CONDON, MARY CHARMIAN ROSE (CHARM)
Charmian (not Charmain) Barrow was born at Hawera on the 28 May 1920, the eldest daughter of Jesse Sydney and Margaret Fan Barrow nee Cockerton. She was educated at Hawera Primary School and Hawera Technical High School, and music became a very great part in her life.
For over forty years, throughout South Taranaki, she gave liberally of her time and talent, teaching the piano, and as a concert pianist and accompanist to singers and singing groups. Her musical education began as a pupil of Winifred Huggins from an early age. Later, when she was a piano student of Gordon McBeth, Wanganui, she passed the ATCL (teachers' diploma) examination in 1938 and LRSM (pianoforte performers) in 1939.
When Charm began teaching the piano, several of her pupils lived in the country and each Saturday she would drive as far as Ararata, giving lessons to pupils at their homes. In 1939 she opened a studio in the Central Buildings, Hawera. During the early years of the Second World War, as well as teaching full time, she accompanied Mr and Mrs J Davies singing pupils, and Annie Quin's Orpheus Choir, performing at concerts, and as accompanist to singers at various patriotic functions.
In 1943, Charm joined the Women's Royal New Zealand Naval Service (WRENs). After initial training at Auckland, she served at Wellington with the degaussing range staff at Somes Island. Degaussing was a counter measure to combat the magnetic mine - Hitlers "secret weapon". These mines sank many merchant and naval ships in the early months of World War Two. To neutralise a ship's magnetism, wire coils were wound around the ships hull, and an electrical current was passed through. Later vessels had the coils fitted internally. The degaussing range at Somes Island was staffed by Wrens, and these women checked the calibration of naval and merchant ships before they left Wellington Harbour.
While in Wellington, Charm was pianist in the orchestra of the Armed Services Operatic Society. They performed a series of Gilbert and Sullivan operas at the Wellington Opera House. She returned to civilian life in 1945, and attended the first summer school of music at Cambridge in January 1946, and then resumed teaching piano at Hawera.
Charm married Michael Condon in 1947 and in partnership with him, farmed at Pungarehu and after 1955 at Omahina, inland from Waverley. During the next 20 years she became involved with the Waverley Glee Club Choir, performing at concerts, teaching music, preparing pupils for examinations and competitions, as accompanist at radio recitals, school music festivals and as organist at St Francis de Sales Church. In the late 1960s, she was official accompanist with the Hawera Orchestral Society, making a round trip of 75 miles from Omahina to attend practices and concerts.
A stroke in 1976 left Charm with a weakened right hand and she had to come to terms with the fact that she wouldn't be able to play the piano again. However, she continued to teach a small number of pupils, and by being ambidextrous, was able to show her pupils right hand movements using her left hand. As in earlier years, her pupils' success in examinations and competitions was a tribute to her expertise as a teacher. Charm Condon died on the 23 February 1989 at her home at Wanganui.
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