AKMI Duo are Valentine Michaud (saxophone) and Akvilé Sileikaité (piano)

Who or what inspired you to take up the saxophone and pursue a career in music?

VM: I chose the saxophone in the first place for a very simple reason: with such a golden instrument, it was love at first sight! I was 7 at the time and I knew 3 or 4 years later that music would be a huge part of my life. I had a fantastic first teacher who really transmitted his strong passion for his art and provided me with incredible opportunities for my first concert tours and groups. He really made me want to be a musician. I received the first instrument of my own at the age of 11 and I am still playing on the very same saxophone today.

AS: As I remember, we always had piano at home and I was quite curious as a child to try it. I received my first lessons from my mother, as she is piano teacher. I guess this is quite a typical beginning for the majority of musicians, but it was also so for me. I do not know how I started to build my musical career;  maybe I had brilliant teachers, and my parents supporting me. Maybe it is my passion for what I am doing, but it is definitely making me thrilled and excited.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

VM: My first teacher, Slava Kazykin, was a very big influence in the beginning, as he taught me the basics of the saxophone, but also the joy that music making can give. Then I met other teachers who all had an important impact on my artistic vision, such as my two last teachers in Switzerland, Pierre-Stéphane Meugé, who initiated me into the strange world of contemporary music, and Lars Mlekusch, who helped me flourish as an artist with a real identity, and encouraged my interests in trans-disciplinary performances. But also of course the friends that I meet, the ones that I hear perform, and the ones with whom I’ve played, such as my duo partner Akvile Sileikaite, and also the travels have had a strong influence on my musical path.

AS: My family’s support, teachers, people I’m playing with, people I’m meeting, music itself.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

VM: I think one of the biggest challenges of a musician’s career is the organizational side of it. Nowadays probably even more than fifty years ago, a musician has to be multi-faceted, and has to manage very different things at the same time: communication, planning, traveling, programming, teaching, and of course practicing, without mentioning obviously performing! All this requires a lot of energy and you can never take real ‘holidays’ from it. Also, as a classical saxophone player, I face the challenge of convincing people that this instrument has its place in the classical music world, even if it is not so well-known yet. And as the repertoire for the instrument is very contemporary, I also need to present to as broad an audience as possible pieces that are not especially ‘friendly’ to listen to, and make them love it!

AS: I have to force myself sometimes to not be lazy and just practice. This can be challenging! On a more serious note, the greatest challenge I find is the music itself because it is something that you need to express, literally, getting your feelings, thoughts, expressions, yourself naked in front of the other people, the audience, in a way that they would feel it and believe in it, believe in music, in their own feelings. To do this in every concert is challenging. I also find it the greatest experience because it’s unique every time you go on stage.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

VM: Performances can always be perfected of course… but one performance I remember was our AKMI Duo debut concert in the Lucerne Festival in 2017. It was not perfect, but we really enjoyed our time on stage as the connection between us and the audience was very strong and the atmosphere there was very special.

AS: The ones when I feel the audience is almost not breathing. And the ones which people remember and are excited to share their feelings about afterwards.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

VM: I am definitely more at ease with modern repertoire, virtuosic and highly rhythmical pieces that demand a lot of energy. Romantic pieces are not really my cup of tea…

AS: Denisov and Albright sonatas for saxophone and piano with Valentine.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

VM: I always try to find a balance between modern pieces, new music, new commissions, and transcriptions, so that our programmes in recital are varied and can demonstrate the incredibly wide range of possibilities of my instrument. I often have ideas when going to concerts to hear colleagues, not necessarily saxophone players. Also, if I have a more trans-disciplinary performance in the season, then the programme is determined by the content of the show.

AS: It varies, from trying to choose the best pieces from the repertoire of the particular instrument I’m playing with, to pieces less-frequently played. Both so that people can enjoy and find something new for them. It is also sometimes very much dependent on a concert organiser’s wishes.

Do you have a favorite concert venue to perform in and why?

VM: I don’t have a particular one, but I do prefer the smaller halls: they have a human dimension that I like, and I find it easier to connect with the audience and really share something stronger. When the audience is really far away or sitting really high in balconies, it is much more difficult for me (at least until at the moment!).

