Peter Skerrett: a southern musician who is remembered for a long time.
Peter Skerrett was an all-season musician, so there is echo in the decision that the December 21 ILT Christmas Variety Show at Stadium Southland will be dedicated to the memory of the man who served as its musical director for two decades.
Skerrett, who died Thursday, developed skills as a musician and teacher that have earned him immense and loving respect throughout the South and far beyond.
The youngest of eight children, he grew up surrounded by music – not just pop radio but also jazz, country, Maori and Polynesian – and at age 12 he was part of the Maurice Variety Troupe. Tansley tours towns in the south of the country, singing songs not quite suitable for his age. Kisses sweeter than wine.
He learned the guitar on his own, finding he had a natural affinity with bass, and caught the attention of gloriously eccentric local concert organizer Frank Stapp, who used him as a local talent to open touring shows. .
At just 17 he was in Auckland doing well as a sideman – he would soon become friends and bandmate with hitmakers like Johnny Tillotson (Poetry in motion), Del Shannon (Run away) and Peter Posa (The white rabbit).
* Christmas variety show to bring some Christmas cheer
* After 18 years, the Christmas spectacle still has its charm for Peter Skerrett
* The Invercargill Musical Theater restaurant show is about to take the stage
Returning to Invercargill in the early 1960s, he formed the popular Southland band The Drifters, performing in the years when local bands drew large crowds, exulting in the classic pop-rock songs of their time: “Back then , you dressed to go dancing. ”.
Things got hot. A Dunedin Town Hall concert had beyond the norm ‘girls screaming and continuing’, though he later happily admits that part of it may have been the residual excitement of a fairly useful band. who had performed in this venue the night before.
âHysteria was still in the air. “
In 1966 he was lured to Auckland, a guest in a touring ensemble that supported renowned international artists here and in Australia – including that famous PJ Proby pant-slitter, Gene Pitney whose distinctive voice had a ridiculous range, and poor old Johnnie Ray who sounded sad on the radio and broke a million hearts in mono.
And he learned a lot. Taking the stage with stellar performers, “you see how they deal with audiences, get attention, interact with fans and with each other … not just standing and staring in space.”
His home province kept calling him, so he was back in 1976 to join The Vision before traveling to Australia and working on the Gold Coast.
But the 1990s saw him return, this time to settle in the newly formed music department of the Southern Institute of Technology, where he had the skills, experience and stories to help send dozens of talented Southerners. in the musical realms. .
He has been keenly involved in the cultural life of the South in a multitude of fields, particularly as musical director for the productions of the Invercargill Musical Theater and Piping Hot / Pipeworkz.
And he was in the band playing The Twis kisst in the Tisbury Hall dance scene of The fastest Indian in the world.
He even wrote the music for a Catholic Mass, in which he skilfully, and why not, slipped some jazz chords into the four-part harmonies.