Three Kings Carols by Candlelight

Carols by Candlelight was first held in Mt Roskill in 1958.

Ref: Aerial photograph of Mt Roskill, 1947, MRB 029 1h, Auckland Council Archives.

By 1964 it was so popular that more than 16,000 people packed Three Kings Reserve to see a 200 strong choir which came from the Mt Roskill Municipal Youth Choir and local churches. The Herald reported that many in the large audience bought their own candles and most joined in the singing.  (NZ Herald 21 December 1964)

Ref: Carols by Candlelight, 13 December 1975MRB 009 Item 705 Box 2Auckland Council Archives.

The Roskill and Onehunga News interviewed Mr & Mrs C.H. Linden in 1967 about the festival. The couple and their son Don had organised the pageant since its inception in 1958. In this article Mr Linden, who at the time was the chairman of Mt Roskill Borough Council’s public relations committee, talks about the tremendous spirit of the project, “The co-operation and teamwork in the preparations, then the unconcealed delight and fascination of children on the night always makes it worthwhile.”  

Ref: Carols by Candlelight, 13 December 1975MRB 009 Item 111 Box 1Auckland Council Archives.

Mr Linden paid tribute to all those who had helped through the first 9 years of running the pageant:

“Firstly my wife and the Mayoress’ Committee do a great job with the costumes. The churches in Mt Roskill are very helpful by providing cast members, singers and helpers. Borough council staff work overtime with pleasure, helping with the props and other important jobs on the night... Every section of the community plays a part and this year even the donkey was lent to us by the Catholic Friary in Hillsborough Rd. Businessmen donate up to 7000 candles.” (Roskill and Onehunga News, 16 December 1967)

Ref: Carols by Candlelight, 13 December 1975, MRB 009 Item 700 Box 2, Auckland Council Archives.

Cold wind kept the numbers down to 2500 in 1967 with many attendees staying in their cars, but those who did brave it enjoyed a service which included a film showing Christmas in Hong Kong. (NZ Herald 11 December 1967)

The 1969 event featured the local municipal band, followed by five carols and then religious solos by Auckland singers Miss P.A. Croule and Mr T. Owens. After that local actors performed an animated tableau depicting the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem.  (NZ Herald 16 December 1969) 

Ref: Family carols, 1970, MRB 111 Record 1-6-3 Box 18, Auckland Council Archives.

The nativity play at the 1970 event was entirely mimed according to the Herald. The whole programme, a Nativity play with a choir, pre-recorded narration, dialogue and background music was taped before the event and presented in mime. The taping was done by Mr Don Linden. (NZ Herald 12 December 1970)

The Herald reported afterwards that the highlight of the evening was the play. Even though, “the performance was marred by fragments of radio-telephone chatter crackling over the public address system. Apparently a radio reporter was making a spot report to his base station on what was happening. Fortunately the interruption occurred when there was only one actor on the stage and he was able to ad lib until the reporter stopped transmitting.” (NZ Herald 14 December 1970)

Ref: Carols by Candlelight, 13 December 1975MRB 009 Item 703 Box 2Auckland Council Archives.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the 1974 event drew 9000 people who sung with the Mt Roskill Municipal Choir and the municipal band. The mayor Mr R.N. Fickling spoke of the good will in the borough. A pack of 32 cubs including one holding his mother’s hand presented Mrs Fickling with a huge stocking full of presents for needy children. “This said Mr Fickling, “is what Christmas is all about.” (NZ Herald 16 December 1974)

1975 was also a cold damp night as you can see from the photographs throughout this post. The images, from Auckland Council Archives, show everybody wrapped up to keep warm. 

Ref: : Carols by Candlelight, 13 December 1975MRB 009 Item 701 Box 2Auckland Council Archives.

Another key figure in the history of Carols by Candlelight at Three Kings is Peter Muys. In 2010 Mr Muys, who had been on the organising committee for 29 years, was honoured by the Mt Roskill Community Board for his contributions to the event. “From administration and advertising to being the MC of the event, leading the audience in carols and organising the band, Peter has been involved in every aspect.” (Central Leader, 16 July 2010)

Ref: Mount Roskill Carols by Candlelight, 1984MRB 111  Record 1-6-3 Box 19, Auckland Council Archives.

Ref: Carols by Candlelight, 1983-1984, MRB 111 Record 1-6-3 Box 19, Auckland Council Archives.

If you are interested in finding out more about historic musical events in Auckland you can use the New Zealand music scrapbooks. These scrapbooks are available online in Kura Heritage Collections Online, so make the most of the work of diligent librarians who from 1963 – 1997 compiled this wonderful local history resource.

Ref: New Zealand Ephemera - Christmas cards, 1913, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.