Who are your favourite musicians?

VM: I have a lot! There are many musicians that I admire, not necessarily classical ones. I also love artists who are multi-faceted or really committed to contemporary music, as I think this is very important. And of course the people I play with are among my favourite musicians! But for the big names, it could range from Barbara Hannigan or Patricia Kopatchinskaja to Michael Jackson, Queen or Charlie Parker…

AS: Valentine obviously, then Mirga Gražinyte, Parvo Järvi, Martin Grubinger, Fabian Ziegler, Asmik Grigorian, Hilary Hahn, Kian Soltani and many others. These are the names that come into my head first, there are so many I admire. I still have a secret wish to play with some of them.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

VM: There were many funny or epic experiences through the years… maybe a funny one was in Moscow. Akvile and I were playing a duo recital and programmed a humorous Swiss contemporary piece. We had to speak a text before each movement, and an old woman in the audience started to stand up and complain that we shouldn’t be talking during the concert, and that she didn’t need explanations. I don’t speak Russian, so I didn’t understand what was the matter. Akvile was trying to answer the woman from the stage and they were debating about it while I was just standing on stage wondering what was happening. Then other people in the audience started to take part to this animated discussion. The scene was really absurd. In the end we started playing again but the woman stood up and left with great noise and slamming the door of the hall. So far this is the one and only time I had such a scandalous performance!

AS: My debut at Lucerne Festival. Or if an interesting story, a little scandal Valentine and I had in Moscow when playing contemporary music. We performed a piece by R.Gubler, called “Very Important Things”, a piece that needed us to ‘describe’ the subject we are going to perform, preferably in the language of the country we were playing in. So in the middle of the composition, one lady stood up and said in Russian that we don’t need to explain every subject, people knew what we were doing. Then someone shouted her back that she was disturbing the performance. I tried gently to explain that this was part of the piece and the composers required us to do it. Quite an interesting discussion started then we just continued to play. Then in the middle of our playing, the first lady stood up, said something like “I cannot stand it anymore” and left the hall closing the doors as loudly as possible. I guess she didn’t like the piece so much…

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

VM: I think to succeed is when you make people feel better when you play. Smiles on the faces of my audience are the best rewards, and to see wide open eyes of children as I play is probably one of the best feelings ever.

AS: Working hard, meeting people, not forgetting to invest to “yourself” by reading, attending galleries and concerts, and having hobbies.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

VM: As a teacher, I try to give to my students a taste of the joy of playing music can be. Curiosity is also a very important concept to me, to keep an open-minded spirit and to be interested in all kind of arts, not just in your instrument, not just in classical music, and not just in music in general. Of course, working hard and always trying to be better than your yesterday-self is also a very important idea. And sharing is also one of the most important things to me. I don’t think a selfish person can be a truly good musician…

AS: Believe in what you are doing, have goals and enjoy the process of reaching them. And practice.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

VM: On a stage, surrounded by friends that I like to play with. It doesn’t really matter where!

What is your present state of mind?

VM: At the moment I am extremely enthusiastic and full of energy for what is coming up in the next months! I have many very exciting projects to come and I can’t wait for it!

AS: Trying to enjoy everything I am doing.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

AS: Family, enjoying the process of learning, playing and being on stage and having time for myself and holidays.

What is your most treasured possession?

AS: People around me, ideas and arts.

 

AKMI Duo won this year’s Swiss Ambassador’s Award and embark on a UK concert tour from 15 October at Wigmore Hall, 16 October at Carol Nash Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester and 17 October at Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff


Valentine Michaud and Akvilé Sileikaité first crossed paths in Zurich in 2015; and with that, the AKMI duo was born.

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0000614_honeybourne-duncanThe Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts, the brainchild of pianist Duncan Honeybourne, were launched at the Weymouth Arts Centre in the summer of 2002. Familiar with the concept of regular lunchtime concerts from his own professional touring, Honeybourne had returned to his home town earlier that year and longed to bring regular high quality lunchtime concerts to his own corner of Dorset. He was also keen to establish a platform for chamber music partnerships with friends, to invite friends and colleagues to explore the area, to promote young artists and to try out his own solo programmes. He wanted to build up a loyal audience willing to trust his artistic judgement and give unusual repertoire a hearing as part of a regular series.

