Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Not all audiences are the same: Rhys and Catherine

Fri Oct 19 2012

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We talk to audience member Rhys and OAE violinist Catherine Ford in the next of our audience/OAE player interview series…


Rhys portrait

Tell us a bit about you, your work and hobbies.

I’m currently a music student at Trinity Laban Conservatoire specialising in classical voice.  Outside of classical music I’m pursuing performance in cabaret and immersive theatre as well as writing my own poetry and fiction.  Find me online or on a stage near you as my alter ego, @OberonWhite.

If you could pick one concert to see in our 2012-2013 season which one would it be and why?

The Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers: French Exchange concert looks set to be a a highlight of the 2012-2013 season, a well balanced programme of some really amazing repertoire.

What’s the most listened-to track at the moment on your iPod (classical or non classical)?

In terms of classical I can’t get enough of Berio’s Quattro Canzoni Popolari.  Non classical has to be anything from St Vincent’s most recent album: Strange Mercy.



Cathy portrait

Tell us a bit about you, your work with the OAE and your hobbies outside of it.

I live near Crouch End in North London with my daughter Flora, though she’s about to go and work as a chalet girl for 5 months before going to university next year. Even she has a small claim to OAE history, when, as a 5-month-old baby with me on the Rattle European Tour, during an interminable wait for a delayed flight, Simon plucked her from my arms and took her for a ‘walk’ round the airport.  I started working with the OAE in 1987, and there was undoubtedly a sense that in OAE we were exploring uncharted orchestral territory, committed though many of us still were to the other period instrument orchestras we continued to work with.

The connection with Glyndebourne opera is one of the defining and, for me, sometimes one of the most rewarding aspects of OAE. The Orchestra’s education projects have been increasingly absorbing, be it participating in Baroque dance, or extracting the DNA from a kiwi fruit, or making a vast paper double-helix in a project linking Haydn’s Creation with scientific discoveries, or teaching violin in schools near King’s Cross. I have other teaching commitments outside the OAE, one of which led to my being invited, 4 years ago, to coach a newly-formed youth orchestra in Damascus. It was an incredible experience, with the discovery of some highly talented young musicians and the astounding ancient Syrian culture.

One of the boons of being a musician is the opportunity to travel, which means not just the 5am starts, delayed flights, endless airport queues, lost luggage, but sometimes seeing some of the best museums and art galleries, wonderful architecture and exotic street markets. I don’t really have the persistence to pursue a hobby, but love opera, theatre, walks on Hampstead Heath, reading, the V&A, cooking (recently I’ve been struggling to make sour-dough bread), eating other people’s delicious cooking, arranging music, trying to learn languages, and very inexpert roof-terrace gardening.

How was the experience of doing the photoshoot?

It’s always exciting to see Eric’s wonderful studio in East London. This occasion had an odd flavour of the circus about it. I arrived to discover my ‘photographic partner’, Rhys, resplendent in his costume and already in full make-up. He behaved most decorously when instructed to put his arm round my waist and asked if I minded!

Tell us about what you were wearing for the shoot.

A black Jean Muir dress from an intriguing vintage shop in Crouch End called Mishka, and some shoes from an unglamorous little shop down the road from the Gare du Nord that violinist Hetty Wayne and I used to visit when we did concerts in Paris.

How would you describe the OAE to a friend? How is it different to other orchestras you might play in or listen to?

It’s an Orchestra whose original ethos was so vital to us, which, at its best, offers the possibility of exploring sounds, styles and textures, and the creative ideas of the often astonishing musicians we’ve invited to conduct and direct us, and of learning from them …and from each other. Where else would it have been possible to work with such a diversity of musicians?

What’s been your favourite moment to date playing with the OAE? 

That’s an impossible question: it was a privilege working with Leonhardt, I remember an incredible Eroica with Bruggen, Ivan Fischer’s Beethoven; Wagner, Debussy and Berlioz with Simon Rattle, the Liszt with Elder. Equally inspiring was coming into contact with Peter Sellars and Lorraine Hunt when we did Theodora at Glyndebourne.

If you could pick one concert to see in our 2012-2013 season which one would it be and why?

Another difficult question; I admire Andras Schiff’s playing, or the Rameau programme – because I love Rameau, or the Creation.

What’s the most listened-to track at the moment on your ipod (classical or non classical)?

I mostly use my iPod for ‘homework’, to get to know repertoire we’ll be playing in OAE, or for teaching purposes. Listening at home, I return to Glen Gould playing the Goldberg Variations, Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Desafinado and Mozart piano concertos. And while writing this, I’ve listened to some of Lully’s Atys, and an old recording of Arlene Auger and Della Jones singing the wonderful final duet from Monteverdi’s Poppea.

Here’s a selection of pictures of Rhys and Cathy which didn’t quite make the cut. All pictures by Eric Richmond.

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