I’ve always been part of a musical family, but for some reason was reluctant to take anything up myself. My mother essentially forced me into having piano lessons at primary school. Then, when I joined secondary school, she wanted me to learn something I could play in an ensemble. I was even more reluctant to do this and so, in probably the most middle-class revenge an 11 year old could think of, researched the most obscure and expensive instrument I could find; the bassoon. I certainly never became a fantastic player, but it did open up a huge library of music I’d never experienced before, and that really changed everything. The sheer scope of classical music, specifically orchestral, became my one true passion and has been ever since.
I became restless in my last years at school as the only thing I wanted to do was music. Listening to it, mainly. Finally, I went to the University of York, in awe of all the new music that was available to me, and surrounded by so many other like-minded creative types. I stayed on to do a Masters in composition, even though the lecturers in department never really liked my style of writing (it’s excruciatingly postmodern!). They did tell me, however, ‘What you do, you do very well.’, so that’s encouraging at least...
I started with Southbank Sinfonia in the middle of 2015 after a few months of working in a jewellery shop to pass the time and earn a bit of money. Turns out, beautiful as chunks of amber and lapis lazuli are, I still craved to be in the classical music world. I had a couple of days work experience here, and as luck would have it, a position was just opening up so I sent in my application and here I am today. Whilst most of my time is spent fiddling with excel spreadsheets, I’m openly nerdy about them, and I still find myself surrounded by creatives and fellow music nerds. So if you’re a new player reading this, and you ever want to spend a few hours discussing/sobbing over that flute solo in the last movement of Mahler’s 10th Symphony, just let me know.
Outside of Southbank Sinfonia, I help run an amateur ensemble the London Incidental Orchestra, that I also get to play in which is probably the best thing about it for me. I try to compose when I can but have a tendency to write for an orchestra the size of Texas so the feasibility of getting something performed is somewhat limited. I love books by Stephen King, eating family size bags of crisps all to myself, cooking for other people, and generally watching too much television.
What’s on your playlist right now?
Since seeing Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel in 2017 I’ve been a little obsessed with it. There’s always some Schnittke and John Zorn going on. That and Natalie Dessay singing Mozart Concert Arias because I have a music-fetish for coloratura sopranos. I’ll send you the spotify link if you like.
What is your favourite piece of music, and why do you love it?
Oh lord. This question! All the Mahler symphonies. Can I have all of them? Though if I had to pick one, probably 6… or 10. Both pieces are spilling over with emotion and drama, and the latter is one of the few works that genuinely make me cry every time and who doesn’t love a piece with the power to do that?