The Weymouth Arts Centre had earlier been a setting for some of Duncan’s own teenage successes. He had played concertos there, with Angela Nankivell conducting the Arts Centre Orchestra, and it was with Angela – a much-loved and much-missed driving force in Dorset music – that he now drew up a plan for action. Angela, a musician and teacher of rare quality, was by this time – in retirement from the Dorset Music Service – immersing herself in helping the Weymouth Arts Centre evolve and grow, and Duncan tells the story of the chance conversation in which the idea of the Lunchtime Chamber Concerts was born. One day he drove into the car park opposite the Arts Centre and, whilst searching for a parking space, he spotted Angela walking across the car park -with a question for him. “I’m glad I’ve seen you”, she exclaimed. “I’m trying to help the Arts Centre find ways to increase their profile and get people in. Have you got any ideas?” “Yes!” replied Duncan without hesitation. “Why don’t you start a lunchtime concert series?” “Good idea”, said Angela. “Would you like to run it? I’ll do the admin and you can do the artistic side.” By the time he had parked his car, a new strand of Duncan’s future work was sealed. “I had been thinking how much fun it would be to start something like that”, he remembers. “It was something that had to be done, and it was just the right moment in my life for it.”

“We decided to try a summer series on all the Thursdays in August that year,” Duncan recalls. “I gave the first one myself, on the 1st August, and a wonderful team of ladies prepared refreshments. We were gratified by the good turnout, and we decided to make it a regular thing. I was young then, and bursting with ideas. Almost too many ideas! But I’d never have imagined then that we’d still be going now, 17 years later. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge, but the central ideas and priorities have remained unchanged.

Duncan says that several of his own philosophies have been hard-wired into the raison d’etre of the concert series. “Firstly, I abhor the snobbery, elitism and exclusivity which so often attaches itself to classical music. I wanted to create a cosy, welcoming and all-embracing atmosphere, and always to present the music in such a way as everyone felt comfortable, involved and valued. The artists almost always talk to the audience, telling them their own feelings about the works. I’ve always been passionate that you don’t have to have any kind of background in music to get something out of it. It’s all about how you deliver and contextualise it. This sense of dialogue, of our sharing the works we love, aims to foster that very ethos”.

“We’ve also tried to keep admission costs low,” says Duncan, “because we don’t want money to be a bar to anyone coming to enjoy first class professional music. South Dorset isn’t the wealthiest of areas these days, and I don’t want my concerts to be the preserve of a privileged few, just because they’re the only people who can afford to come. Music provides spiritual and emotional nourishment – just look at what they do in that amazing world of music therapy – and I want that to be on offer to all who would like to be part of the experience.”

Duncan’s second objective has been to support young musicians at the beginning of their careers – “I was one myself, in fact, when I started the whole thing”, he observes with a laugh – and to present a wide and challenging range of music, stepping far beyond the established and well-loved masterpieces of the baroque, classical and romantic repertoire. “The old favourite pieces are there, of course”, he is quick to reassure, “but we are able to take far bigger risks in our regular series than the average music club or concert society would be able to do.” Duncan points out that the concerts receive no outside funding, being entirely dependent on the current modest £5 admission charge.

After less than two years in their original home, the concerts had to move to a new venue. The Weymouth Arts Centre closed in 2004 and, after a few concerts at Weymouth College, the series moved permanently to St Mary’s Church in September that year. “The church is a beautiful setting for music and is ideally located in the town centre. We have had a wonderfully fruitful and happy relationship with our hosts there for some 15 years now”, Duncan tells us. “Initially we took the old Arts Centre piano to St Mary’s but, in 2007, the Weymouth and Portland Piano Association purchased a new instrument, a Yamaha, which is now housed at St Mary’s Church. And we are lucky enough to be able to use the piano for our concerts. People are constantly remarking on the wonderful setting and piano, and how fortunate we are to have such an ideal set-up. It’s warm and welcoming, and I try to make the concerts like that, too.”

