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Focus on Our Friends

It’s always a pleasure to have the chance to chat with our audiences at concerts and this month we’re delighted to be catching up with some familiar faces in the NZSQ community. We asked long-time Wellington-based supporters Rowena Cullen and Paul Oliver three questions about their experiences with the NZSQ. From the very first NZSQ tour to our blustery beach-side concert just last weekend, here are a few of their highlights.

1. When and where did you experience the NZSQ first performing?

Rowena first experienced the quartet in Dunedin, as part of their first tour in 1988, under the auspices of the Music Federation of New Zealand (later Chamber Music New Zealand). She says

“I was thrilled to hear our own first permanent NZ quartet, and was struck by power and warmth of Wilma Smith’s playing. I next heard them after I had come to live in Wellington, in 1995, in a small house concert in Houghton Bay, when the re-formed quartet with Helene, Doug, Gill and Rolf played all 6 Bartok string quartets in preparation for their upcoming tour; I started to get to know them that evening and have been a devoted follower ever since.”

2. What drew you to become an NZSQ Friend and Supporter?

We have always been supporters, attending all their concerts and enjoying the Nelson Chamber Music festival as well. But we were motivated to start hosting house concerts following a concert given by the Talich Quartet in Prague in 2007 at Bertramka, the home of the Dusek family with whom Mozart stayed in 1787 while working on Don Giovanni. It was a memorable occasion, and we realised what a wonderful way this was to enjoy chamber music, and how it was possible for ordinary people like us to have a similar experience in our own home.

3. What is your most memorable NZSQ moment?

All their concerts are memorable, from the first in Dunedin, to the recent Amati Birthday celebrations concert at Paekakariki - they are always growing and developing, and coming up with wonderfully fresh interpretations. They are great communicators, with each other and with their audience, and their playing is increasingly brilliant. But one memorable concert for Paul was in St Mary’s of the Angels in Wellington in 2017 when the lights went out, and the quartet played on without hesitation and with great aplomb to the small glow of a few atmospheric candles.

Thanks so much for sharing these memories with us, Rowena and Paul! We love hearing about the moments that stay with people long after they leave a concert. If you have your own story to share with us, please get in touch with us at

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