Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?

My mother taught me to read prior to kindergarten. The nuns at St. Athanasius considered this a problem, as i would be bored and get into trouble. they offered piano or French lessons at $15 a week as an ultimatum. I remember my first piano lesson, and reading music made immediate sense; a connection was made and i never looked back.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

I most admire some of the greats from the past: Rachmaninoff, Schnabel, Gould. i am also inspired by string instruments in their capacity for true expression. with that in mind, i presently gain most inspiration from the kids who play on From the Top, and my colleague, Matt Haimovitz.

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

Dealing with adverse reactions to my crossing genre lines in my choice of repertoire, mostly from Neanderthals of the Classical music industry.

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble?

Knowing when to lead and when to follow, reacting and interacting in the moment.

Which recordings are you most proud of?

My upcoming Liszt recording of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique and other Liszt arrangements; my Stravinsky record; both of my Radiohead CDs.

Do you have a favourite concert venue?

Hard to choose, but Mechanics Hall in Worcester is a great recording venue, ditto the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Upper Manhattan; Meyerson Hall in Dallas.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Nicolaus Harnoncourt, Jordi Savall, Sir James Galway, Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Matt Haimovitz

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Listening: my teacher, Russell Sherman in numerous recitals
Performing: collaborating with Matt, Sir James

What is your favourite music to play? To listen to?

Rachmaninoff and Ravel are two favourites to perform, also Shostakovich.
I listen to The Bad Plus, Bill Evans, Elliott Smith

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

That one’s own creation of the present moment in music is most important, not submitting to some foregone conclusion as to what’s appropriate.

What are you working on at the moment?

Goldberg Variations, Rachmaninoff Concerto #1

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

Costa Rica

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Spending all day with my cats

What is your most treasured possession?

Elliott, my Tonkinese cat

What do you enjoy doing most?

Reading

Christopher O’Riley appears with Lara Downes in The Artist Sessions on 29th May, at the historic Yoshi’s SF, with a performance of his new Oxingale Records BluRay/CD O’Riley’s Liszt.

Christopher O’Riley is an American classical pianist and public radio show host. He is the host of the weekly National Public Radio program From the Top. O’Riley is also known for his piano arrangements of songs by alternative artists, including alternative rock band Radiohead.

Christopher O’Riley studied with Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music. Christopher O’Riley splits his time between Los Angeles and rural Ohio. His radio and tv show can be found on-line at www.fromthetop.org. His personal website (including a full biography) is at www.christopheroriley.com.

Jocelyn Pook (image credit: Matthew Andrews)
Jocelyn Pook (image credit: Matthew Andrews)

Who or what inspired you to take up composing and make it your career? 

I came from a family in which music and art was important. To this day I don’t know how my mother, a single woman raising 3 children with no money, managed to pay for piano lessons for all of us, but I’m glad she did. There were free violin lessons offered at my primary school so I took up the violin when I was 8, then changed later to viola. I had inspiring and encouraging teachers along the way, in particular my first piano teacher Jean Marshall who also encouraged my early interest in composing.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing/composing? 

I used to compose simple songs on the piano as a child, but it didn’t occur to me to take this further, and when I went to music college it was as a performer, studying viola and piano. After I left, I began working as a professional viola player – sometimes performing in theatre companies and pop bands. Seeing how untrained musicians, some of whom couldn’t even read music, were able to compose, inspired me and gave me confidence, so that when small composing opportunities subsequently came my way – such as writing music for my quartet, or a friend’s video, a colleague’s dance piece, etc. – I seized the opportunity.

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

I am usually filled with trepidation at the start of every new project. Each feels like the biggest challenge at the time. My last piece, Hearing Voices, a song cycle for voice, orchestra and recorded voices, was the first commission for symphony orchestra (for the BBC Concert Orchestra) so that was a big challenge.

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble? 

Working with a symphony orchestra was exciting because there are so many possibilities of texture and timbre and combinations of instruments. It’s fun to play with large forces, especially percussion and brass sections which I have less experience of using, and it’s always so thrilling when you hear it all come alive.

Which recordings are you most proud of?  

My albums Flood, Untold Things and Desh.

Do you have a favourite concert venue? 

No, there are many I love!

