When fun is all black and white

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

To­day, the be­gins a se­ries high­light­ing the hid­den tal­ents and in­ter­ests of our coun­cil­lors. talks to John Gwilliam, our pi­ano play­ing deputy mayor. ‘‘I never re­ally stopped play­ing and kept at it even as a poor stu­dent in Welling­ton.’’

John Gwilliam is right at home play­ing the pi­ano.

With a half cen­tury of play­ing be­hind him, the city’s longest­serv­ing coun­cil­lor is never hap­pier than when spend­ing time on his white grand in his Sil­ver­stream home.

‘‘I like to play a cou­ple of times a week, if not more, and gen­er­ally it’s for an hour or so at a time.

‘‘I find it very re­lax­ing. I play for my­self,’’ the lawyer and Main St Le­gal di­rec­tor said.

While play­ing pub­licly is rare, Gwilliam re­cently per­formed the pro­ces­sional march at the wed­ding of his niece, Katie.

‘‘She asked, and I don’t think I made too many mis­takes,’’ the 61-year-old said.

With four daugh­ters all hav­ing lessons, Gwilliam has kept pi­ano in the fam­ily. As a seven-year-old he took af­ter-school lessons with Mona Walls, a clas­si­cal teacher who taught from her Sil­ver­stream home.

‘‘My two broth­ers were never in­ter­ested but I cer­tainly was.

‘‘We had an up­right pi­ano at home and I did all the ex­ams un­til I was about 15 and School Cer­tifi­cate was iden­ti­fied to me as a pri­or­ity.’’

He con­tin­ued to play for fun and re­calls a Here­taunga College com­bi­na­tion of pi­ano, dou­ble bass, trum­pet and drums. The in­stru­men­tal quar­tet played mod­ern songs, in­clud­ing a lot of Bea­tles tunes, but was never con­sid­ered re­motely fash­ion­able by his peers, Gwilliam said.

‘‘I never re­ally stopped play­ing and kept at it even as a poor stu­dent in Welling­ton where, be­cause of ne­ces­sity more than any­thing else, I changed to elec­tric pi­ano.’’

Decades later in 1994, and a cou­ple of years af­ter mov­ing with his wife, Jill, to their Chatsworth Rd home, Gwilliam’s up­right pi­ano was re­placed by a four-year- old grand, which looks per­fect in its lounge con­ser­va­tory, bush views and all.

Gwilliam also writes mu­sic ‘‘but I have never done it for­mally’’.

‘‘When I stopped learn­ing I started do­ing my own com­po­si­tions. I mostly play my own stuff and I play a lot by ear now.’’

An ad­mirer of El­ton John and Billy Joel, he also writes lyrics but is a some­what re­luc­tant singer.

‘‘Re­ally that’s just for fun with the fam­ily. We love mak­ing up songs to­gether,’’ he said.

PHOTO: COLIN WIL­LIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Pi­ano man: Up­per Hutt deputy mayor John Gwilliam at home on his grand pi­ano.

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