Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?
I grew up in rural Montgomeryshire and my father was a great influence. As a young boy his parents decided he should have piano lessons; he didn’t enjoy the piano lessons and threw his music bag in the river! He played by ear, sang with many choirs and enjoyed listening to a wide range of classical music – Mozart symphonies, Weber overtures, and Schubert masses, all at full volume!
As a tiny child I recall going to hear an orchestral concert and being fascinated by the string players’ bows which I thought were made of glass! During my school years I had piano lessons outside school and group violin lessons in school, initially sharing a violin with another pupil, but was fortunate during these years to have encouraging teachers – Ann Rowlands, Winfred Corrin, Richard Williams, Gill James and Derek Jackson. Another major influence was Eric Jones, the charismatic County Music Advisor at the time.
As a youngster I remember going to hear the County Youth Orchestra performing an open air concert at Gregynog. Included in the programme was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with soldiers firing cannons producing swathes of pink and green smoke.
What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?
Having gained a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to study violin and piano I found it challenging moving from such a rural area to an urban environment, and being surrounded by amazing students from Chethams, Wells Cathedral School and the Yehudi Menuhin School.
What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?
It’s important to find like-minded musicians to work with, particularly in chamber music where it’s vital that everyone’s voice should be heard. In my role as leader of Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra as well as in my teaching, I try to be encouraging whilst striving for the best possible standards. I encourage my students to join an ensemble as soon as possible to experience the sense of cooperative music-making and the thrill of the combination of sounds.
Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?
I love Bach, especially the unaccompanied violin sonatas and partitas. Mozart – his Requiem and Jupiter Symphony in particular, Brahms symphonies and Rachmaninov generally. Dvorak’s piano quintet – absolutely gorgeous – and a lot of Fauré, especially Cantique de Jean Racine.
Which works do you think you are able to perform best?
With the Rotherhurst piano quartet (read more below) we’ve recently been exploring repertoire. I absolutely love the Fauré C minor and the Bridge Phantasy Quartet. These allow for flexibility of approach coupled with a wealth of rich and varied sonorities and colours to explore. It’s difficult to beat the buzz from playing popular repertoire in a symphony orchestra to a large audience as was the case recently in a Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra concert at The Anvil with Yulia Chaplina performing Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto.
Which performances are you most proud of?
Following various lockdowns it was really special to perform to a live audience with SouthDowns Camerata in St Mary’s Church, Liss. We did two back-to-back live performances which were also live- streamed to a wide and appreciative audience thirsty for live music.
A few years ago I directed the Petersfield Area Schools’ String Orchestra (PASSO) in a Petersfield Festival Youth concert where we enjoyed some lively and upbeat repertoire by Peter Martin and collaborated with a drum kit player from TPS – I thoroughly enjoyed myself and so did the members of PASSO. Nothing beats performing chamber music with friends. We all really enjoyed our recent piano quartet recital at Stansted House.
What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?
The open-air concert I mentioned above at Gregynog was something of a catalyst for me, and it gave me the determination to practise the violin which enabled me to join the County Youth Orchestra when I was a bit older.
I loved the three-week tour to France with the Royal Northern Sinfonia. We performed in some amazing venues around Provence.
A memorable performance of Götterdämmerung directed by Daniel Barenboim at the Proms – he held the audience spellbound.
A few years ago we visited Vienna and one evening attended a chamber music concert performed by ‘Julia Fischer and friends’, followed by her performing the Mendelssohn concerto the following day.
On the last night of an ABRSM examining tour to Hong Kong a group of us went to hear Leila Josefowicz performing the Stravinsky violin concerto with the Hong Kong Phil – amazing!
What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?
Be prepared for a portfolio career. It’s a competitive environment and so you need to be utterly committed and resilient. Perhaps consider an initial degree in another subject area – you can always do music as a post-grad but not necessarily the other way round.
How would you define success as a musician?
By striving to be as communicative as you can in performance so that you really engage with your audience. As a teacher, by aiming to pass on your enthusiasm to your students and by always being encouraging.
Sue grew up in Mid-Wales, where she led the Powys Youth Orchestra and was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales for several years. She studied violin and piano at The Royal Northern College of Music for four years, graduating with honours. Post-graduate studies led to Sue gaining her PGCE and an MA in Applied Music Education with Distinction.
Sue worked in a variety of roles for Hampshire Music Service and was Head of Music at Churcher’s College Junior School for fourteen years. She examined for ABRSM for several years throughout the UK and internationally.
Sue is a Trustee of the Petersfield Musical Festival with responsibility for the administration of the Michael Hurd Fund for Young Musicians. She has a successful private teaching practice and is actively involved in chamber music giving regular recitals with the Rotherhurst Piano Quartet (see below) and the Speranza String Quartet. Sue leads Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra performing regularly at The Anvil and performs with SouthDowns Camerata.
About the Rotherhurst Ensemble
The Rotherhurst Ensemble was formed in around 2013 of music graduates local to the area and in addition to giving concerts in this area as some of us have connections with Wales we developed some concerts in North and Mid-Wales. It was a flexible ensemble depending on the venue and repertoire being performed but with a string quartet at its core, which became Speranza.
During the pandemic, Graham and I formed a ‘bubble’ with cellist Wendy Lowe and really enjoyed performing piano trios. As the lockdown restrictions were eased violist Janis Moore joined us and so in the last 12 months or so we have given several concerts as The Rotherhurst Piano Quartet. This year we’re performing in Buriton on 23 April, have a few events lined up in Norfolk and a potential couple of concerts in Wales once again.
Here are the bios of its players:
Janis Moore (viola) read music at Lancaster University studying violin with Paul Robertson, and viola with Paul Silverthorne of the Medici String Quartet. After graduating she continued her studies with Sidney Griller. Janis has taught for the Hampshire Music Service for many years. She plays with Solent Symphony Orchestra, Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra, South Downs Camerata and the Consort of Twelve and is much in demand as a chamber music player.
Wendy Lowe (cello) originally from Anglesey, was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, and read music at Cardiff University, studying cello with Sharon McKinley. She worked as a peripatetic cello teacher and freelance cellist in South Wales, working with the Welsh Sinfonia and the contemporary theatre group “Moving Being”. Now based in Hampshire, Wendy works as a cello teacher. She plays with the Solent Symphony Orchestra and the South Downs Camerata and gives regular chamber recitals with local ensembles.
Graham Bint (piano) studied organ and piano at the Royal College of Music where he was awarded the Geoffrey Tankard prize, and the Sawyer and Durrant prizes from the Royal College of Organists. Postgraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music followed. Graham has collaborated with the Rotherhurst Ensemble previously in repertoire for organ and strings and has greatly enjoyed exploring the piano trio and quartet repertoire with Sue, Janis and Wendy over recent months.