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Obituary: Marie Efford-Masefield

Marie Efford-Masefield Travel Assistance Grant Scholarship in her honour

Obituary to Marie Masefield by Harley Jones read out at the funeral in 1998, sadly at only 31 years of age.

Good afternoon. My name is Harley Jones and I was one of Marie’s music teachers.

I remember the first time I met Marie Efford in Christchurch, then a skinny 10 year old, with large penetrating eyes that beamed of energy, intellingence, who played, even as a child, with an obvious love for the accordion.

It was not until some years later, after her parents had moved to Whangarei that I started to teach her. Fay Schaw of Takapuna, then her teacher, told me at the NZ Accordion Championships in 1981 that I had to hear her really excellent student play. As you guessed, this was Marie Efford. I heard her play and was very impressed, so when Fay asked me later that year to start teaching her I happily agreed.

Picture left: Marie at 15 years:

Marie, then only 14, was already showing tremendous talent and was a super hard worker. Marie put everything into her music, practising hours every day and I remember clearly the first NZ Championship competitions she entered with me as her teacher. On the day, she looked very nervous and extremely white.

Never-the-less she played up a storm, won her class and it was only a few days later that I found out why she was so white. Marie had been so nervous, she had been sick only minutes before going on stage. Fortunately, her many future competition successes did not involve so much talking to the big white telephone.

Maries success with the accordion is recorded in the book “History of the Accordion in New Zealand” written by Wallace Liggett and I would like to read a little from it.

Marie commenced her accordion career in Christchurch, where she played duets with Meg Fidler's daughter, Christine. Her family moved to Whangarei and she continued her musical studies with Pat Bish, Fay Schaw, and then Harley Jones. Early in the 1980 decade her outstanding abilities became more evident as she won a number of premier awards with her accordion. Among her achievements are the winning of the Institute of Registered Music Teacher's D.D. O'Connor Memorial Scholarship in 1983, the NZ Solo Accordion Championship for three years and representing NZ at the 1983 Coupe Mondiale in Austria where she gained the award for highest placed lady competitor with a seventh overall placing.

Marie also won the Open Solo and Open Free Bass classes at the Accordion Federation of North America Championships in 1984. This same year she gave a lunchtime recital for the University of Canterbury School of Music, and had in the previous year performed at a Tribute to Douglas Mews Concert, just prior to his retirement as Associate-Professor of Music at Auckland University. Add to this several guest recitals in the United States and Europe while en route to the World Championships and you have some idea of her programme during those years. Many hours of intense practice were necessary to even memorise let alone perfect the types of pieces she had to learn, to compete and perform at such venues.

You can appreciate the esteem Marie’s playing skills received from the author. It was a tremendous achievement, to be highest placed lady contestant in the World at the 1983 Coupe Mondiale World Solo Championships at ONLY 16 years of age and such success on her first attempt at this event. Out of nearly 20 national representatives, she was the youngest and the highest placed first year contestant.

I think that there was only one time in Marie’s younger life that the accordion took second place and that was in 1984 when she travelled with the Air New Zealand Accordion Orchestra to the USA and Canada. There she met one David Masefield, the brother of Ian Masefield who is my brother in law. David was only on the trip because the price was great. He vowed and declared that he hated the accordion.

However, it quickly became clear that the word “hate” absolutely DID NOT include Marie. Love was in the air! David might never have loved the accordion, but Marie, never had a more faithful supporter of her music than David.

Marie went on to pass her Accordion Teachers Diploma of NZ and became a Registered Music Teacher with the Institute of Registered Music Teachers of NZ. She also began teaching the accordion.

In 1984 Marie had been involved in a car accident and some months later suffered further back injury from a fall and even then did not enjoy perfect health, so it was not until 1988 that she returned to competitive playing. During that year she was joint NZ Solo Accordion Champion, performed concerts in the USA and also competed at the 1988 International Piano Accordion Competition in New York (USA).

No-one was more disappointed for Marie than David when she did not win this event, however she represented her country with distinction including high commendation from the judges. I enjoyed very much travelling with David and Marie on this and subsequent accordion related trips and it always amazed me how, even if David did not like the accordion, he sure was popular with accordionists amongst whom, Marie and he, have many great life-long friends.

After 1988, health and work commitments meant that Marie was not able to compete again but she always kept a strong interest in the accordion. She and David moved to Wellington but after they returned to Auckland, and as health allowed, Marie performed regularly in groups and orchestras.

In 1985 Marie and David travelled to Bali with the Musicale Accordion Orchestra. They hotly competed in all of the pursuits available at Club Med but the most hotly contested event was the daily early morning game of tennis against brother Ian and his wife Heather. All the members of our group would wander past the tennis court enquiring “who was winning today” to only get the answer "The Masefields" regardless of who was actually happened to be winning!

Marie played in a quartet with Steve Gutmann, Wayne Knights and Robin Hill for a couple of years, performing many times .

Marie was also involved with myself and David’s brother Peter Masefield when along with Wayne Knights, we started the Accordions Worldwide internet site.

Marie regularly adjudicated at the NZ Championships and the South Pacific Championships and also helped me tutor Campbell Bettridge prior to him representing New Zealand internationally. Her ability as a teacher was always a pleasure to work with.

Music skills such as Marie possessed are normally enjoyed well into old age and only grow with experience and maturity. That makes today an even sadder loss to our small accordion community. Such playing skills, teaching ability and love for music coupled with the fun that Marie and David were to have a part of the accordion world, makes the loss today feel that much worse.

I would like now to finish with some words from a famous New Zealand accordionist who has been living overseas since 1980 and who at times helped me prepare Marie for international competitions. These words are from Kevin Friedrich, himself a competitor internationally, a former President of the Accordion Teachers Guild of North America and currently Vice-President of the world accordion organisation, the Confederation Internationale des Accordeonistes – IMC - UNESCO

I think his words speak eloquently for all accordionists here. From Kevin.

I feel very privileged to have known Marie, and like all of you here, have many fond memories of the times we spent together. Those times included countless hours of accordion work, where Marie never ceased to amaze everyone with her brilliance both musically and technically! Every accordionist attending today, (including Harley) will cringe with envy at the thought of Marie ripping through her bass chromatic runs with those long fingers, flying over the keyboard. A quick learner and quite the perfectionist, she tackled every challenge with that same enthusiastic approach, never questioning if she could do it or not, but only how long it would take!

We also had the joy of experiencing some pleasure times together which took us all over the world. One of my most vivid memories of Marie, is of her galloping across the North African dessert on horseback, as we made our way among the great Pyramids of Egypt outside of Cairo one New Years Eve.

However, I guess the thing that is most memorable about Marie, is that always at her side, was her loving husband David. The one who endured endless hours of accordion practices, accordion lessons, accordion concerts, accordion competitions and just plain 'accordion talk'. In fact, after I hadn't heard from David and Marie for a while one time, I teased David, that the reason he hadn't written, was that he was too busy down in the basement learning the entire accordion repertoire of Gary Daverne on Marie's new Super V!

So, my heart goes out to David, Dillan, the entire family and all the friends, during this tragic time. Marie will always live on in our hearts, inspiring us to tackle our daily lives, just like she did, with the upmost of optimism, courage and enthusiasm. May you all find comfort to know that you are in the company of family and friends both near, and in this case, afar.

My sincerest condolences in this time of great loss,

Kevin Friedrich

Thank you very much. - Harley Jones

Picture below: 15 year old Marie with some of her trophies

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