Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A tribute to Captain Bryan Wyness

As the awful news of Bryan’s death spread throughout the country and much further afield, all who knew him were left in a state of shock and disbelief and none more so than the hundreds of student singers, tutors and pianists of the New Zealand Opera School.

Personally I have known and greatly appreciated Bryan for more than 25 years. His and Marion’s support for the Opera School has been graciously and generously given from the time it commenced in 1994. From the outset, they gave financial help and in convoy – usually in sports Jaguars and with other airline friends like Mark and Karylin Brown and Fred and Jean Douglas – would swoop down on Wanganui to attend the students’ public events and add luster and enthusiasm to the occasion and the students.

Bryan’s enthusiasm for opera was such that he organized here in Auckland an evening of fine food, wine and opera for fellow Air New Zealand pilots and their wives and partners and the principal performer on that occasion was Simon O’Neill one of our first attendees at the School now performing in the grand opera houses of the northern hemisphere, but still now making his home here in New Zealand.

When Bryan left Air New Zealand after 39 years of airline service a farewell was organised by Captains’ David Morgan and Fred Douglas, and who but singers from the School were on hand to perform to his great delight.

The last nine years have seen Bryan and Marion every January graciously and wonderfully donating their time to the School, travelling to Wanganui, living in boarding school accommodation, dining and exercising with the students and monitoring their progress and comforting when the stresses were high as they sometimes are.

At all Wanganui Opera Week public events whether in the beautiful Sargeant Art Galley, the Prince Edward Auditorium, the Royal Wanganui Opera House, Bryan was there delighting in the performance and ready with a warm appreciation of each as they left the stage.

Bryan had a great love of the singer’s voice. He recognized and understood the great variety of voices and respected the God-given talent of each no matter whether they might reach the sometimes dazzling heights of Covent Garden, the Met or La Scala or contribute to the joyous life of performance in opera in New Zealand or across the Tasman. To him all were valued, encouraged and admired. He often likened flying to opera with the words ‘to be successful both depend upon peak performance from the whole team with a constant search for perfection and with no replay possible’.

The sympathy of so many of the students, tutors, pianists and staff of the School are sent with loving thoughts to Marion and the family. His parting is all too soon, but it would be unimaginable to think of Bryan old and grey, full of sleep and nodding by the fire. We thank the Almighty Creator for his life and say farewell to man whose like we may never look upon again. We will remember him ‘on wings of song’.