Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beaver: A singing career that began boldly on a red Leyland bus has ended...

BEAVER:  Never quite comfortable with her status as a social and cultural figure, daughter Kate said.

A singing career that began boldly on a bright red Leyland bus has come to a quiet end.

Beaver, one of the founding members of travelling performance co-operative Blerta, died at Mercy Hospice in Auckland yesterday after a six-year battle with cancer. She was 59.

Born in Lower Hutt in 1950 as Beverly Joan Morrison, Beaver was just 20 when actor and musician Bruno Lawrence spotted her performing at a local club and convinced her to jump on board his new project, Blerta – the Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition.

Beaver was a childhood nickname she adopted as a stage moniker and which stuck for the rest of her life, even out of the limelight.

She toured the country with Blerta – which included Bill Stalker, the father of her two children – between 1971 and 1973, dropping out for the group's 1974 Australian tour and rejoining when they returned.

Blerta was a springboard for a long and successful singing career, which included being named jazz performer of the year at the 1988 New Zealand Music Awards for her album Live at Ronnie Scott's.

She acted in the Blerta television show and in films, but it was her singing that people remembered and paid tribute to yesterday.

"What always amazed me about Beaver was her remarkable voice," co-performer Hammond Gamble said. "She was kind of born to sing."

Former Supergroove frontman Karl Stevens, who met and performed with Beaver while he was still a teenager, said she was "a proper old-school musician who knew her craft and had honed it".

Elder daughter Fritha Stalker said Beaver was "a very lovable person who inspired protective instincts in almost everyone she met with her innocence and good humour".

Younger daughter Kate Stalker said her mother never quite felt comfortable with her status as a social and cultural figure. "She was just a family girl. What mattered to her was her grandchildren and her great-nieces and nephews."

Everyone who met Beaver loved her, she said. "Even the nurses [at the hospice] this morning were having a cry because she was such a lovely lady".

Acknowledgements: Kate Newman


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