Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and make it your career?
I never wanted to be a concert pianist. I’m a people person (at least I like to think so!) and the idea of spending hours upon hours practising in solitary to then go and give solo performances really wasn’t for me – but I knew that I wanted to make music. It was Paul McCreesh who inspired me to become a conductor – I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until Paul conducted the Creation and Elijah projects at Chethams. He really understood the nature of working with young people. So many conductors would have turned up for the session and disappeared at the end, but Paul made an effort to talk and get to know the students, passing on stories and giving a real insight into life as a conductor. We got talking – and he has been a mentor and a friend ever since. I admire his attention to detail as well as his ability to craft performances that are ‘different.’ You always know you’re going to hear something special and unique at a McCreesh performance. It’s always about the music.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Organising concerts is hectic and stressful – there are so many elements that can go wrong, and then to top it all off you have to be able to switch from admin mode to conductor mode. I have spent hours on my phone trying to get musicians to be in the same place at the same time! The most satisfying moment usually comes during the concert interval when I think to myself ‘this is why I put myself through hell…’
Which performances are you most proud of?
In 2010 I was employed by the BBC to be the conductor to Benjamin Till’s A Symphony for Yorkshire project. People from all walks of life turned up to be a part of this community event – over 200 musicians took part. Working in the recording studio had it’s highs and lows – one particular moment came when the professional musicians in the string orchestra decided to walk out as soon as the clock hit the end of the session. Things just hadn’t been going our way and we had about 30 seconds of music left to record – despite the offer of over-time pay being dished out they were adamant that they were leaving. The project turned out to be a huge success and eventually won a Prix de Circum and three RTS (Royal Television Society) awards. I’m proud of what the Yorkshire community achieved – we had a few issues, but for the most part, everyone’s enthusiasm was a joy to see!
The idea of working across more then one genre of arts is something that really interests me. With the Symphony for Yorkshire project, it was working with visuals and creating something for a TV audience –very different from anything you do in a concert hall.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?
Being a young conductor makes this question quite difficult to answer! When I’ve been to a few more, I’ll let you know!
Favourite pieces to listen to?
I think I have a very open mind when it comes to what to listen to. But I have a particular affection for English choral music. Howells and Finzi are prime examples – their music is so sublime and very easy to get soaked into.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I think the most important thing when you are starting out is to make things happen for yourself. Too many people sit back and wait for the phone to ring – this is about entrepreneurship, getting out there and making your own opportunities. Hard work and sheer determination will get you a long way.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on ‘The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project’, which is an exciting and ambitious fundraiser for the Musicians Benevolent Fund. International concert pianist Martin Roscoe will be performing all five concertos in a single evening with an orchestra of past and present Royal Northern College of Music students. Supported by Pianist magazine and presented by John Suchet, this really promises to be one hell of a musical extravaganza! This adventure will take place on 5th October 2013 at the RNCM Concert Hall.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Somewhere with sun! (Only joking… although I wouldn’t complain!). The most important thing to me is that I’m working with top musicians to make fantastic music come to life.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Can anyone really experience perfect happiness? Life is full of ups and downs – and in particular, I think the life of a musician is a roller coaster of emotions. I would love to discover perfect happiness, whatever that is, but I’m just unconvinced that it will happen!
What do you enjoy doing away from music?
Music is my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I do think it is necessary to find time to switch off. Doing non-musical things refreshes the mind. I am not a sporty person (unlike my sister who can’t get enough of it!) but I do have a particular fascination with the world of F1. I’ve been following this sport since I was a young child – the pinnacle of motorsport provides speed, determination, glamour, and an obvious desire to succeed. In many ways the workings of a Formula1 team is very similar to that of an orchestra. A lot of attention is given to the driver, but without the team around him he is nothing: the mechanics and designers all the way through to the physios and caterers!
Daniel Parkinson will conduct all five of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos in ‘The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project’ with acclaimed British pianist Martin Roscoe, introduced by John Suchet, to raise money for the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund. Tickets are on sale now. To book please visit www.beethovenpianoconcertos.co.uk
A former pupil of Chetham’s School of Music, and music graduate of the University of York, Daniel has been studying conducting with Mark Heron. He has also received tuition from Mark Stringer, Philippe Bach, Johannes Schlaefi, Russell Cowieson, Tim Reynish, Matthew Wood and Sasha Mäkilä. In 2013, Daniel will be joining the MMus Orchestral Conducting programme at the Royal Northern College of Music where he will study with Clark Rundell and Mark Heron.
Daniel has performed with a wide variety of ensembles including the North Cheshire Wind Orchestra, Liverpool Mozart Orchestra, University of York Chamber Orchestra, Chester Philharmonic Orchestra and the European Medical Students’ Orchestra and Choir. June 2012 saw Daniel conduct Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 in a version for piano and string orchestra with soloist Masayuki Tayama. This was the third of four performances given by Daniel and the Chester Chamber Orchestra. The most recent concert also featured the Chester Consort – a vocal ensemble made up of young professional singers from across the UK. He was the Associate Conductor of the Chester Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2011/2012 season.
Daniel was the conductor for ‘A Symphony for Yorkshire.’ This was commissioned by the BBC in the summer of 2010 and received nationwide coverage across television, radio and online. It has since won a Prix de Circum award and three RTS (Royal Television Society) awards. He has also worked for Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT:UK) and is the Musical Director for Codys Productions. His enthusiasm for promoting classical music to the younger generation recently saw him conduct an educational concert in Notting Hill. As well as featuring Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, this event included a concert adaptation of the animated film, ‘The Mousehole Cat’ for orchestra, soprano and children’s choir.
Future engagements include concerts with Chester Philharmonic Orchestra and Stockport Symphony Orchestra as well as a ballet collaboration with KSDance Ltd. Autumn 2013 sees Daniel alongside international concert pianist Martin Roscoe in ‘The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project.’ All 5 Beethoven Piano Concertos will be performed in one evening to raise money for the Musicians Benevolent Fund.
Daniel is a pianist at The Hammond School and KSDance Ltd.