As well as championing young artists and encouraging unfamiliar repertoire, Duncan has always sought to feature living composers and new music in the series. He has frequently played, recorded and broadcast contemporary piano music at home and abroad, and he has brought a taste of this activity to South Dorset – “in small doses, carefully chosen! I’m mindful that many people can be suspicious of contemporary music per se but, by choosing it with care, programming it with sensitivity and having it eloquently introduced by living, breathing composers at the top of their game, I try to demystify it and engage new enthusiasts. And we’ve had some very distinguished composers visiting us over the years.” At one of the first concerts at St Mary’s 15 years ago John Joubert, the late South African-born composer best known for his choral music and with whose piano music Duncan is closely associated, introduced several of his own works. “That was a unique opportunity for us all to hear a titan of his age talking about what fired his creative passions, what he wanted audiences to listen out for and what he hoped they’d get out of his music.” Other visitors have included Grammy-nominated Dobrinka Tabakova, now the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Composer in Residence. “At the very first concert, Andrew Downes was in the audience to listen to his First Piano Sonata, and Andrew – for many years Head of Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – has been with us on many occasions since, so that’s a very special association too.” But it wasn’t a composer who contributed what, for Duncan, was one of the most memorable and moving verbal additions to the series: “In 2006 we invited Christopher Finzi, son of the composer Gerald Finzi and a distinguished musician himself, to a concert on the very day marking the 50 th anniversary of Finzi’s death. I asked him if he would be willing to say a few words to the audience, and he responded with the most wonderful, touching reflection on his father’s personality, musing on what Finzi senior would have thought of the modern world had he come back to see how life had changed. That was a special moment, and a little bit of history was made here in Weymouth.”

Among many other highlights of the first ten years was a special celebrity concert in January 2006, when oboist George Caird and cellist Jane Salmon joined Duncan for a recital of which the Dorset Echo wrote: “The three played as well as I have heard anywhere, and to a packed house.”

Tragedy struck in 2011 when Angela Nankivell died after a long illness. “She shouldered the weight of the administrative burden, which was considerable, and was a wonderful musician and a good friend. I miss her very much, and when she was ill I wondered whether we’d be able to continue”, admits Duncan. Fortunately, his colleague and friend Jean Shannon, formerly General Administrator of the Scottish Baroque Ensemble and other premier professional organisations, came to the rescue and has been Concerts Manager for the past nine seasons. “Jean really saved the series,” Duncan tells me, “and I owe her a huge debt. Jean has organised concerts for decades at the South Bank and other London venues, and she knows her job inside out and at the highest level. I could never have coped with the organisation, but Jean put an immense amount of work in and helped us to build on the structure that Angela had already set in place. We streamlined the planning process to 10 concerts per year – previously we’d had more – and we managed to build up our audiences further. Jean created a website, an electronic mailing list and regular reminder bulletins, and our audiences shot up. They usually number between 50 and 80 people these days.”

Most of the concerts since the early days were recorded by Ridgeway Radio for broadcast in Dorset County Hospital. “They have a tremendous archive”, remarks Duncan, “and I’m thrilled that we have a new association with Ridgeway Radio’s upgraded successor, Dorchester’s community FM radio station KeeP 106. It’s tremendously energising to be ever-evolving, constantly refreshing ideas – and that’s how we have to be to survive and grow.”

Duncan has continued to play in most of the concerts and especially relishes the opportunity to take part in rewarding chamber music projects. In 2014-15 Duncan was joined by Catrin Win Morgan, violinist in the renowned Brodowski Quartet, to play the complete violin and piano sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms in a series of concerts spanning the whole season. And in 2013-14, Duncan and three colleagues formed the Wessex Piano Quartet for a year-long residency, exploring works for this well-loved combination of piano and strings by Faure, Howells and Dvorak and returning in later seasons to play Mozart, Brahms and Taneyev. And, in a collaboration with the Royal Academy of Music, a memorable concert saw Duncan joining forces with four senior students to play Schubert’s Trout Quintet. Every Christmas is marked by a special seasonal concert, often featuring Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, and one year the actor Freddie Fox – once a pupil of Duncan’s at Bryanston School -contributed Christmas readings and reflections to a specially – devised programme entitled “A West Country Christmas.”