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Yehudi Menuhin, Daniel Barenboim, Nigel Kennedy and Gustavo Dudamel are amazingly talented artists whose passion for music has inspired and communicated so widely. And they don’t shy away from ethical and moral issues.

Plus, singers such as Kathleen Ferrier and ones I’m lucky enough to work with: Melanie Pappenheim, Natacha Atlas, Tanja Tzarovska, Manickam Yogeswaran, Parvin Cox and Lore Lixenberg.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

A gypsy ensemble that played in our living room in Serbia.

Tell us about your upcoming performances at Tête à Tête Opera Festival?

Tonight my multimedia song-cycle Hearing Voices will be performed at the festival at King’s Place. I first performed the piece in 2012 and have reworked it for a second performance this year. I’ll be joined again by director Emma Bernard and mezzo-soprano Melanie Pappenheim for this performance in addition to Laura Moody, Susi Evans and Preetha Narayanan. The piece focuses on the topic of mental health and I used recordings of my mother, Bobby Baker and Julie McNamara as well as videos by Dragan Aleksic. It’s a very personal piece for me as my family have been touched by mental illness for three generations.

Tomorrow night is my vocal work Anxiety Fanfare and Variations which is also about mental health. I’ll be joining the Nottingham People’s Choir and my Jocelyn Pook Ensemble to perform the work with soloists Donna Lennard, Melanie Pappenheim, Jonathan Peter Kenny and Richard Morris. Anxiety Fanfare looks at the day-to-day feeling of anxiety which affects so many people now.

What else do you have coming up?

The west-end play King Charles III is transferring to Broadway in October at the Music Box Theatre which is hugely exciting – I’m off to New York for rehearsals in September. It was a great project to work on and it’s amazing to see how far it’s come, I can’t wait to see what the American audiences think too!

What is your most treasured possession? 

My daughter.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Writing music and spending time with family and friends

What is your present state of mind? 

Pretty chilled out considering I’m writing this on a flight back from China!

Further information/links:

The DESH soundtrack is available on CD now on Pook Music (PM001) and the single ‘Hallelujah’ is available to download on iTunes.  DESH returns to Sadler’s Wells in June for a third run after a sell-out world tour.

Jocelyn Pook’s next collaboration with Akram Khan, iTMOi, will be performed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, Tuesday 28 May – Saturday 1 June.

The Brodsky Quartet and singer Lore Lixenberg premiere a new song cycle, which includes music by Jocelyn Pook, at Drapers’ Hall on Monday 24 June as part of the City Of London Festival.

To find out more information about Jocelyn Pook, visit her website www.jocelynpook.com

Best known for her score for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Jocelyn Pook is an award-winning composer who writes music for film, television, theatre, dance and the concert platform.

Jocelyn graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1983, where she studied the viola. She then embarked on a period of touring and recording with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson and PJ Harvey and as a member of the Communards. She has also toured extensively with The Jocelyn Pook Ensemble, performing repertoire from her albums and music from her film scores. For her music-theatre piece Speaking in Tunes she won a British Composer Award and, for the National Theatre’s production of St Joan, she won an Olivier Award. Jocelyn has worked with a variety of acclaimed choreographers including, most recently, Akram Khan Company on the contemporary solo work DESH. Jocelyn has established an international reputation as a highly original composer of screen music following her score for Eyes Wide Shut, which won a Chicago Film Award and a Golden Globe nomination. Other film scores include: The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino (Dir: Michael Radford), Time Out (L’Emploi du Temps, Dir: Laurent Cantet) and Brick Lane (Dir: Sarah Gavron). She also contributed a piece to the soundtrack of Gangs of New York (Dir: Martin Scorsese).

Jocelyn has composed scores for television shows and commercials, and was nominated for a BAFTA for Channel 4’s The Government Inspector (Dir: Peter Kosminsky). With a blossoming reputation as a composer of electro-acoustic works and music for the concert platform, Jocelyn continues to celebrate the diversity of the human voice. Her work Mobile was a commission from the BBC Proms and The King’s Singers and is a collaboration with the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. Portraits in Absentia was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and is a collage of sound, voice, music and words woven from the messages left on her answerphone. Ingerland, Jocelyn’s first contemporary opera, was commissioned and produced by ROH2 and performed in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre in June 2010 to wide acclaim. Jocelyn has chaired and been a judge on various panels including the British Composer Awards, Ivor Novello Awards and BBC Proms Young Composers Competition.

