On Friday night I attended a public lecture, the 66th in a series which started back in 1917! The venue was the Nelson School of Music where that 1917 lecture was held. It was full (around 350 people), it had been booked out for weeks.
The event commemorates Nelson benefactor Thomas Cawthron, who when he died in 1915 left almost quarter of a million pounds to set up what is now the Cawthron Institute.
Before the main event, we were treated to a recital including several pieces played on the great pipe organ funded by Thomas in 1913. They were great! As the tones of Handel’s ‘Halleluia Chorus’ died out we saw the organist, Alan Gray, fling his arms aloft as if he had just scored a vital goal. We could understand how he felt.
I think the lecture this year was perhaps one of the most important of all 66. That is quite something when you see the list of previous Cawthron Lecturers (including Lord Rutherford). The speaker was Dr David Wratt of Niwa on “Climate Change: Choices and Consequences”. David is very well placed to give an objective account of the science around this complex topic. He serves as vice-chairman of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group 1 (the one charged with assessing the scientific basis of climate change). His lecture will be available from the Cawthron Institute shortly. Here’s the newspaper account by Naomi Arnold.
For me a touching moment came when the organist introduced his second piece, a march by Handel. He explained that news of the death of Thomas Cawthron had reached people in the middle of a concert at the School of Music. The programme was halted and that funeral march played on the organ that old Thomas had donated only a couple of years earlier.
(Declaration: I’m probably a bit emotional about all this. I restarted the current series in 1990 after it had been allowed to lapse for a decade or so and have lots of memories from these evenings since then.)