A honky-tonk great lives on through song

Winifred Atwell.
Winifred Atwell.

HONKY-tonk great and revolutionary musician Winifred Atwell died on February 28, 1983, but even at the 30th anniversary of her death, her spirit and music live on.

Jan Preston's Life and Music of Winifred Atwell hits the stage at the Lismore Workers Club today for a very special performance, considering the iconic Trinidad-born British pianist and her husband are buried just out of town at the South Gundurimba Cemetery.

Jan Preston, the pianist and entertainer behind the production has performed the show throughout New Zealand and Australia to a great response.

Ms Preston said she feels a great connection to the fascinating icon and said she couldn't be more passionate about the show and its story if she tried.

"I love the music, but it's also a sort of responsibility I suppose. I like to think I approach the music and show with respect, admiration and general affection to her," she said.

Winifred, whose birthday happens to be today, performed for 20 million people worldwide and had 11 top 10 hits in her career, Ms Preston said.

Winifred Atwell's funeral at South Gundurimba in March 1983.
Winifred Atwell's funeral at South Gundurimba in March 1983.

She explained how the show, revolving around Winifred's music, incorporates narration and 150 projected photos from the National Library to tell the story of Winifred's life and music.

"She endured quite a lot of racism that she dealt with in a very dignified and sort of humorous way."

While Ms Preston said that in all her years of research she's never come across a definitive reason as to why Winifred and her husband were buried at South Gundurimba, she said there was one story that states Winifred knew a local priest by the name of Father Carney, who she wanted to perform her burial.

Ms Preston said as today is the 30th anniversary of Winifred's death, they hope to have an informal memorial gathering at the cemetery at 2pm following the 10am performance.


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