Bradley Burgess, pianist
Bradley Burgess, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

I grew up listening to my sister practicing the piano, so the initial impetus to start lessons came from her; I was fascinated with the instrument and the sounds it made. I remember ‘helping her practice’ by playing certain of the notes for her. In particular I remember the final bass note of the first movement of Debussy’s ‘Children’s Corner’ – I would stand by the side of the keyboard and wait until she got to the end when it was time to play the bottom C. In hindsight I must have been quite a nuisance! It was only half-way through high school that I decided to aim for a professional career in music. While the piano was always my greatest passion, I did toy with the idea of being a film composer at one point. I think this was mainly thanks to John Williams.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing?

To date the biggest influences on my playing have been without doubt my two main teachers: Nina Svetlanova and Graham Fitch. I couldn’t even begin to say how much I have learned from them both.

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

Staying motivated when things aren’t going well. When you’re young it’s difficult to not get despondent after failure – a bad performance or defeat in a competition. But it’s important to turn these occasions into learning experiences. You only learn that with age though.

Which performances are you most proud of? 

I would have to say my Masters graduation recital this past May. I programmed the Beethoven ‘Pastoral’ Sonata Op. 28, a selection from the Schumann Fantasiestücke Op. 12 and the Liszt Sonata. It was my first performance of the Liszt Sonata – quite daunting! It went well though.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I enjoy playing in both larger and smaller spaces. I have many happy – and not so happy! – memories of playing at the Baxter Concert Hall in my home city of Cape Town. Every performing space is unique, so I try to make the most of wherever I am.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

To perform: Liszt Sonata, Funérailles, Beethoven Sonatas (especially the ‘Waldstein’), Mozart Concerto K466, Shostakovich E minor Trio

To listen: Wagner’s ‘Ring’, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy & Fifth Symphony (a good performance of this is better than almost anything), Brahms Concerti, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the ‘Goldberg’ Variations, there is so much…

Who are your favourite musicians?

I generally listen to, and try and learn from, musicians from the early/mid-twentieth century, most notably Rachmaninov, Rubinstein, Arrau, Richter, Gilels, Sofronitsky, Heifetz & Oistrakh. They all had such wonderful tones – it’s almost unbelievable. That said, there are definitely some modern-day musicians who I admire too, such as Marc-André Hamelin, Boris Berezovsky, Grigory Sokolov, András Schiff, Stephen Kovacevich & Cecilia Bartoli. There are some ‘non-classical’ artists that I also respect immensely, like Oscar Peterson and Keith Jarrett.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are several that come to mind. I saw the Leipzig Gewandhaus in an all-Beethoven programme conducted by Chailly. They did the Beethoven Seventh Symphony and Louis Lortie was the soloist in the Fifth Concerto. Both orchestra and soloist had to give an encore! There was also an all-Shostakovich concert given by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra in the Shostakovich centenary year. I can’t remember who the conductor was – I know he was visiting from Russia – but they did an earth-shattering performance of the Seventh Symphony. Last year was also my first live Wagner experience – Die Walküre at the Met – and I think that will stick with me too.

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

I still see myself as an aspiring musician! But if I were to go back in time ten years and give myself advice, it would be the following: Establish a good work ethic. Develop good practice habits (practice the left hand alone always!). Learn to manage your time wisely. Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself – a first-rate you is always better than a second-rate someone else. Be proactive – don’t expect opportunities to fall into your lap (but be grateful if/when they do). Take chances. Develop your interests – don’t just lock yourself up in a practice room all day. After all, how can you have anything to say if you don’t actually live a little? Above all, make every note count and don’t take it for granted.

What are you working on at the moment?

Beethoven – Sonatas Opp. 28, 53 & 90 (I plan to do the whole cycle of thirty-two one day – and I really mean one day! – so I’m always working on at least one)

Alkan – several pieces including the Sonata ‘Les Quatres Ages’ Op. 33 (this is a long-term project)

Chopin – Polonaise Op. 53 (something I’ve loved since childhood and am finally learning)

Liszt – Sonata in b minor (I’ve given several performances to date, but this is a life-long endeavor – especially those octaves at the beginning)

Balakirev – Islamey (this is also a long-term project and something I will be blogging about, so be sure to check out my blog)

What do you enjoy doing most?

