Trio Anima are Rosalind Ventris (viola), Anneke Hodnett (harp) and Matthew Featherstone (flute)
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Rosie: Some of my earliest memories are of my mum, a keen amateur musician, having piano lessons at home and her friends coming round to play chamber music. I was really lucky to grow up in this environment where enjoying music at home with friends just seemed the thing to do and I had really amazingly supportive parents. My father absolutely loved listening to music so both of them were really passionate about classical music, and it was always in the house.
Originally I wanted to play the harp, but I am forever grateful that my parents said they weren’t lugging a harp around after me! Now I get to listen to Anneke playing all the time which is the ideal situation for a one-time wannabe harpist! I started playing the violin when I was seven and was inspired to take up the viola from going to the late John White’s Viola Days in Harlow, Essex, not far from where I grew up. I was a proper little viola nerd! Listening to Lionel Tertis’s recordings had a huge influence on me too – as they still do to-day.
Matthew: One of my dad’s friends was a flautist and after one of his concert I attended when I was 5 years old, I said to my parents that I wanted to play the flute. My parents struggled to find a flute teacher in France who would take me on. I remember going for a lesson with a teacher who insisted I was too young to play the flute and shoud learn the recorder. I was utterly unimpressed and threw a tantrum saying ‘no, I want to play the flute!!’ I was clearly opinionated from a young age, but eventually found a fabulous flute teacher and the rest is history.
Anneke: Growing up in Limerick Ireland, my family would go to the local food market every Saturday. When I was 8, my parents suggested that I take up an instrument. Around that time there was a lady who played folk harp every week in the market. I vividly remember being drawn to the sound week after week, and finally going up to my mum (who was buying potatoes!) to ask whether I could play the harp. She said yes, and almost as soon as I started playing, I knew that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
We all agree that are are most important influences have been our teachers and mentors, who have inspired and moulded us as musicians. Having been a trio for almost fourteen years it is also fair to say that we have also been shaped by each other! (Matthew and Anneke have been working together since they were students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, with Rosie joining in 2012.) With instruments as diverse as this we come from different perspectives and sound worlds, which always keeps things fresh. We trust and challenge each other in equal measure.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
As you grow in the profession different challenges arise at different points. Now, one of the biggest challenges has been planning our diaries together well in advance to rehearse. We’ve just solved this in part now that Rosie and Anneke live two roads away from each other in East London! As principal flute of BBCNOW, Matthew is of course based in Cardiff. We each individually what might be called ‘portfolio’ careers: Matthew also teaches at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, and is releasing his first EP as a jazz vocalist and composer. Anneke plays for all the main London orchestras and abroad, and teaches at the Junior Guildhall. Rosie has a busy freelance career as a soloist and chamber musician, which she combines with teaching at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin and as a British Library Edison Fellow and occasional writer.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
We loved playing at Conway Hall a couple of years ago. It was the culmination of a long project contrasting music from the Belle Époque with that written during the First World War. It was a poignant and moving experience for us to do this a hundred years after the Great War. We were delighted by this review from Robert Hugill.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
As a flute, viola and harp trio, we have a natural affinity for French music, which works particularly well for our instrumental combination. Last year, with the centenary of Debussy’s death, we really enjoyed exploring a programme based around his life and influences. We also really relish the challenge of contemporary music and have recently been working on quite a few new modern works. We are very excited to premiere our commission from composer Rory Boyle this year at St John’s Smith Square, London.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
We love putting together programmes around a particular theme, interest or concept. Usually inspiration starts from one piece of music that has a particular resonance for us or for that particular year or venue. The challenge is sometimes balancing this with specific requests from venues. This instrumental combination offers so many opportunities for innovative and thought-provoking programming. Some of our most popular pieces are actually arrangements of works originally written for other instruments (for instance, adaptations of Baroque trio sonatas can work wonderfully). Having said this, in many of our concerts we will include the Debussy Sonate as it is an undisputed masterpiece and something we love to play.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
As three very different instruments it’s always interesting turning up in a new hall and finding out how to play in the acoustic. For this intimate chamber group we always love giving concerts at people’s homes and playing in the Hall of Champs Hill was a wonderful combination of performing in lovely hall which is also a homely, intimate space.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Rosie: As a trio we will always be grateful to Dubois who (as far as we know) was the first to write for this combination and of course, Debussy!
Trio Anima performing Dubois Terzettino in 2014
Matthew: I love listening to singers because I think the most expressive instrument is the voice. Cecilia Bartolli is a regular source of inspiration. In another genre, Stevie Wonder is obviously a personal favourite!
Anneke: That’s an impossible question to answer! However, I would say that among the many musicians I admire, I would have to mention Matthew and Rosie! I think that music is very personal, and if you find other musicians you love playing with it can provide so much inspiration and motivation.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Well, in terms of memorable for all the wrong reasons we once arrived at a venue after several hours of driving and begin rehearsing when the electricity went down! Very sadly the concert had to be cancelled. This was unfortunately followed by deadlock on the M1! In total we were in the car for about eleven hours and didn’t get to play together! It was the worst!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Rosie: Connecting to people through music.
Matthew: I think when your enjoyment of music making and the musician lifestyle is balanced with fulfilment in your personal life, and you feel like you’re touching people with what you do.
Anneke: Being able to be in the moment and convey what you want to express through the music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Start by knowing the WHOLE score (not just your own part) and immerse yourself in the style of that era. Sing, dance, make up a story, use you imagination when working or practising. Prepare well in advance! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. For every success you are going to get many many rejections – be strong and have faith in what you’re doing! Meditation and yoga are brilliant!
Working hard. In lots of ways! As you go through music college, the most important thing is to practice as much as you can, and to take inspiration and ideas from everyone who is of-fering them to you. As you go into the profession, you need to take some of your practice time and turn it into “making it happen” time.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
We are all big fans of food so probably playing a nice concert of some of our favourite repertoire followed by an amazing meal with our spouses, friends and family.
Trio Anima was formed in 2006 at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. For the past decade, they have been delighting audiences with their distinctive combination of flute, viola and harp. The trio won the Elias Fawcett Award for Outstanding Chamber Ensemble at the 2012 Royal Overseas League Competition & First Prize at the Camac Harps Chamber Ensemble Competition in 2007. They have been Live Music Now Artists, and were awarded a Chamber Music Fellowship at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2011. In 2017 they were selected as Kirckman Concert Society Artists.