All Sorts of Music
Introducing Zoe Hogg: Zoe is Tutor for the Music of All Sorts class. The title of this group says much about Zoe’s love of music. She and other class members can be seen carrying heavy instruments down the corridor into the hall where they perform. What music do you play? “Anything goes”. Throughout the conversation with Zoe, she emphasised that the opportunity to play, the actual performance itself, is what she finds so rewarding. We are talking about the guitar, mandolin, jazz, even heavy metal.
Zoe has been a member of U3A Port Phillip since its establishment in 2003. However, the history of Zoe’s Music Group goes way back to the very early days of the EcoCentre in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens.
But, back to the beginning. Zoe spent her childhood and early adult years in England. She recounts that during the 2nd World War, enemy planes would bomb Luton Airport, which was near her home, then empty their fuel load onto the streets below. She witnessed houses bursting into flames and has vivid memories of the sound of bombs, of spending hours in an air raid shelter. It was scary.
Zoe laughed when asked when she first became interested in playing an instrument. “I had no choice, I was told I could play.” Zoe’s father played the lute, her mother the mandolin. Musical performance was the family’s major focus. She was just five years old when she first performed on stage. The concert would often begin with Zoe playing the guitar on stage, wearing a gypsy dress. She was so small her feet couldn’t reach the floor, resting instead on her mother’s sewing box.
Did she have much choice? It seems not. Everyday Zoe was required to practise for half an hour. “I had to.” There was no exception to this rule. She would get one sweet when she finished, sweets were rationed in England at that time. The discipline of practice became ingrained. Zoe is now very appreciative of that.
Zoe would accompany her parents to all their musical ventures. They would perform at the circus each year when it came to town. “I used to be invited to play my guitar in the circus ring. I would be there with a circle of clowns around me. The best bit was talking to the lions outside the ring while they were waiting to do their thing. They were just like gentle pussy cats, only a bit bigger.” Zoe won her first music prize at the age of 12 years by playing a Spanish Tequila.
Zoe recounts fond memories of her childhood friendship with Julian Bream. (the English classical guitarist.) “We grew up together.” Later, Julian Bream attended the London School of Music, Zoe laughed as she said, “and I got married.” Her twin sons and daughter were born in England.
Zoe’s (late) husband Robert was brought to Australia as a Specialist Plastic Producer. Zoe acknowledges how perspectives change over time, being aware of the unfavourable view of plastic held today. With their three young children, the family made the long boat trip to Australia.
Zoe first developed an interest in Math and Science at school, in England. Settling into the Australian way of life and raising her children, she became aware of the shortage of teachers at that time. Zoe tells how she turned up at Syndal Technical College, Glen Waverley, with no formal qualifications, other than her ‘A’ Levels. She was invited in, “no questions asked.” Zoe recounts with humour her very first class, a lesson on static electricity. “So, there I am in front of a class of thirty boys with a rabbit skin and a plastic rod and I am pushing this rod up and down and the whole class collapses into laughter.” No imagination needed to understand the reason for this. To this day, some of those boys from Zoe’s first class are still in contact with her.
Other passions: When the family moved to live in St Kilda, Zoe joined the Penguin Group established by members of the EcoCentre situated in St Kilda Botanical Gardens. Earthcare St Kilda, jointly with researchers from Monash University, undertook scientific research to monitor the welfare of the penguins. Zoe ended up running this Penguin Research Group for some years. It is a continuing project, although currently with less input from Monash University.
This long term project continues to protect the welfare of the penguins from the often wilful or thoughtless intrusions by humans. Many years ago, there were people living on the breakwater at the end of the pier. Those that were homeless but also many others living on the ‘fringe of society.’ Zoe recalls bizarre events that happened out on the breakwater. “I was holding a penguin once and they said, don’t put it away, it’s a good meal!”
Zoe is dedicated to the welfare of the penguins. Penguins are cheeky. They look after their young very well and will attack you if you go near their ‘chicks.’ Referring to their mating behaviour, the “guys” find a hole in the rocks they want to live in and sit outside, making a certain sound to attract the females. The pair then live together for many years, and both share in raising their young.
Zoe has fond memories of a particular penguin who attached herself to the Caretaker of the Kiosk on St Kilda Pier. She would wait for him. Zoe acknowledges this would not be appropriate now. In respect to the current health of the penguin colony, Zoe advises that their numbers have increased over the years. They are microchipped, protected, although some tourists continue to poke sticks down their holes, to entice them out. Zoe and the group monitor the penguins once a fortnight. She does not think the new pier renovations will trouble the penguins. There will be a new boardwalk which will protect them. They have been through many rebuilds of the breakwater over the years.
Neil Blake (OAM) continues to take an active role with Earthcare. He is also a musician. Zoe set up a Music Group at the EcoCentre which way back then was a place where Backpackers would come and work in the gardens. They had big parties and would often sleep there at night. There was a cupboard holding many musical instruments and they would all go there and “just play”. Anybody who could play an instrument of any sort could join in. “It used to be fun when all these different people from all over the world would come and play together.” In the early days, the Caretaker lived in the cottage at the EcoCentre. It was a very different establishment back then.
The ‘All Sorts Music Group’ at the Mary Kehoe Centre plays all sorts of music, on any instrument. Members play separately, Zoe arranges the music; they need to be able to read music. People come, people go, numbers have been steady over the past five years or so.
For Zoe, the actual performing on an instrument, being on stage, playing with a group of likeminded players, is what drives her passion, gives her a sense of importance. Playing in a jazz band “turns me on.” Zoe is also a member of the Mandolin Orchestra and plays with this group every week. She comments with some amusement that she is “not good at sitting still”.
Zoe concludes that she has had an interesting life. The greatest influence on her life has been “my Mum, she pushed me. At times I hated it but now I realise it’s done me a deal of good. I will have a go at anything, and I don’t care, I enjoy life”.
Zoe has dedicated herself to the joy of performing. The pleasure of playing ‘all sorts’ of music and inviting others to play any instrument or style of music that they like, is gratifying. Arranging compositions to resonate as an integrated performance is Zoe’s contribution to music.
Zoe’s dedication over many years to the welfare of the penguins on St Kilda Pier continues.
Felicity May interviewed Zoe Hogg.