Our Member Focus series offers the chance to meet Trinity Orchestra’s players. We’ll be publishing a new Q&A with one of our musicians ahead of each of our concerts.
Q&A: Violinist and Leader Sally Telling
How long have you been playing with Trinity Orchestra, and how did you first get involved in it?
I have been with Trinity Orchestra for over thirty years now! I first came to play when Ron Corp was the conductor and I was already leading for him at Ealing Symphony Orchestra. Soon after, when Trinity’s Leader at the time left, Ron asked me if I would fill the seat and I`ve been sitting in it ever since! I think in that time I’ve only missed three concerts.
You’re leader of the orchestra. What responsibilities does this involve? What do you enjoy most about the role?
As leader I have to be like a mediator between the conductor and the orchestra, helping to convey the interpretation of the music. And of course I’m expected to play all the notes and come in at the right place! I have to make sure that everyone in the string section has bows going in the right direction so before the first rehearsal I clean up and put bowings in the front desk parts. I feel (and hope) that I am there to give confidence, help the orchestra to play their best and therefore enjoy the performance without anxieties. I also have to be fully committed, to be at every rehearsal and to help with any problems. In my time with Trinity I have especially enjoyed the opportunity to work with some terrific conductors and soloists and perform challenging big orchestral works to a high standard. The orchestra is like a big family to me and I’m the head of it!
You often have to play solos in concerts – how do you prepare for these? Do you have any pre-concert rituals or tips?
A lot of pieces have leader solos of a couple of bars here and there but a major solo such as Scheherazade, which we did last year, needs serious practice. I listen to recordings and watch performances on YouTube and then decide how I want to play it! A solo like Scheherazade demands characterisation so it’s a bit like being an actor as well. Sometimes I can get a bit nervous but nothing like I used to…. In my final year at music college I did a parachute jump and that sorted out any concert nerves. NOTHING is as scary as that! Performing a concert uses a lot of physical and mental energy so I always make sure I’ve eaten food high in energy and keep hydrated, very much like being an athlete!
Our next concert is an Opera Gala! Which of the pieces or composers are you particularly looking forward to playing?
I’m looking forward to this concert very much as I have always had a love of opera and the strength of feeling it inspires. Puccini gives us such wonderful, passionate melodies, Wagner and Verdi give us high drama and it is always a joy to play the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.
Sally performs in our Summer Opera Gala on Saturday 1 July – tickets available here.
Q&A: Tuba player and Chairman Adrian Parker
How long have you been playing with Trinity Orchestra, and how did you first get involved in it?
Although I am not a founder member, I started playing very early in the life of the orchestra and have played tuba, along with my wife Amanda in the violins, ever since. I think I have only missed two concerts in well over twenty years!
You’re currently Chairman of the orchestra. What do you enjoy most about this role?
Keith Grout (our Principal viola) and Fran Freer (Principal cello) had done great work as Chairs of the orchestra over many years. Until I stopped work, three years ago, I didn’t have time to properly commit to the orchestra, other than playing. I then volunteered to be Secretary, but found myself becoming Chair very soon after I started my secretarial role!
As Chair, I feel that I have done a decent job if, at the end of each concert, the conductor, the players and the audience feel that they have had an enjoyable musical experience. I always enjoyed listening to the pre-concert talks and have decided to play an active role in promoting the upcoming music and the future programmes in those talks. The feedback from the audience has been positive so far.
If you could put together your dream concert programme, what would it be?
I’ve been lucky enough to perform the Vaughan Williams tuba concerto twice with Trinity, so perhaps we shouldn’t include that again! A brass player’s delight might be Janáček’s Sinfonietta and Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony (which remains one of the few works I still haven’t played, but would love to!). Surprisingly, I might preface the heavy music with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, a beautiful miniature that I wish I’d written to celebrate the birth of our sons! Oh, and I’d be conducting!!
Why should someone come along to hear our next concert?
Our concert on 13 May is an opportunity to hear three really great works, full of tunes and conducted by a brilliant up-and-coming and, coincidentally, female conductor (which wrongly is still too much of a rarity in the classical music world). In addition, fifty years after quite a well-known Harrow singer (!) Dame Janet Baker first came to prominence singing Elgar’s Sea Pictures, we welcome another impressive local mezzo-soprano as our soloist – Victoria Simmonds.
What are your ambitions for Trinity Orchestra in the next few years?
I want the orchestra to continue the regular programme of concerts, with our fantastic Music Director John Andrews conducting the majority of our performances to develop a strong musical relationship with the orchestra, but also welcoming a range of guest conductors to bring periodic freshness. Financing concerts, especially newer music, is always an issue, but I hope that each season will include at least one concert to stretch the orchestra beyond its more comfortable repertoire.
