23 August 2018
In the early days of Medina Town, television had not yet touched Perth, let alone the remote industrial outpost of Kwinana! And so the BP Band stepped up to fill the entertainment void.
One of the band’s first conductors was BP engineer, Walter A. Cooke. Born in Sheffield, U.K. in 1910, Wally Cooke had considerable musical experience playing with the Salvation Army and had been a member of the British National Association of Brass Conductors. As well as leading the BP Brass Band, in 1957 he formed the Kwinana High School Girls’ Choir and in 1958, commenced rehearsals with Medina Male Choir.
The original Medina Male Choir consisted mainly of migrant men working at BP. Australian men considered singing unmanly, but for the Scots, Irish, Welsh, British, Dutch and Germans, public singing was quite common in their home country and more socially acceptable. However after the choir won the G. J. Water Shield at the North Perth Festival of Music in 1965, Wally Cooke was swept away with applications to join the troope: clerks, chemists, engineers, firemen, electricians, artists and even one BP Refinery Manager, Les Ougden, all expressed an interest to join.
Medina Male Choir went on to perform at more than 400 public events, with several members being absorbed into the West Australian Opera in its inaugural year, 1967.
The choir continued until 1972, when Wally Cooke retired as refinery engineer.
At the same time the Medina Male Choir were making their mark, the Country Women’s Association (C.W.A) became established in Medina. The first meeting was held in 1955, and ten years later, the Kwinana Country Women’s Association Choir was formed, with Mrs. Val Howells as conductor.
Mrs. Howells was followed by Jo Brownlow, Elsie Morley and Shiela Grasso. When Mrs Grasso took extended leave from the Kwinana area in 1969, Wally Cooke’s reputation as Medina’s Maestro of Music preceded him and the C.W.A turned to him for leadership until Mrs Grasso returned the following year.
In 1978, Wally Cooke and his wife settled into their new home in the Kwinana Teasdale Masonic Village and so the Teasdale Singers Choir was formed.
Shiela Grasso meanwhile went on to take the C.W.A Choir to new heights, winning prizes at various C.W.A Choral Festivals throughout Western Australia.
The C.W.A. Choir provided local women with the opportunity to find friendship and community through music and eight women in particular formed a special bond. Hilda Bedford, Peta Burn, Barbara Robinson, Sylvia Curley, Dot Sherwell, Daisy McBroom, Sylvia Rodgers and Gwen Laws met and formed the Tuesday Girls. Bound together by the love of music and community, they cam together once a week all the way through until the late 1990s, raising more than $15,000 for local charities and organisations through their musical and crafting endeavours.
The C.W.A Kwinana Districts Branch is still going strong and hold handcraft meetings on every other Wednesday at the Masonic Teasdale Village Hall on the corner of Littlemore Rd. Orelia.