Celebrating our 30th Anniversary

19 October 2017 / News

We recently celebrated our 30th anniversary with special events in Auckland (hosted by Sir James Wallace at Rannoch), Christchurch (at the home of Rick Hallifax and Martina van den Heuvel) and at Government House in Wellington (hosted by the Governor General, Dame Patsy Reddy, and her husband Sir David Gascoigne). We were especially touched to be joined by the NZSQ's founding 1st violinist Wilma Smith in Auckland and by the Quartet's 2nd violinist of 26 years, Doug Beilman, in Wellington.

Gillian spoke on behalf of the Quartet at each of the functions, sharing her own personal insight into the formation of the NZSQ and its success over the past 30 years. You can read her speech below, and on the 30th anniversary page of our website you'll find a special 30th anniversary e-book, as well as an album of photos from throughout the decades.

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Way back in 1986, while I was living in London, I heard via my mother that Wilma Smith, whom I’d known as a teenager since we had studied violin with the same teacher in Auckland, was going to start a new string quartet in New Zealand. Not long after, a letter with Wilma’s name and address on the back of it arrived in the post and I instantly knew, before opening it, what it must to be about ...

Wilma told me about the auditions the following January in Auckland. Despite being honoured and excited to be asked, that began several weeks of agony, as I was pretty happy with my UK life and, to my delight, had recently started to play in the Philharmonia. I bored all my friends nonstop with pros and cons, and went back and forth in my feelings about staying in the UK or returning to NZ when I didn’t feel quite ready. Luckily I took the plunge and, one night the following January, played with Wilma and two others at her parents’ house in Hillsborough. Right from the first ten seconds of playing together, I was excited and already totally decided this was the right thing for me! Wilma’s playing was so strong, compelling and luscious, I really wanted to be making music with her. I so hoped I’d be chosen and, after rehearsing in another couple of combinations, that’s what happened. We then together had to decide on a cellist and viola-player. Josephine Young from Auckland was appointed on cello and we all met in Boston then London in March/April 1987 to audition more viola-players, where we found Sandro Costantino.

NZSQ original line up

We all met next in Wellington late September that year and started playing together a few days before the official start date of 1 October. The studio we were given was a strange long, thin rather smelly old room with big brown curtains in the chemistry wing of Victoria University’s old Hunter Building, prior to its renovation. Our first informal concert was at Bruce Greenfield’s Oriental Bay house one sunny Sunday afternoon in December, where we met Fred Turnovsky, who became so supportive of the quartet and whose daughter Helen Philpott still is. The first public concert wasn’t until May 1988, so we had eight months to learn our three pieces – Haydn, Beethoven and Debussy – we knew every note inside out, upside down and backwards, could have played the concert blindfolded.  CMNZ wanted us to have an un-pressurized start and learn how to become a solid quartet before being exposed to the public.

I can assure you that’s very different from our schedules today! Now we seem to always have several works on the go with various concerts looming soon. The quartet has worked as hard as it could over the years, with goals such as musical integrity, sincerity, liveliness, and freedom at the top of our agenda, along with always striving maximum for technical excellence.


We’re proud of many things – including our longevity! We want to acknowledge the enormous contribution of Doug Beilman, 2nd violinist with the Quartet for 26 of the 30 years and with whom we established the Adam Summer School and the Adam Chamber Music Festival – two ongoing events that we’re especially proud of. I know Doug would join us all in saying that we take great pride in seeing the success of past students we have taught at the Adam Summer School and at the New Zealand School of Music, too. Our teaching has been a great source of stimulation and satisfaction to us and we’ve been privileged to work alongside wonderful colleagues at the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University.

We are immensely grateful to the wonderful managers we’ve had over the years: Maureen Revell, Diana Marsh, Elizabeth Kerr, Rose Campbell and Christine Argyle. Supporting the manager – and us – for the past 10 years has been Suzanne Callum, who does such an amazing job behind the scenes. And of course, the support of the NZSQ Trust Board has been paramount, and we’re indebted to the various board members, past and present.

Overall, through the generosity of very many individuals and organisations, together we have created a legacy with a long-term future and we all look forward to the next 30 years of the NZSQ.


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