Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Sally Beamish: Speed interview

Tue Feb 7 2012

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"Veteran HIP ensemble"? We're 31 years young, thank you very much! performing.artshub.com.au/news-article/r…

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As we get ready for In the Spirit of Tradition at St Georges Bristol, we look back at our speed interview with Sally Beamish…


What/when was your big breakthrough?
When the Hebrides Ensemble performed my ‘Commedia’ in 1990 in Edinburgh. I had just moved to Scotland, and it signified my acceptance into Scottish musical life. I have always felt welcomed and supported.

What do you fear the most?
Letting people down.

Which mobile number do you call the most?
My son’s – he sorts out all my computer problems! – and is endlessly patient.

What – or where – is perfection?
I don’t think it exists in this life – that’s the point! Art comes from imperfection and frustration…

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. Absolute self-absorption transformed into life-embracing generosity.

What’s your favourite ritual?
A cup of tea in bed in the morning – especially when it’s not my turn to make it.

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
I would have to say Melanie Reid – she has turned unthinkable misfortune into an opportunity to inspire others.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
To be fluent in another language. (But I’ve come to the conclusion that Norwegian isn’t the way to go…)

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That making mistakes is part of life, and much more interesting than getting everything right. Mistakes take you to new and unexpected places.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?
Chris Stout and Catriona McKay ‘White Nights’. I recently worked with these astonishing Scottish traditional musicians, and the sound of the fiddle is something that has definitely fed into my approach to writing for strings. Interestingly, there’s a lot in common with Baroque bowing and ornamentation.

What’s the best thing about working with the OAE?
The players are receptive and collaborative. It’s chamber music and I feel like one of the team. There’s a lot of interest, enthusiasm and support coming back from them. And the clarity and honesty of the string sound is very special.

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