Music has been the constant refrain - chorus and verse - of Merle Gibson's life.
She has been sharing her gift for singing for more than 50 years and, with a lifetime of musical experience behind her, it is no wonder she received a Queen's Service Medal in the New Year Honours for her services to music and the community.
"Music has certainly played a very big part of my life," said Gibson, who first started singing publicly at the tender age of 15 at Nelson College for Girls.
From there, she decided to cross the ditch to embark on a singing career in Melbourne.
"It was great fun."
Being an alto was interesting, she said. For every alto there were seven sopranos and seldom were they appreciated in competition work. "Unless, of course, they like you, and then they really really like you."
She recalled a competition in Australia when she dithered whether to compete.
Thankfully she did because she got a place among both girl and boys. "It really staggered me.
"While I loved Australia, I thought I better get some sort of qualification so I went back to New Zealand to train as a nurse with the intention of returning."
But she met her husband and they had five children.
Gibson "had the pleasure" of serving as Choir Mistress at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church from 1969 to 2012.
After 43 years, she thought it was time to train someone new. "A member suddenly died and I thought, what if I die?"
Classical music and choir work was rife in Nelson, where Gibson served as a member of the Nelson Civic Choir, the Nelson Women's Club Choir and set up a choir at the Oakwoods Rest Home.
"Nelson certainly has a very rich singing community," she said.
Gibson also worked briefly as a teacher for the Nelson School of Music.
Aside from her musical endeavours, Gibson was convenor of the Bridge Club and Drama Group, has twice been president of the Nelson Women's Club, and led Richmond Association of Anglican Women from 1985 to 1987.
Gibson has also delivered Meals on Wheels since 1999, being the longest serving driver in Richmond.
Surprised in October to received the letter advising her of her QSM, she said it was difficult having to keep the news a secret for so long.
Her life had not changed since the acknowledgement and she joked that apart from expecting the odd curtsy now and then, she was very honoured to be recognised.
And she still loves to sing.
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