Duncan now teaches piano at Southampton University and Sherborne School, and maintains an active profile as a performer. His solo performances are broadcast regularly on radio networks worldwide, and his recording career, which sees his 14 th disc released later this year, reflects the long association with British piano music for which he is best known. But the Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts remain a focus of special pride to him, and his deep roots in Dorset central to his life and work. “I was born here, and my father’s family have lived here for centuries. My great-great-great grandfather was the Weymouth town bailiff in the 1850s, and I can trace my ancestors back to the 16th century and beyond in the surrounding towns and villages. I love giving something back to Dorset, and it’s a privilege to be able to live in this beautiful place still. There’s work still to be done in building new audiences, and it’s no easy task getting new generations in. But I’m determined to keep this particular cultural flame burning here.”

The 2019-20 season of Weymouth Lunchtime Concerts opens on Wednesday 25th September, and is brimming with delights. Duncan’s own piano trio gives two recitals (on 25th March and 17th June) following its launch in the series two years ago, and the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020 is commemorated in a year-long feature, Beethoven 250. “We’ll be featuring violin sonatas, cello sonatas, the “Archduke” trio, and I’ll be playing Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas in May 2020. It’s a very exciting project,” remarks Duncan.

“In 2022 we’ll have been going for 20 years,” muses Duncan, “and we’re getting to the stage now where performers who are now established tell me that they gave one of their first concerts for us, and what a pivotal experience it was for them. I believe we still have a role to fulfil, and it’s invigorating and challenging to look forward.”

All concerts start at 1pm at St Mary’s Church, St Mary Street, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8PU

2019/20 concerts and further information

Meet the Artist interview with pianist Duncan Honeybourne

As I step into the Royal Opera House’s stylish new café, there is the familiar Covent Garden buzz. It’s the opening night of Werther, and also the start of the new opera season. The talking points are Joyce di Donato’s upcoming title role in Agrippina. She was also in the last 2016 performance of Werther, alongside the flamboyant Italian tenor, Vittoria Grigolo. Would the 2019 Werther, sung by Juan Diego Flórez, match Grigolo’s high octane performance in 2016?

I had been gripped by Grigolo’s ROH debut in Werther, a broadcast of  which I saw at the cinema. The camera angles were daring: I remember a close up of Grigolo’s pulsating vocal folds as he hit the high notes.

Werther is all psychological drama. The narrative is bare but doesn’t feel so because of the richness of the music. In parts Jules Massenet, the French composer, shows his love for Wagner, in others, sorrowful and heart-rending music of great delicacy.

Read Karine Hetherington’s full review of ‘Werther’ by Jules Massenet at the Royal Opera House


Image: Isabel Leonard as Charlotte and Juan Diego Flórez as Werther

Celebrating International Music Day and the UK-Russia Year of Music 2019, pianist Yulia Chaplina is joined by UK-based artists for a programme of discerning Russian masterpieces by Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin. The concert in the Purcell Room on 1 October is dedicated to the cultural exchange between Russia and the UK. On 3 December, Chaplina performs at Pushkin House to celebrate Mieczysław Weinberg’s centenary.

At the Southbank Centre, Chaplina has curated a programme that showcases the close ties and similarities in style between four great Russian geniuses: Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Tchaikovsky. The four composers are interlinked: Rachmaninov adored Tchaikovsky, writing a trio in his memory, and Tchaikovsky in return supported the young composer. Scriabin and Rachmaninov studied together at the Moscow’s Conservatoire – when Scriabin died, Rachmaninov played his works in Russia and the West. Stravinsky adored works by Tchaikovsky: his father had sung in the premieres of many of the composer’s operas at the Mariinsky Theatre. The programme culminates in Stravinsky’s rarely-performed Septet, composed in the early 1950s between the composer’s neoclassical period and final serial phase.

Ten distinguished musicians from different countries come together to join Chaplina and share in her love and passion for Russian music.