To be honest, I love practicing. I love taking a work apart, analyzing it, understanding the nuts and bolts. Many people hate practicing even though they enjoy being on stage, but I love the process. Learning to enjoy the journey is key to being successful I think. Music aside, I love cooking (have a look at my blog, fermatas & frittatas), watching a good movie and spending time with my wife, Jo-Mari.

An emerging artist from South Africa, pianist Bradley Burgess has shown himself to be a versatile and accomplished musician. Recent awards have included the Pick ‘n Pay/Fine Music Radio Music Awards and a generous overseas bursary from the National Arts Council of South Africa and Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. His solo and chamber engagements have seen him playing in the states of New York, New Jersey, Idaho & Utah in the US, as well as the UK, Finland and in several major venues in his home country of South Africa. Bradley received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cape Town cum laude and recently completed a Master of Music at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. He is currently the Director of Music & Organist at St. Mark’s Church in Islip, NY, and is on the piano faculties of the Music Academy of Long Island and the Brooklyn Musical Arts Center. Bradley’s main interests are in music of the late-eighteenth and nineteenth century, especially Beethoven, Liszt and Alkan, and when he’s not at the keyboard you can often find him in the kitchen. You can read more about this at his blog, ‘fermatas & frittatas’ at bradleyburgess.net.

Who or what inspired you to take up your chosen instrument and make music your career?

My mum and dad: Dad was a devoted brass band player, there was always music in the house (he had a gorgeous walnut radiogram, with piles of records – mostly 78s!). They fixed up violin lessons for me, made me practise, came to almost every concert I did, helped get me in the NYO, and thence to Cambridge.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

My colleagues in the Fitzwilliam Quartet! But before that, our mentor, Sidney Griller and his quartet; the Smetana Quartet; the Beethoven and Borodin Quartets (for Shostakovich); violinist Alfredo Campoli (the ideal violin sound); conductors Otto Klemperer and Roger Norrington (two totally opposite approaches to Beethoven); clarinettists Alan Hacker and Lesley Schatzberger (opening my eyes to historical performance practice); Dmitri Shostakovich himself – the greatest man I have ever met, whose very presence and humility imparted a belief in what we were doing, and a confidence to press on into the future; the greatest performer I have ever heard (not in the flesh, sadly): Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau;

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

Starting off and making headway in the real world as a professional string quartet; playing to Shostakovich; our New York debut – then the complete Shostakovich cycle there; re-building the quartet post- Chris Rowland (it took over twelve years!), and maintaining its profile and pre-eminence in these times of age discrimination in the music world; getting John Eliot Gardiner to observe the spirit and letter of Beethoven’s metronome marks (without seeming too cocky for my position!); getting my own playing onto a higher level, in order not to let the other three down (whilst spending a disproportionate amount of time on admin….).

What are the pleasures and pitfalls of ensemble work?

As a “team player” (which is the most satisfying role for a violist) one can achieve collective heights one could never achieve on one’s own – especially since the FSQ plays to a higher standard than I could ever reach myself! Those concerts (which happen rarely) when everyone is pulling together for the common benefit of quartet and composer, when you feel anyone can do anything, and everyone else will respond and be with each other. The pitfalls are when that doesn’t happen…. Or when individuals prioritise themselves before the group.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

The Shostakovich cycle, of course – although many of them we play better now! The Franck quartet. The Brahms clarinet quintet (with Lesley Schatzberger). Wolf’s Italian Serenade – as virtuosic as we could get in the old days! Then, latterly, our first ever public performance of Schubert’s Death & the Maiden (after 42 years! – as good as I’ve ever heard it from anyone…..).

Do you have a favourite concert venue?

The N D Rooke Recital Hall at Bucknell University, USA; Lyons Concert Hall, University of York; Glinka Hall, Leningrad (until the acoustic got ruined, somehow); Holy Trinity Church, Grange-in-Borrowdale (I can look at Skiddaw while playing!); St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow (an audience drawn from all walks of life).

