultural Foundation the couple sponsored artists such as baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes and tenor Simon O'Neill and donated to organisations including the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Bach Musica New Zealand.

Mrs Birrell says her father was a generous man and a consummate professional.

"He was always surrounded by pretty genuine people because he didn't have much time for anyone who didn't act professionally or wasn't caring to people.


"When we were growing up dad would always rehearse his scales to warm up his voice. I don't think he ever messed up a song and he had a really good ear for music."

Good friend Joe Shelford-Tuki said helping people achieve their potential meant a lot to Mr Andrews.

"He always said to me we've all got a purpose. We can all achieve something in this life. If you can help someone achieve that goal, that's a bonus."

Mr Shelford-Tuki and Mrs Birrell were with Mr Andrews when he died at Edmund Hillary Retirement Village on February 28.

"It was a great honour to be with him in his last days," Mr Shelford-Tuki says.

"Even then he sung a few songs which brought tears to my eyes."

Mr Andrews served in World War II and was stationed for two years in North Africa's Western Desert with the 16th Railway Operating Company.

He then served for two years in Italy in the British Bridge Layer Tanks Division of the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade.

He was the last living member of both the Kiwi Concert Party and the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade British Bridge Layer Tanks Division.

Mr Andrews received a bursary to study singing at the Sydney Conservatorium after the war and then competed against 72 tenors to win a championship.

That opened the door to the Royal College of Music in London where he studied for a further two years.

He stayed on in England, singing on radio and TV shows before moving back to New Zealand with his first wife Marie (nee Campbell) and their children in 1957.

They had a house built in Glendowie and Mr Andrews went on to spend 25 years in New Zealand broadcasting.

He became a television personality hosting shows such as Tinker Tailor and Personality Squares.

He also organised touring shows where top acts such as the Howard Morrison Quartet and Kiri Te Kanawa would perform.

After Marie died in 1973, he retired from broadcasting and remarried later the same year. He and Sonia lived in Parnell and went on to organise 28 variety concerts with 23 full houses at the Aotea Centre in the 1990s.

A service for Mr Andrews was held at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church yesterday.

East And Bays Courier