Full details

On 3 December at Pushkin House, Chaplina joins violinists Yuri Kalnits and Igor Yuzefovich to celebrate the centenary of Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996). They perform his Sonata for two violins and Sonatina for violin and piano in a programme also featuring violin works by Shostakovich and Prokofiev, two of his greatest inspirations.

Full details

Dubbed ‘impressively virtuosic with terrific control and powerful playing’ by The Classical Reviewer, Russian-British pianist Yulia Chaplina is the winner of seven international piano competitions.

Meet the Artist interview with Yulia Chaplina


 

(source: Nicky Thomas Media)

In my Meet the Artist interview posted here on June 13th 2018, in response to the question “Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and take up a career in music?”, I mentioned three teachers who had helped me during the years I was a pupil at William Ellis School in Highgate, North London. The third of these was Julian Silverman, who, I discovered recently, and to my immense shock and sadness, died on Boxing Day 2016, shortly after his 80th birthday.[1]

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Julian Silverman

Julian taught me A-level Music, having been appointed as a part-time teacher at William Ellis School in 1967.  It soon became clear to me that he was an exceptionally gifted and knowledgeable musician. A superb pianist and a fine horn player as well as an accomplished composer, his musical tastes were exceptionally broad, and he possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the repertoire.

He was an inspiring teacher, and we immediately established a firm rapport. I was very pleased when he offered to give me private piano and composition lessons. After a while, the teacher-pupil relationship broadened into friendship, and I began to spend time at weekends and school holidays at Julian and his wife Erika’s large Victorian house in Kentish Town, a short journey on the Northern Line from my parents’ home in North Finchley. Surrounded by scores, books and instruments we would discuss not just music, but a wide range of topics, including art, literature and politics. I was a shy and somewhat awkward teenager, and very much appreciated the warmth and kindness shown to me by Julian and Erika. Sometimes, I would make music together with Julian and his friends, even giving the occasional concert. I remember playing trio sonatas at the Arts Lab in Drury Lane – not maybe the sort of venue normally associated with this repertoire.

I remained in touch with Julian after I left school.  Julian himself handed in his notice a year or so later, and began working as a theatre MD. In August 1972, while a BA student at the University of Sussex, I was in the band performing Julian’s haunting and effective music for Yevgeny Schwarz’s The Dragon at the old Half Moon Theatre in Alie Street, Aldgate.

By the time I finished my degree at Sussex, Julian and Erika had moved to Switzerland and were living on the outskirts of Zürich. In the Summer of 1973, my then girlfriend and I hitch-hiked from Rome to London via Zürich.  Julian had assured me that we would both be welcome there, and, initially, we had a very pleasant time. I wrote some short duos for flute and horn, which we played together. Erika, it soon turned out, was less pleased to see us, as we were the latest in a constant stream of visitors from London who had descended on them at Julian’s invitation, and we left after a few days.

Julian and Erika returned to London and, by the late 1970s, Julian was working as Classical Music editor for Time Out magazine. I was a struggling freelance musician, trying to make a living from proof-reading, music editing and suchlike. On several occasions, Julian offered me work writing photo captions for the magazine. The captions were only about a hundred words long, and the pay was good, so I was naturally very grateful to him for this.

I was also very pleased when, in 1982, music by Julian and me appeared in the same programme, when the newly-formed duo of trumpeter Jonathan Impett and pianist Michael Blake commissioned works from both of us for their debut concert at the Purcell Room.

It was at this time that it became obvious from our increasingly infrequent conversations and correspondence that Julian was not entirely happy with the direction my work was taking. I had got to know Brian Ferneyhough when I was working at Peters Edition in the late 1970s, eventually studying with him in Freiburg from 1981 to 1982, so my music was associated in some quarters with the “New Complexity”. Julian was himself at one point intrigued by this tendency. Dizzy Spells, the piece he wrote for Jonathan Impett and Michael Blake, was apparently influenced by Michael Finnissy. He clearly became disillusioned with it, as is obvious from his somewhat dismissive review of the “New Complexity” issue of Contemporary Music Review (1995) (to which I had contributed an article) in the July 1996 edition of Tempo.

