Wellington Scoop

Michael Houstoun has decided to retire


by Michael Houstoun
After almost 50 years as a professional musician I have decided to retire, hang up my fingers, call it quits and begin a new phase of my fortunate life. Although I do not have an exact date yet (I’m working on it) my last performance for the paying public will be towards the end of 2020.

For a while I thought I would not say anything and just quietly fade away – still an attractive option – but my musical life has been given to me by my beautiful New Zealand audience and it only seems right to let them know.

To have a talent and to have a career are not the same thing, but from the very beginning people wanted to hear me play as much as I wanted to play to people. I had played all over New Zealand before I went overseas for the first time and the audience continued to grow with each return visit. They have never gone away. Since I came back permanently to live in the early 80s, they have been almost my only audience and I love them with the full strength of my grateful heart.

To find year in and year out that they are still there has impacted on my life in two ways in particular. Firstly it has affirmed my musical spirit. Although I use my cognitive brain when I prepare my musical performances, nonetheless the substance of those performances is entirely instinctive. I have always trusted my musical intuitions and my audience has said “Way to go, Michael!” When one’s preparations are made in solitude, this is truly a most important affirmation.

Secondly, that the audiences should continue to show up in considerable numbers has made me a good bet for the people who put on concerts. This means that I have been able to make a living as a soloist and chamber musician and have not had to look beyond my performances for income. How wonderful! I was not cut out to teach and it has been a great blessing not to have to.

And now I am a pensioner and the pressure is off.

I could mention a third thing that I owe to my audience and that is my repertoire. I resolved early on to always offer something new (at least to me). And so year after year I have prepared new recital programs, new concertos, new chamber works. This has been personally rewarding in a great many ways and I like to think it has been a way to pay back some of the loyal support that has sustained me.

I have played (often many times) in Invercargill, Tuatapere, Gore, Balclutha, Dunedin, Queenstown, Wanaka, Timaru, Ashburton, Akaroa, Christchurch, Greymouth, Motueka, Nelson, Blenheim, Wellington, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Paekakariki, Waikanae, Otaki, Featherston, Martinborough, Masterton, Palmerston North, Feilding, Wanganui, New Plymouth, Te Awamutu, Hamilton, Putaruru, Waipukurau, Havelock North, Hastings, Napier, Gisborne, Opotiki, Whakatane, Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga, Cambridge, Manukau, Auckland, Takapuna, Warkworth, Whangarei, Kerikeri, Kaitaia. This year I’ll add Norsewood to the list. And I could mention a tin shed outside Timaru somewhere where I played the Goldberg variations on the longest hand-built piano in the world.

Time to fold up the tent.


  1. Helene Ritchie, 31. January 2019, 10:49

    You are so wonderful Michael – such talent and enjoyment which you have shared with us. You are a national taonga-treasure! Enjoy wherever you go next and thank you

  2. David Mackenzie, 31. January 2019, 11:47

    Thank you, Michael, for sharing your music over many years. Your delivery of the Beethoven Sonatas stands out for me as a treasure I will always remember.

  3. Neil Douglas, 31. January 2019, 11:51

    Thanks for the memories Michael. I’ve been to a few of your concerts and I’ve certainly enjoyed your playing. I’ve got some of your CDs too so you’ll never stop playing in my house.

  4. Pauline Swann, 31. January 2019, 17:30

    What wonderful memories we all have and so many wonderful concerts….and like Neil we will be playing your CDs! My husband’s cousin Thelma Brown from Timaru had so much to do with Michael in his early days and great stories…We will all hope to see you at concerts around the country – like us in the audience.

  5. Trevor Hughes, 1. February 2019, 20:27

    A very fine musician, performer and ambassador for New Zealand. Enjoy your retirement Michael.

  6. Pat Newman, 6. February 2019, 12:20

    I remember when you were a pupil of the nuns in Timaru so many years ago and have followed your career with interest. I and my sister Bernadette were pupils at same time but on totally different planets in comparison… Enjoy your retirement..