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones I play with: colleagues in the quartet, plus Moray Welsh (cello), Anna Tilbrook (piano), Lesley Schatzberger (clarinet), Carolyn Sparey (viola); also those influential musicians mentioned above.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

16th November 1972, Lyons Concert Hall, York: packed to the rafters to witness us play Shostakovich No.13 with the composer in the audience. I have never in my life experienced such electricity in the air, or intensity of applause.

What is your favourite music to play?

Currently: Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence, Elgar Piano Quintet, Borodin Quartets 1 & 2, Haydn Opp.77/2 and 50/6 (“Frog”) and Seven Last Words, Schubert Death & the Maiden and Quintet in C, Grieg G minor quartet, Mendelssohn Octet, Purcell Dido & Aeneas/fantasias, Beethoven Missa Solemnis, Bach St Matthew Passion.

To listen to?

Anything by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Berlioz, Bruckner, Schumann, Janáček, Delius, Mahler, Schubert, Nielsen, etc etc! Plus Mussorgsky’s Boris, Gluck’s Orfeo.

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

Don’t get in the way of the music or the composer! Be faithful to both the spirit and the letter of the score – i.e. inform yourself as to the exact meaning of the notation, the performing conventions and sound according to the period of music in question. Aim to perfect every aspect of your “craft”, in the service of both the music and your own self-expression – but never impose the latter: this would imply that your own personality is not strong enough to stand on its own. Ego is no substitute for the humility and character required to communicate with your audience.

What are you working on at the moment?

Tchaikovsky No.3, Borodin No.1, Delius, Grieg, Shostakovich 7

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

Same as now, but with rather more free time!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Man U overturning the rich pretenders from Man City next year!

What is your most treasured possession?

My family, my friends, my health, my viola, a lock of my late daughter’s hair

What do you enjoy doing most?

Drinking good beer or wine, eating Italian food (or Indian), playing (now watching…) cricket, walking, cycling.

What is your present state of mind?

Content, partially fulfilled, but frustrated when playing is not all it might be, angry with this Tory-led government and their flagrant promotion of gross inequality in our Society.

The Fitzwilliam Quartet perform at London’s Wigmore Hall on 24th July in a programme featuring music by Delius, Shostakovich and Schubert (with ‘cellist Moray Welsh). Further details here.

www.fitzwilliamquartet.org

Alan George’s biography

The Fitzwilliam Quartet

Craig Stratton (photo: Peter Humfryes)

Who or what inspired you to take up the violin, and make it your career?

I used to hear my grandfather play violin when I was 7 years old and just seemed to be fascinated by the instrument itself and by his sense of humour that seemed to harmonise with it. After that, it was a question of parental encouragement and getting my first inspirational teacher, Mr. Duckering who lived locally. I think when you get good at something quickly you hang on to it and before you know it, it becomes a way of life, or indeed a living. I was also learning piano and the two instruments seem to go hand in hand right through University and music college. When you meet others along the way that are also learning an instrument and experiencing similar musical times, then inspiration comes naturally all around you.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

My two years spent studying in Prague, Czech Republic, became a huge influence in the way I played. My teacher there was Prof. Ivan Straus, who really changed the way that I practised, and helped me to think about my vibrato and sound. I attended numerous master courses in Austria and in the Czech Republic where I met some incredible players who shared invaluable musical and technical ideas that I try now to share with my students. Feats of brilliance in any discipline, being music or indeed any other, always evoke the question: “How on earth do they do that..?”. When you hear or see great artists both on the stage and in close proximity, it is bound to influence the way you approach your own skills in some from or another.

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

Recording my CD From the Homeland was one of the biggest challenges to date. It’s the actual process of getting to that red button that makes it so rewarding. It’s not just the hours of rehearsing, but all the administration and phone calls that go with it!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

My CD is definitely something I am proud of. Any recital that I have done I would like to be proud of for similar reasons as in the previous question. There is something, however, about live performing though that is endearingly unpredictable! Each performance is so different (hopefully), and one never knows how the audience is going to react. Whatever the case, it’s a sense of accomplishment coming off the stage and is sure to make you feel proud. Whatever happens during performance, good or bad, you learn from the experience.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

The Bergersen Quartet, in which I play, performed at the Barbican in London late last year. So many amazing musicians have played there, so definitely one to tick off the list.