This review, which appeared some years after we eventually lost contact, was the last time my and Julian’s lives converged. I was saddened by its tone, and am still sorry that I never had the chance to discuss it with him. Ironically, his last years were spent living within walking distance of my parents’ home. My overwhelming memories of Julian are positive, though. I will never forget his wisdom, his guidance and the kindness he showed me, and, to this day, I will be listening to a piece of music and suddenly think, “Ah, I remember talking about this piece with Julian”.


James Erber was born in 1951 in London. Having gained Music degrees at the Universities of Sussex and Nottingham, he spent a year studying composition with Brian Ferneyhough at the Musikhochschule, Freiburg-im-Breisgau. He has worked in music publishing and education.
His music has been widely performed and broadcast throughout Europe and in the USA, Australia and New Zealand by many eminent soloists and ensembles. It includes Epitomaria-Glosaria-Commentaria for 25 solo strings (1981-84), The ‘Traces’ Cycle for solo flute (1991-2006), two string quartets (1992-94 and 2010-11), Das Buch Bahir for 9 instruments (2004-2005), The Death of the Kings for 11 instruments (2007) and Elided Dilapidations for piano (2013-14).
Matteo Cesari’s recording of The ‘Traces’ Cycle and three other shorter works for solo flute is available on Convivium Records.  Other works can be found on NMC, Metier and Centaur Records (USA).

Meet the Artist interview with James Erber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Roger Silverman, In Memory of Julian Silverman: https://weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com/2017/01/in-memory-of-julian-silverman.html

 

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

To be honest, I was forced into the family trade as a musician!  Both of my parents are classical musicians and music teachers, and I started on the piano at age 3, violin at 6, and cello at 7.  Playing music and performing was a mandatory activity but it wasn’t until I was 18 and moved to Los Angeles to go to university (studying Classical Cello Performance) at USC when I started really pursuing ways to make my own music and just work as a cellist in order to pay the bills.  I did a lot of work as a session musician and hired gun, and it helped me learn and familiarize myself with all genres of music, but my main love and obsession has always been Industrial Metal.  I’m lucky that my ‘day job’ of being a session musician has a lot of crossover with my own music.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, System of a Down and Jaqueline du Pré – she was amazing!

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

At the beginning of my career when I had just moved to Los Angeles, I had exactly $0 to my name and didn’t own an instrument (the cello and bow I used were on loan to me while I was in university by a foundation).  It was extremely difficult to get by as I had no outside financial help.  I remember putting up ads daily on musician classifieds online and playing with any band or artist that was wiling to pay $50 for a rehearsal and show, and I played in every club on Sunset Strip.  I taught music students for $20 a hour, and played cello at endless weddings, funerals, Bar/Bat-Mitzvahs etc.  Even though I had a full scholarship for tuition to USC, it didn’t cover living expenses,  additional school expenses like books, etc., so I amassed a good amount of student loans and credit card debt for the 2½ years I was attending.   After 2½ years of school, I left since I wasn’t able to balance performing/working and going to school full time, and I decided to go 100% into music.   It wasn’t until after 7 years of grinding away as a session musician, living in a garage with no kitchen, heat or air  conditioning to be able to make payments on the 1880 Gand & Bernardel Cello I purchased using an instrument loan and 3 credit card advances, multiple failed metal band projects, and using what little money I made to buy music equipment so I could record and self-release my own music, that I was finally offered a position as a soloist with Cirque du Soleil on Electric Cello.

I toured with the Michael Jackson ‘THE IMMORTAL’ World Tour for two years from 2011-2013, and during those years I only had 2 suitcases of belongings and saved religiously, spending only $20 a week. I started taking online courses in investing and began purchasing stocks and investing in Peer-to-Peer lending.  I was able to build a financial foundation for myself because of that opportunity!  I also brought along my studio equipment on the road to continue doing recording sessions for composer and producer clients, and also composed/released 3 of my own albums during that period.  I think being able to figure out how to survive financially has been a major struggle, as well as identifying a clear image of what my own music is, since I love and have delved into so many different genres of music.  During my years in university, I did perform as a classical soloist with smaller orchestras, and also enjoyed my work in the studios recording for soundtracks, as well as my own metal projects on which I worked.  Looking back now, all 10 of my albums have been wildly different in style and approach, but I do feel like they are all genuinely me as I explored different parts of my musical self through the years through these recordings and compositions.

