Are two violin players in a family better than one? Can two brothers go on tour together and come back on speaking terms? We get the low-down from family members who have participated in AYO programs together – and survived to tell the tale.
Sisters Elizabeth (Arts Administration, AYO NMC 2012) and Clare Cooney (violin, AYO NMC 2014) have two very different violin-playing styles. ‘Liz has a very delicate tone and fantastic bowing technique, so she’s good at Mozart. Whereas I have a more mellow tone, so I’m more into Romantic music.’ For Clare, having Elizabeth at NMC (2014) was inspiring because ‘she loves being the librarian and I got to see her in her environment doing what she does so well.’ For Elizabeth, ‘I loved seeing Clare so inspired. And she was always looking out for me, bringing me bottles of water and shopping for me.’ Did they play in the famous cricket match? ‘Yes, but it was scary because we’d heard all the injury horror stories. Lachlan Bramble really hits the ball hard.’
Partners Adrian Wallis (cello) and Alexandra D’Elia Stender’ (violin), met in the 1986 AYO season but never actually spoke – because Adrian had laryngitis. ‘So nobody knew me very well.’ Alex loved participating as a 16-year-old in the 1984 European tour, where ‘we were thrown in the deep end but just coped because we wanted to give our best.’ Son Felix played double-pass in this year’s NMC, including the amazing Petrushka, where ‘having the background really helped – the ideas and character made us engage with the piece.’ Adrian sums up the AYO experience: ‘Once you’ve played a piece of music at AYO, it’s in your blood forever’.
Muhamed Mehmedbasic was attracted to the double-bass because it ‘merged my interest in classic music with being drawn to bass lines in popular music.’ Brother Ennes decided on the oboe, ‘partially because none of my friends knew what an oboe was.’ AYO highlights? Muhamed: ‘Playing with Sir Mark Elder, who would fire us up and then get us to douse our youthful fervour with a cool head’. Ennes: ‘In the Concertgebouw (2013 AYO Tour), no matter which reed I used, the sound was beautiful.’ Any problems being together on tour? ‘No, as second brother Ennes had the privilege of having the second-best bed in every hotel room.’
Siblings Alexander and Samantha Chiu have always shared ideas about playing the violin. ‘When I did my first camp (in 2013) it was great having Alex there because he could give me advice about the pieces; it was like having a second teacher.’ It’s a role Alex enjoys, because ‘teaching makes you reflect on your own practice.’ For Alex, one AYO highlight was High Art with James Morrison (AYO February 2014) – ‘the most fun I’ve ever had, playing an Australian contemporary work’. And Sam was inspired by Richard Gill quoting Samuel Beckett’s wonderful lines: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’
Self-motivation has never been a problem for twins Justin (viola) and James (clarinet) Julian. ‘Our parents sometimes tell us we’re practising too much.’ Justin was attracted to the viola because ‘it has the warm sonority of the cello with the technical facility of the violin, and I loved the sound.’ As a child, James attended a jazz performance and ‘looked up to see the jazz clarinet player having so much fun on stage’. During the 2014 AYO February orchestral season, Justin learnt from the tutors ‘the importance of putting musicality into every note I play.’ And for James, ‘we were so lucky having Alexander Bloch (at NMC) – he’s young but with the mind of a Maestro twice his age.’
Read more AYO Alumni stories here.