I am also anxious to at least maintain and, if possible, increase our audience numbers. The orchestra is a local musical gem and we need to seek all ways to bring in the local residents who enjoy going to classical concerts.
I will also be looking for ways to increase the public exposure of the orchestra. Recently a good number of our gentlemen – for periodic reasons only – members participated in the filming of a TV adaption of Howards End for the BBC. Watch out for a minor credit when it’s broadcast in the autumn!
Q&A: Cellist Emily Farrell
How old were you when you started playing the cello? Why did you choose that instrument?
I was seven when I requested and got permission to start learning cello in the next school year, and 8 by the time I had my first lesson (with local legend Pamela Moody). I fell in love with it in a school assembly, when a girl in the top year at my school played for us. I think she’s a professional player now. My parents had a few goes at persuading me I might like something smaller, as parents will, but I was determined I wanted one, and I’ve never been sorry about my pick – although they do seem to get heavier the further you carry them, especially when the weather’s not good.
Do you come from a musical family?
Both of my parents were semi-professional players when I was a kid, but I think they’re both first generation musicians in their own families. One of the reasons I wanted to learn an instrument when I was little was to “read the stories” in my mum’s other books. My mum, Janet, plays in Trinity Orchestra too, on the viola (something like her seventh instrument!). She’s from the USA, and her permission to live and work in the UK was originally granted as an oboe teacher in Oxford. It’s quite a specialised job. My dad is a former champion Scottish bagpiper, who still plays for local Burns Nights. We haven’t used him for a Trinity concert yet, but you never know…
When did you join Trinity Orchestra? How did you first get involved in it?
I was invited to join a few days before a concert, during a period of cello shortage about 15 years ago (during the 21st anniversary season, I think). Luckily the orchestra was doing a season of Brahms symphonies and the one they were up to I’d done in HSYM Phil (as it was called then) a few years earlier. I grew up around Harrow, as you can probably tell from the local references – there was a conspiracy of parents to keep me playing, and getting out of the house, when I had children quite young, which was very kind of everybody who helped. I think I’ve missed one, or maybe two concerts since then – I’ve been through a lot of desk partners in that time!
We’re currently looking for more string players – what would you say to someone who’s thinking of joining the orchestra?
We serve real coffee! I’m also living proof that the “Grade 8 Standard” we recommend for string players is a guideline, not a rule. I stopped grades after 7, to concentrate on GCSEs and orchestral playing. We’re looking for people who can sight-read through symphonies at 7pm after a day at work (making roughly their fair share of mistakes) – not necessarily paper qualifications. We get the chance to perform fantastic repertoire with some amazing soloists and conductors – it’s really satisfying to be part of such high-quality concerts.
Q&A: Principal Flute Kenneth Bell
How old were you when you started playing the flute and what attracted you to the instrument?
I began piano lessons as a young child and when I was about 12 I became fascinated by orchestras and wind bands. I wanted to learn a woodwind or brass instrument and my school had a flute available and a visiting woodwind teacher.
You’ve been Principal Flautist and Bandmaster of the Royal Air Force Central Band and done much freelance work – what have been your personal performance highlights of your career?
Playing Mahler under a young Simon Rattle in my pre-RAF BBC Scottish days, performing a concerto with the Royal Philharmonic in the RFH, working with superb composers such as Joseph Horovitz, Cecilia McDowall and Philip Sparke and playing in many world premiere performances, and also giving Masterclasses at Trinity (pre-Laban) and London Colleges of Music and Gothenberg Conservatoire. As an RAF Musician and subsequently a TCL Examiner I have worked in over 25 different countries.
How long have you been playing in Trinity Orchestra and how did you first get involved?
When I was invited to join RAF Central Band as a Flautist they were based at RAF Uxbridge and I was soon invited to play with orchestras in the West London area (and further afield) in my spare time. I first played with Trinity Orchestra in 1982 and have been there ever since! It’s a true family affair as my wife Alison is our Principal Oboist and daughter Fiona is in the cello section.
The orchestra plays to a high standard and does interesting repertoire with talented conductors – I have played many memorable concerts with Musical Directors Paul Watkins and Michael Murray and guests such as Ian Brown and Colin Lawson. The mix of players is unique – professionals, retired professionals, teachers, students and gifted amateurs. It’s a pleasure to be working with our new MD, John Andrews, who has got some interesting and unusual programmes planned.
You’ll be starring as soloist in our concert on 28 January 2017. Could you tell us a bit about Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp?
The Flute and Harp Concerto is probably the lightest in style of all Mozart’s concerti, for any instrument. It is supremely elegant, lyrical and polished and it is hard to believe that the composer was going through a stressful and professionally frustrating time when he composed it. It’s the only time Mozart wrote for the harp and it inspired composers in the 19th and 20th centuries to write for flute and harp, creating some wonderful repertoire – particularly from Debussy and Ravel.