JERSEYMAN Jonathan Le Cocq emigrated to New Zealand six years ago and has recently been appointed as Head of Centre for Music and Theatre at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.
He moved with his wife and family from England principally to further his career and because he knew the new job would allow him to immerse himself further in his passion for early music.
The 47-year-old former De La Salle pupil is one of the only people in New Zealand who plays and performs on the lute, theorbo and baroque guitar and has established himself as an authority on 16th and 17th-century French music.
He hand-made his first lute after playing music written for the lute on his guitar while studying guitar at the Guildhall School of Music in London.
‘When I finally went to London, I listened to a huge amount of music and became embroiled in it. One thing I listened to a lot was early and medieval music – I acquired a taste for it then. At the Guildhall, I was playing music for lute on the guitar, so I built a lute. It wasn’t a particularly good one, but, yes, I’ve still got it.
He had also obtained a degree in philosophy and psychology at Warwick University and a first class degree at Goldsmiths College, London, before being awarded a British Humanities Research Council grant for a doctorate of philosophy at Oxford. ‘I then got a job at the University of Northampton in the music and performance studies department and after seven years there, moved to New Zealand to take on a job as senior lecturer.’
He had met and married his French wife Sylvie while in London and the couple have three children, Julien, Alexandra (pictured with her father) and Luke who were 13, 11 and nine respectively when they decided to make the move, mostly because of the job.
‘It was also a desire to have a change from England,’ said Jonathan. ‘Sylvie is French and we felt we wanted a different climate and different way of life.’
What he realises now, however, is that he was not prepared mentally for the move.
‘It was a much more dramatic change than I think either of us would have expected,’ he said. ‘New Zealand is a marvellous country but it was very hard at first. The country lived up to my expectations in every way, but I was surprised at how big a shift it was mentally – I’d say it took about six months to adjust.
I think at any one moment, I could have looked at it logically and concluded that the move made perfect sense but that didn’t always gel with the emotional reaction – that took time.’
The difficulty in adjusting was made worse by the fact that most of their belongings, which were in storage while they found permanent accommodation, were lost in a fire.
‘Being away from Jersey and Europe was the hardest thing, ‘ he continued. ‘New Zealand is extremely beautiful but it’s a very different landscape and it’s not the same as the Jersey or European countryside – the architecture is also very different.’
He has been back twice in six years to see parents Bernard and Janet, and brother Tim and family, who live in Trinity.
Both his parents are musical and he studied piano and guitar as a child. While he loved it, he never really imagined then that he would be able to make a career out of it, nor that he would end up pursuing it on the other side of the world.
‘It has worked out very well there have been lots of great opportunities. On the performance side, I formed a small Baroque group, Il Raccolto, with Edith Salzmann (baroque cello) and Wolfgang Kramer (recorder) both of whom have performed internationally. We have done a short tour in New Zealand and we perform regularly in South Island.
‘Academically, I have been able to teach and research in the history and philosophy of music, which I love, and as Dean of Creative Arts I have learned a lot about university policy making.
I am now really looking forward to the challenge of being head of school which is more managerial, at a time when we are planning to expand the department into new premises and develop a degree in opera studies. ‘It’s a busy life – there’s no question – but it’s a marvellous thing to do.’