When fun is all black and white
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.
Piano man: Upper Hutt deputy mayor John Gwilliam at home on his grand piano.