Earthquake survivor organist set to go solo

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2012
Earthquake survivor Josh Anderson prepares for his first solo organ concert at the Sacred Heart Basilica on Sunday.
NATASHA MARTIN/Fairfax NZ

DEDICATED: Earthquake survivor Josh Anderson prepares for his first solo organ concert at the Sacred Heart Basilica on Sunday.

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Josh Anderson could have been forgiven for never again touching the musical instrument that might have killed him.

Instead the talented Timaru organist has shrugged off his harrowing experience during the Christchurch earthquake and is now playing harder and better than ever before.

On February 22 last year Josh, now 20, was in the Durham St Methodist church helping his South Island Organ Co colleagues dismantle an organ.

While standing on scaffolding inside the building, the 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit, bringing down the church and trapping Josh and his co-workers.

Three men in the church were killed - factory foreman Neil Stocker, employee Scott Lucy and Rolleston volunteer Paul Dunlop. Josh, who was buried under rubble, spent six weeks in hospital with a broken leg and pelvis.

Eighteen months on from the moment which he describes as the scariest of his life, Josh is preparing for his first solo organ concert in his home town, the first of three performances at the Sacred Heart Basilica in September.

He has invited his Dunedin friend Simon Mace and Sydney-based Martin Rein to do the second and third concerts, but the first one on Sunday is all his.

Josh has been playing since he was five and started taking lessons when he was 13, but he became even more committed to the organ after he recovered from his injuries, he said.

He was back playing just two weeks after he left hospital.

He is in the second year of his apprenticeship with the South Island Organ Co, which keeps him busy, but he still finds time to work on his playing.

Despite his experiences Josh feels safe in the Basilica and plays for churchgoers regularly.

He loves music by French composers and has a particular admiration for 19th century Notre Dame organist Louis Vierne.

Growing up he looked up to anyone who could play the organ. "Every Sunday I tried to sit as close to the organ player as possible."

He plans to travel to Britain and Europe in the not-too-distant future to work and to play the organ.

South Island Organ Co co-director John Hargraves taught Josh to play and is supervising him through his apprenticeship at the company.

Mr Hargraves said that in the 18 months since the earthquake, Josh's playing had greatly improved.

His concert is at 2.30pm, supported by Youth Orchestra South Canterbury.

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