I did a recital in a Norman church down in a small village in the south of England. It has great acoustics and a very appreciative audience. I had the opportunity to play with my country folk band Pig Earth at Wembley Arena in London last month. It’s hard to beat the feeling of exhilaration as 6000 people cheer you on!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

The Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major by Prokofiev is a particular favourite of mine to listen to. I’ve never got tired of it. At the moment I love performing works by Astor Piazzolla, especially the Grand Tango, which I played at a recital recently. The Czech Rhapsody by Martinu is another work I love to play purely because of its driving folk rhythms and “on the edge of your seat” ensemble writing with the piano. I always like to put into a programme a work or two, which may be lesser known by audiences. I must also mention the Scriabin piano Preludes, some of which I love to play (although a little rusty these days). Many of these Preludes are barely a minute long but brimming with intense dynamics and incredible harmonies.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Most people reading this question will be screaming simultaneously at their screens, claiming that such a list is far too big to put on here, but since you’re asking, Shlomo Mintz or David Oistrakh have to be on my personal list favourites for violin tone. Others on that list include Sarah Chang, Itzhak Perlman and Vadim Repin. For technical prowess, check out violinist Ning Feng. I also love pianists Vladimir Ashkenazy, Evgeny Kissin, Vladimir Horowitz and John Lill. Outside the classical world, I’ve always been a huge fan of Prince, who is certainly one of the most talented musicians and songwriters I’ve ever heard. His after show gigs are unforgettable and in fact I managed to meet him personally in a bar in New York a couple of years ago. I’m learning how to play banjo at the moment (but don’t tell anyone) and admire the picking of Bela Fleck, Noam Pikelny and Tony Trischka.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Years ago, I went with my dad to hear Shlomo Mintz perform at the Barbican playing Paganini’s Concerto No. 1. Talk about faultless technique and a warm rich sound! I remember a close friend of mine at school introduced me to a recording of Shlomo Mintz playing the Prokofiev Violin Concertos, particularly No.1 in D major. I just couldn’t believe how sublime and dream-like this music was. Years later I managed to get Shlomo Mintz to sign that CD for me after a concert he played in London. Must also mention that I had the pleasure of looking after John Ogden when he came to give a concert at my school. As a young pianist, that was a musical experience that I wasn’t going to forget in a hurry and still remember vividly.

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

As with any art form, I would say the bottom line is work at it everyday. Find a teacher that comes highly recommended and that can inspire you. There is an ever increasing number of great and talented musicians out there so you have to be on top of your game. Get out there and go to concerts. Try to find other like-minded musicians that you can form groups with. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn from your colleagues or indeed they can learn from you! Try to perform regularly, even if to just family and friends. Setting concert dates is important, as you will have a target to work towards. Don’t forget to enjoy it!

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on the usual suspects of scales and studies. I have some concerts coming up with the quartet next month at the Brighton Fringe Festival, and solo work in the Czech Republic. For the latter, some unaccompanied Bach is on the menu. On the piano, I am pretending to learn Un Sospiro by Liszt.

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

I often have this conversation with friends who ask me of where I want to be in the next 10 years or what my dreams are for the future. I always reply that I hope I am doing exactly the same variety of projects as I am now. I like to think that I am indeed living the dream now, as we speak.

Craig Stratton studied violin performance in London and in Prague, with Professor Ivan Straus. He has attended courses in Bechyne, Czech Republic and spent numerous summers at the master courses in Semmering, Austria.

Craig has given solo recitals in the UK, France, Czech Republic and Florida and has also performed extensively on Fred Olsen, Page and Moy and Noble Caledonia cruises. He has performed duo recitals with pianists Sholto Kynoch, Simon Howat and Liz Rossiter.

He has appeared on countless film and TV productions including, Downton Abbey (Series 3), Star Wars Episode 1, Bridget Jones, Die Another Day, Holby City, Miss Marple, Foyles War, and Midsomer Murders.

As a session player, Craig has performed on Julian Cope’s album ‘Interpreter’ and appeared on the Jools Holland Show with Tindersticks. He is a member of the BERGERSEN STRING QUARTET which specialises in spectral music and contemporary works by living composers. The quartet performed on the recent “Songs to Save a Life” album for the Samaritans.

