Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?
I was taught the piano by my Mum and my Grandad when I was little. They really got me into music. My music teachers when I was at school were also really important in inspiring my love for music and when I got to University and began conducting, Mark Heron and Justin Doyle were very encouraging. Noone ever told me to take up conducting, but I thought I’d enjoy doing it so I gave it a go and University and I never looked back!
Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?
I think the biggest influence for me at the moment is going to concerts that I have nothing to do with! It’s easy to forget to go to concerts for pleasure when your life and your ‘job’ is making music. Whenever I go to concerts that I’ve had nothing to do with, I always feel inspired; whether it’s because a piece in the programme particularly inspired me or because watching people making music is inspiring!
What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?
The most challenging thing for me is accepting that I’ve done enough preparation before I go to the first rehearsal. Quite simply, you can never know everything about a piece and there’s always more to learn!
The most fulfilling aspect is the feeling of making music with the players or singers in front of you, whether that’s in a rehearsal or in a performance.
As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?
I try my best to communicate as much as I can through my gestures in rehearsal. Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to explain with words!
How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?
I see my role as being one part of the ensemble. The players and singers will all have an interpretation to bring to the piece we’re rehearsing, so it’s important for me to consolidate my views about how the music should be played and how it’s sounding in the room at the moment. It’s a game of give and take really! Of course, I want to convey the voice of the composer and be true to what they wrote on the page as well. As the designated ‘leader’ in the rehearsal room and performance, it’s important to bring the right energy to the music and ensure I’m inspiring the players and singers so we’re all making the best music we can.
Is there one work which you would love to conduct?
There are many..! But I would love to conduct Belshazzar’s Feast and Mahler 8
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?
That really depends on what the concert is. I love performing with my chamber choir, Kantos, in various churches with amazing acoustics for choral music – we sang in absolutely stunning churches in Rome and Assisi when we went to record there. In Manchester, we’re so lucky to have the Bridgewater Hall and I’m looking forward to conducting the Hallé Youth Orchestra in there this year.
Who are your favourite musicians/composers?
I was so lucky to have masterclasses with Sir Mark Elder when I was studying at the RNCM; I find him a very inspiring musician.
My favourite composers this week are Sibelius and Pärt, but ask me next week and it will be different!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Making exciting music both in rehearsals and performances whatever the piece or the group or the level!