Farewell to Douglas Beilman

21 December 2015 / Features

In December 2015, friends and colleagues of Douglas Beilman and the New Zealand String Quartet came together to say goodbye.  It was an opportunity to share memories, listen to music and hear from those who had worked closely with Doug over his 26 years as 2nd violinist with the New Zealand String Quartet.  The speeches reflected the high esteem in which Doug is held and were testament to the outstanding contribution he has made to the work of the Quartet and to New Zealand’s musical life. 

Doug’s years with the Quartet began in 1989, following a meeting of musical minds at the Banff International String Quartet Competition that year. In her speech, Gillian Ansell described their first meeting: “I remember sitting with other contestants at lunch, at a long table in the dining-room, all listening to the good-looking-chap who was talking about music and people in the chamber music world in a seemingly nonstop stream-of-consciousness flow."

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Following discussions and an invitation to audition, Doug became 2nd violinist of the NZSQ later that year. Gillian continued: “The next time we saw Doug was late June the same year - 1989 - at Boston airport, where he collected Jo, Wilma and me off our flight from New Zealand and drove us to Tanglewood, where we spent two months working intensively with members of the Juilliard Quartet and other brilliant and legendary chamber music coaches.”  A long and fruitful relationship had begun.

Both Gillian and Gary Hawke, current Chair of the NZ String Quartet Trust, highlighted two particular contributions made by Doug. The first was his pivotal role in establishing the Adam Chamber Music Festival and Adam Summer School in Nelson with Gary noting: “The Festival ranks with international festivals anywhere and the Summer School is now an important part of NZSQ’s sector leadership.” 

The second has been Doug’s enthusiasm for new music. In his speech, Gary recalled how this demonstrated the speed with which Doug became part of New Zealand’s music life:  “In April 1991 at the second Sonic Boom concert Doug appeared in two premiere performances. One was Ross Carey’s Quintet (1991) with the composer at the piano, Andrew Pask (alto saxophone and clarinet), Gillian Ansell (viola) and Josephine Young (cello). The other was Andra Patterson’s Sextet (1991), with Ronald Webb (oboe), Stanley Friedman (trumpet), Marc Taddei (trombone), Dale Gold (bass) and Diane Cooper (piano).”  

Doug established and ran the contemporary group CadeNZa in the 1990s and also commissioned new work for the Adam Festival during his decade as Artistic Director.

Current NZSQ Manager, Christine Argyle talked of Doug’s warmth and charm: “As you all know, Doug has a gift for communicating with audiences. His introductions to pieces are always insightful and contain an interesting mix of anecdotal colour and astute penetration into the composer’s psyche.” 

She went on to add her appreciation of Doug’s contribution as a teacher: “Doug is a gifted teacher, too – I had the privilege of sitting in on some of his sessions earlier this year at the Adam Summer School. He has a great way of putting seemingly intangible musical concepts into words and kindling the imagination of his students so that they can also bring new insight to the music they’re playing.  We’re very fortunate that Doug is going to teach again on the Summer School next year.”

The four members of the NZSQ: Helene, Rolf, Gillian and Doug worked and toured together for an astonishing 21 years, with Doug and Gillian’s working relationship going back 26 years. Rolf Gjelsten spoke of Doug's passion for music and his sharp analytical mind, saying “the intensity which he brings to all the music we play across all styles and genres been of particular inspiration to me.” Helene talked of Doug’s vision in starting the Adam Chamber Music Festival, now one of the premier events of the Southern Hemisphere musical calendar. She also thanked him for the crucial role he played in the Quartet as second violin, saying “the harder the piece we played, the more I could count on him to be right there with me!”

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As well as enjoying her musical association with Doug and his “fascination with Schumann, Bartok and Shostakovich”, Gillian also spoke of the personal. “With Doug, I’ve sat rehearsing in our studio downstairs here (at the New Zealand School of Music), and toured NZ and the world since 1989. We’ve been the middle-voices team, played thousands of concerts together and shared rental car journeys across Canada and the US for years. I am glad it’s not quite goodbye yet, we have a few more experiences together still – our China trip, the Requiem recording in late January and the Adam Summer School next February.

“We’ll miss you very much Doug.”

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The farewell function included a performance by the Quartet and messages from many of the NZSQ’s special supporters, including Denis and Verna Adam and Jocelyn and Murray Sturgeon: 

“Doug is such a fine musician and a great communicator.  We wish him fulfilment and pleasure in whatever role he undertakes in the field of music in the future.” 

Denis and Verna Adam (Gold Patrons and Adam Summer School sponsors)

“We wish Doug well in his retirement from NZSQ, and thank him for the years of pleasure he has given over the years as a member of the group.”

Jocelyn & Murray Sturgeon (2nd Violin Bow Patrons)

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