In 2004, Craig released From the Homeland which is now available online. The CD was featured on the Classic Fm Evening Concert and given three stars in the Classic FM magazine. From the Homeland has also been broadcast on Lyric FM, Dublin.

Craig plays violin, banjo and mandolin in the country folk group PIG EARTH who won best Horizon Act of the Year at the British Country Music Awards and performed at Wembley Arena in February 2012

www.craigstratton.co.uk

blog: www.craigstratton.wordpress.com
Pig Earth: www.pigearth.com

Jane Wilkinson

Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and make it your career?

As a child I went to dancing class at a very early age. I would often get picked to sing solos in the annual dancing shows and I discovered that I was a better singer than dancer! So I started singing lessons at the age of nine and never looked back.

Who or what were the most important influences on your singing?

I was always a big musicals fan, and I would go to see West End shows and would be desperate to join in! I also loved Phantom of the Opera. To play Christine would have been a dream! Consequently, many years later, I auditioned for the role and was told I was too tall!

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

One of the biggest challenges for a singer is that you have to wait for your voice to mature and as an impatient teenager that can be very frustrating. There is no rushing nature but at the same time you seem to be wishing your years away. Not anymore! I still feel as though my voice will improve with age, but I’m no longer in any hurry!

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my concerts in South Africa in 2011. I went on a tour for 2 weeks and did 10 concerts in the space of those 2 weeks. I was part of a trio – The Nightingale Trio – which was voice, flute and piano. We flew the flag for English Songs and the audiences loved it. The travelling was amazing and I was so thrilled to just get through the concerts without any sore throats or illnesses.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Generally I love performing in churches and cathedrals. They always have amazing acoustics which are fantastic for the voice. They also have a great sense of stillness about them which is so calming. They are fascinating places full of history and are like little museums of the local area.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

One of my favourite pieces to perform is Da Tempeste by Handel from his opera Guilio Cesare. It is like gymnastics for the voice. It’s such a showy piece full of runs and acrobatics. I also love playing around with ornaments. It’s a real chance to stretch the voice to the extreme. Sometimes the ornaments are different every time I perform them. It just depends on the day and I like to keep my accompanist on their toes! I also love the other Cleopatra arias, especially Ah! Mio cor. It’s beautiful in many ways and just shows the versatility of Handel’s compositions. They are a real work out for the voice but so rewarding to sing.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I really admire Renée Fleming. She has such a shimmering voice with so much depth and body to it. She is extremely charismatic when she performs and never fails to deliver. She has had a wonderful career and deserves all of her successes.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I once did a concert in a restaurant and the owner had two big Great Dane dogs. I am not the biggest fan of dogs and so I was very nervous when they lumbered into the room and came to sit at my feet. I couldn’t concentrate on performing for the fear of being licked!

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

My most important bit of advice to aspiring singers would be to enjoy the journey. Training can be frustrating but it’s also a time for experimentation. Use the training years as a time to explore a vast array of repertoire. You will then hopefully find your niche which will eventually allow yourself to carve out a career based upon your area of expertise.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working with a composer called Andrew Keeling on a new album. It has a rocky feel to it which is totally new for me! We are in the middle of recording it and it is all very exciting. Then I’m back to opera with a new production in the Autumn.

What is your most treasured possession?

The article that has been with me throughout my career to date is my black leather music bag. My mum bought me it when I started singing lessons at the age of nine and I still keep music in it. It was my pride and joy!

 

English soprano Jane Wilkinson grew up on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire and began her vocal training with singing teacher Brenda Waddington. After a year studying with Barbara Robotham, she was accepted in 2002 to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow, on the Bachelor of Music course with Helen Lawson. Jane then studied as a post-graduate at the Royal College of Music, London, with Jennifer Smith. Her current teacher is Jane Irwin.

Jane is an experienced performer in all aspects of singing – opera, recitals, concerts, choral singing and competitions. She currently sings and teaches in London.

Jane recently was short listed for the BBC Radio 2 Kiri Te Kanawa Prize. She was lucky enough to sing for Dame Kiri in a masterclass at the Royal college of Music.

www.janewilkinson.co.uk