Arrowtowner who’s backed Pavarotti, Domingo and Dame Kiri

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Arrowtown musician Dale Gold has travelled a long and winding road from London’s Albert Hall to playing at Queenstown JazzFest.

During almost 30 years as bassist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, he performed in some of the world’s most famous concert halls.

Along the way, Gold backed opera giants such as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

He’s also appeared with violin superstar Nigel Kennedy and late Kiwi legend Sir Howard Morrison.

But he insists he’s just as happy helping out local bands like the Harvey Maguire Jazz Group and Remarkable Dixie as well as singer Kiri Winders at this year’s fest.

“When I can, I love getting out there and playing a bit of jazz,” Gold says. “I guess I should wave my flag a bit more and do it more often.

“But coming from a classical background I’m more used to reading music than playing by ear, so it’s sometimes not quite as easy a gig as it might look.”

Originally from Chicago in the United States, Gold, 63, started on the double bass at the age of 14 – before that he was simply too small to play one.

“I suppose it could have been worse – I could have chosen the harp,” he jokes.

He started his professional music career in Atlanta and Philadelphia before shifting to NZ in 1976.

“I was tired of big city life in America and when a job came up in Wellington with the NZ Symphony Orchestra I just went for it, even though I had no idea what to expect.

“It was fantastic – but there’s a lot of living out of a suitcase involved. We travelled around the country many times and also got to tour places like Japan, Europe and China.

“One of the highlights was doing The Proms at the Albert Hall three years ago.”

It’s not just opera and classical greats that Gold has worked with.

He laid down tracks with former NZ pop favourites Split Enz on their 1995 album ENZO, when some of the band’s old hits were given an orchestral treatment.

And in the 1970s he played on a number of early U.S disco singles churned out by the successful Philadelphia-based production team of Gamble and Huff, who were behind classics by the likes of the O’Jays, Billy Paul and the Ritchie Family.

Gold – who has three kids and five grandchildren – started coming to the Wakatipu four years ago when his wife Georgia landed a job as a golf coach. She teaches at Arrowtown Golf Club.

He retired as principal bass player with the national orchestra in 2007 and is now a driver and guide for Queenstown-based tourism company Nomad Safaris.

Gold has no regrets about the change of pace.

“I love doing the guiding because I’ve always loved the outdoors,” he says. “Even when I was playing a concert with the orchestra, sometimes my head would drift off into the mountains.

“So in a way, I’ve ended up with a bit of a dream job.”

Dale Gold appears at JazzFest with Remarkable Dixie at the Village Green on October 18, with the Harvey Maguire Jazz Group at Threesixty on Oct 20 and with Kiri and Her 1940s Jazz Club at Gibbston’s Winehouse & Kitchen restaurant on Oct 26