From Puccini to Petrucci
Updated: Apr 24
Almost exactly a year ago, I handed in my resignation with Royal Northern Sinfonia and as the new year gets into full swing, I find myself reflecting on that decision and the time that followed. I joined the group in summer 2017 and would by lying if I said it was all smooth sailing. I went through a rollercoaster of highs and lows; from solo-directing the orchestra to being on trial within my own section. Less enjoyable moments are, however, far outweighed by the sheer amount of learning, searching and discovering I have been so fortunate to experience and the colleagues and friends I had the pleasure of sharing that with.
Throughout my five years with the ensemble, I met many truly wonderful musicians - getting to know Thomas Zehetmair’s Mozart and Julian Rachlin’s Hindemith and making chamber music with Alasdair Beatson were undoubtable highlights. It was Lars Vogt though, who had the greatest impact on me. He was one of the most sincere and complete musicians I have ever encountered. The colours, sounds and feelings he could get out of the piano mesmerised me every second I heard him play. He had so much respect for the music and the musicians with whom he was working and his sensitivity to what was happening around him was inspiring. He didn’t believe in the hierarchical privilege of soloist or conductor but rather we always experienced the music together. His having been taken from this world is an unbelievably sad loss and I will forever treasure the memory of sharing the stage with him.
It is difficult after writing about Lars to segue into the next thing but here I go…
I joined Riot Ensemble last year! I have a lot of love for this group and its people and I’m so happy to be a part of the family. I’ve been playing with them for a good number of years and not once did I come back home after a concert not feeling joyous and proud of what we just created on stage. These first few months as an official Rioter have been particularly sublime. Last month we were at Distat Terra Festival in Argentina, which was packed with amazing music and wonderful people. If you know me, you know of my unconditional love for South America and this festival has not disappointed. Back in May, we spent a week in Cologne recording a CD of chamber music and I cannot wait to share this with you. We also returned to Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival - and with a bang too! Four concerts there and, every bit intense and exhausting it was, it was twice as fulfilling. I met a new solo violin piece in the process too: Falter by Lisa Streich. A work that’s beautifully delicate, ponderous, screaming and elusive. A challenge in the practice room and a joy to perform!
Ealier in the autumn, The Guastalla Quartet and Carla Rees went to Düsseldorf for a musik21 concert of new music and there another work for solo violin came to me: Nothing Else Exists by Ben Gaunt - a few minutes of pure and pretty no-drama, no-fuss pleasure.
One big highlight of 2022 for me was the Hallé Prom in August as it marked my BBC Proms debut as a section leader. I always love working with that orchestra and leading their second violins through a concert of such passion and vigour was an absolute delight.
From one Puccini to another, I had my first acquaintance of La Bohème in 2022 by co-leading it with the Welsh National Opera. What a journey! He knew how to write a tune… Now from Puccini to Petrucci: in April, I finally got to see Dream Theater live and it was awesome!! They led me through my teenage years and while my pre-frontal cortex (may have) moved on, their music stayed with me.
The past year has also provided me with a number of opportunities to delve deeper into the free improvisation scene, and I’m loving it. It’s a kind of conversation you can have with anyone. Sure, some have a wider vocabulary, some speak a different language altogether, some are better listeners, and some are more challenging to engage with. It’s the beauty of conversation! I’m overjoyed to have found five people who are so fun to communicate with, all incredible listeners with an impressive vocabulary and who all come from different languages. We went into the studio for the day and this happened:
I have recently had a few debates about music and the industry and was once asked the question why I’m working as a musician. I have no satisfying answer. I love expressing myself through music (perhaps finding that easier than without it). I have a deep and indescribable love for my actual instrument. Spending time with her feels right. Creating something with colleagues makes me happy. Evoking emotions in others with my sound connects me with what I believe makes us human. All beautiful things, but none of that answers the question why I made this my work. Why do I ask for money to give what I think everyone should have? Am I hypocritical; a servant of capitalism? Let’s get coffee and talk about it.
Love and laughter,