WHERE/WHAT IS IT?
In the Artworks complex on the hill above the village of Oneroa, on Waiheke Island, you'll find an unexpected hoard of priceless musical treasures in this unpretentious museum – from an 1877 New York theatre organ to a simple harmonica. Never static, the collection of accordions, violins, dulcimers, harpsichords, pianolas, harps, and more has been recently joined by a 120-year-old Wellershaus pipe organ from Germany, donated by Motat and currently being restored. All the instruments here are carefully maintained and regularly played: it's a matter of pride that this is a live museum, one of very few in the world.
Equally a treasure are Lloyd and Joan Whittaker, now in their 80s, whose lives have been dedicated to music and have wonderful stories to tell. In their weekly show, Lloyd talks about his isolated Taranaki childhood when, starting with a mouth organ at the age of 5, he went on to teach himself to play six instruments by ear. It was the beginning of a career in music that has brought him to this room crammed with rare and unique stringed and keyboard instruments, squeezeboxes, and mouth organs, the result of a lifetime's obsessive collecting. Some of these instruments have fascinating life histories of their own, brought to New Zealand on sailing ships and dragged up-country on bullock carts. Playing music from Mozart to Lloyd Webber by way of Old MacDonald, Lloyd and Joan demonstrate many of the instruments, ending with a duet on a nine-foot Bechstein concert grand.
Take someone musical – visitors are welcome to ask questions and play the pianos. Where else could you tickle the ivories of a concert grand once owned by the Lloyd Webber of the 19th century, the composer (and also Polish Prime Minister) Ignacy Paderewski? Or play New Zealand's oldest Steinway? Ask nicely, and they'll flick the switch of the orchestrion for you: seven instruments in one. And look out for the next concert: there's a programme of visiting musicians who come from all over the world, delighted to lay their hands on these treasures.
ON THE WAY/NEARBY
There's the adjoining Art Gallery, with changing exhibitions by local artists, the Community Cinema where the seats are all squashy sofas and there might be lost coins down the sides of the cushions, the Artworks Theatre, and the striking new library. Had enough culture? Go down into the village for shops, coffee, gelato, restaurants, and views over the bay. Cable Bay Vineyards are within walking distance; there are many other wineries just a bus or taxi ride away. And on Waiheke, you're never far from a beach.
To look around, a donation of $5 is welcomed. For the Saturday show, it costs $12.50 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, and $8 for students. Accompanied children are free.
BEST TIME TO GO
On a Saturday at 1.30pm, for the 90-minute live show with Lloyd and Joan. The museum is open 1pm-4pm daily, sometimes from 10am on busy weekends. See www.musicalmuseum.org.