Musician has all basses covered


When your name’s Gold and you live in Arrowtown, you’re already pretty special, right?
That’s certainly true of musical maestro Dale Gold, who’s had many strings to his bow over the past 60 years. He chats to PHILIP CHANDLER ahead of his headline act at Friday night’s Whakatipu Music Festival

Arrowtown’s dripping with musical talent, but when it comes to longevity, versatility and virtuosity, Dale Gold stands out.

A long-serving former principal double bass player for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the 75-year-old’s best known in these parts for playing bass guitar for rock bands like Lumsden Calling at Arrowtown’s The Fork and Tap.

On Friday night, however, he’s brought his double bass to the Queenstown Memorial
Centre, where his specially-formed jazz quartet was an opening act for the Whakatipu
Music Festival.

Gold hails from Chicago, in the United States, but was schooled in Philadelphia.

He says he was tricked into playing the double bass.

He’d learned the cello at grade school but didn’t really take to it, and hoped to chuck it
in when he went to high school, despite all the money his parents had forked out on lessons.

‘‘But the teacher said, ‘all our bass players have graduated, could you just fill in for a
while until we get someone better?’’’

Within a short time, he was playing in a band with other students, and had fallen in love with his new instrument.

After studying at Philadelphia’s music conservatory, he became a freelance musician.

He says he could have got a full-time position with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but instead accepted the principal role with the NZSO, based in Wellington, in 1976.

‘‘People just thought I was crazy.’’

Gold admits in those pre-internet days he’d had no idea about NZ, or Wellington, ‘‘but
it was a good enough orchestra’’.

He particularly enjoyed travelling around NZ, and also had overseas trips as far away as London, where the NZSO performed with Kiwi soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at the Royal Albert Hall.

He also enjoyed the orchestra’s commitment to contemporary music, as, being subsidised by the government, it didn’t need to just play box-office favourites.

As a sideline, he created the NZSO’s website before the world wide web even existed,
making it probably the first orchestra in the world to have one.

Gold moved to Arrowtown in 2007 with his second wife, Georgia Mahoney — he jokes all his wives have come from Winnipeg, Canada — as she’d taken up a golf coaching role

However, he continued with the NZSO in a job-sharing role, for a year, and still filled in till a few years ago.

In his first five or so years here, Gold had a driving role with Nomad Safaris — ‘‘my first
real job’’, he quips.

He also gave his bass a rest — ‘‘I think I was kind of burned out, I needed a break’’.

Playing a big instrument for so long was also hurting his back.

Latterly, it’s been played more by other musos — ‘‘I always joke, my bass does more gigs than I do’’.

‘‘It’s almost prohibitively expensive to go on aeroplanes anymore, so travelling groups call me, ‘can I borrow your bass?’’’

Musical maestro: Dale Gold plays the bass guitar at The Fork and Tap

Despite a heavy diet of classical music, Gold’s always enjoyed jazz, having played with the NZ Jazz Orchestra, and has also dabbled in rock ‘n’ roll.

‘‘I used to listen, wherever I lived, to the university radio stations, you just heard different stuff.’’

He’s played bass guitar quite a bit down here, though, self-deprecatingly, he considers
himself only ‘‘the fourth-best bass guitarist in south-east Arrowtown’’.

During the first lockdown, in 2020, his wife saw on TV house-bound Italians taking to their balconies to sing opera to each other.

Inspired by their example, he and musos Paul Winders and Shane Woolridge played to
their neighbourhood from their driveways.

Recently, friend Anne Rodda, who’s organising this weekend’s music festival, invited him to dust off his double bass.

‘‘I said, ‘I don’t want to play Satin Doll and old things that everybody plays, I want to do something new.’’

For his Dale Gold Sandbox Quartet he roped in Sam Ross, Louis Koopman and Matt
Wilson, who performed ‘‘new jazz’’.

‘‘It’s hopefully very listenable, stuff you wouldn’t have heard, probably, but just some
great tunes.’’

Ask him the buzz he gets from music, having now played professionally for about 60 years, he says ‘‘I like stuff I’ve never heard before’’.

However, he’s also enjoying retirement: ‘‘The nice thing is you don’t have to know what
day it is.’’