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Happy 90th birthday, Matt

cvi   It was ‘Happy Birthday’ sung with gusto in four-part harmony. Over 120 friends and family gathered to celebrate local identity Matt Staehelin’s 90th birthday at the Criterion Theatre last Saturday week. With Matt’s diverse interests ranging from viola to tennis, singing to bridge, and fine wines to cattle breeding, it was always going to be a good-sized gathering. Guests were thoroughly entertained as Matt was put through his paces alongside fellow musicians Helen Hearnshaw, Sarah Nicholls, Janet Rae, Margaret Tarrant, Helen Tucker and Deborah Wray. The show commenced with Matt on viola with the Arcadians Ensemble, co-founded by Matt some 25 years ago. Then it was a cappella with the recently-formed group, Harmoneyes. Quite a feat considering Matt started singing only a few years ago. The programme was eclectic, the audience transfixed. Not too many 90-year-olds can perform on stage for well over an hour. Matt acquitted himself with quiet determination and aplomb. Matt’s daughter, Eva, provided a sumptuous spread which was eagerly consumed. Fran McHugh’s cheeky version of The Wild Colonial Boy brought the house down with its humorous chronicle of Matt’s life in Australia since moving from Switzerland in 1986. A heart warming celebration of a truly unique individual.