Of which performances/recordings are you most proud? 

My very first music video, ‘Queen Bee’ which was from my album THE JOURNEY is something I’m very proud of!  That music video led to me being offered the position with Cirque du Soleil, and also working with Hans Zimmer after he saw it on YouTube.  I was in the early stages of exploring my own version of Industrial Metal Cello – inspired heavily by the band Rammstein and Marilyn Manson – and used  something a bit obvious as the base (the Flight of the Bumble Bee) but felt like that artistically and stylistically the video is truly *me* at my essence.  I was very lucky to work with an amazing team for that video!  To finance it, I spent every penny I had  as I told myself it would be my last “hurrah” at trying to pursue Industrial Metal.  It took a bit of a different turn as I suddenly was approached by composers here in Los Angeles to record my “metal style” cello on their soundtracks after the video was released.  I feel like 9 years later, it’s worked out perfectly and having the opportunity to perform at WACKEN recently, the biggest metal festival in the world, with two amazing bands SABATON and Beyond the Black, was truly a dream come true.  There are many paths leading to the final destination and I love the path that I have been on, which I never would have guessed!  Having my first adventure into New Age Music nominated for a GRAMMY was a huge surprise

The entire album was recorded in one day, completely improvised with myself and Peter Kater the pianist, never having played together in order to capture the purest form of improvisation and musical meeting.  I’ve played with rappers, country artists, DJs, and musically it has helped me expand so much!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Passionate Romantic-era classical pieces, soundtrack music that is very open to interpretation and Industrial Metal!

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I am open to anything and everything, and a lot of my musical activity is recording for various soundtrack projects, so the film, tv show, or video game determines the repertoire!  I’ve backed away somewhat from performing classical music with orchestras as I’m trying to focus now more heavily on my own original music projects and compositions.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

So far, my favorite has been at Wacken Open Air! 125,000 people, amazing wonderful energy, lots of fire and screaming!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The very first time I performed in an arena in Montreal at the premiere of Michael Jackson ‘The Immortal” World Tour – I was so incredibly nervous!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

  1. Being able to make the music you love.
  2. Having financial security so that you are in the mind space and energy to not worry about concerns related to poverty- having been in it, I can tell you that it’s incredibly difficult to be musically inspired and focused when you don’t know how you will pay for your next meal!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I am very passionate about entrepreneurship and learning about every aspect of the business side of music as much as possible to educate yourself.  So much knowledge is available to us, for free online, with technology growing and changing at such a fast pace, and so many alternative routes for musicians and creatives to monetize their work.  I have a lot of videos discussing finances, investments, etc., on my YouTube channel if anyone would like to check it out in addition to music videos, concert videos, tutorials, product reviews, and other random things.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

My fiancé Rambo and I with our two Fur Babies (our two dogs, Bagel and Pizza) up in the mountains in a cabin with a snow storm outside, fireplace roaring, a Large pepperoni and pineapple pan pizza from Domino’s, coffee, furry Blankets, a big bed and Netlflix on a huge TV!

Tina Guo’s single ‘The Circle of Life’ from The Lion King is available now. More information


Internationally acclaimed, GRAMMY Award-nominated and BRIT Female Artist of the Year-nominated musician Tina Guo has established an international career as a virtuoso acoustic/electric cellist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and entrepreneur. Known for her unique genre-crossing style, she is one of the most recorded Solo Cellists of all time and can be heard on hundreds of Blockbuster Film, Television, and Game Soundtracks.  In 2018, Tina signed as an official brand partner with Bentley Motors, composing, performing, and producing the launch music for the luxury hybrid vehicle, Bentayga Hybrid.  In 2019, Tina partnered with the Ritz-Carlton to create a soundtrack to the endless possibilities and unforgettable moments experienced at The Ritz-Carlton. Tina will visit four destinations — New Orleans, Dove Mountain, Toronto and Maui — and compose original scores inspired by these dynamic locations.

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