Thomas Gould

Performer Focus: Thomas Gould

Firebird Well Seasoned is the apt title for the next concert on 8 February which will be directed from the violin by Thomas Gould – ‘one of the most talented and charismatic British violinists of younger generation’.

British violinist Thomas combines an international solo career with leading Britten Sinfonia. Born and bred in London in 1983, he studied with György Pauk at the Royal Academy of Music. He credits his sister Clio Gould with his choice of career, telling The Daily Telegraph in April 2011:

‘… it was inspirational, but more in a social than a musical way. Clio was always bringing these really lively, interesting people home to rehearse. It seemed an exciting life she was leading, and I wanted to do something similar.’

Thomas enjoys a unusually versatile career, with Fiona Maddocks describing him in The Observer as:

‘… a top soloist, happy to tackle old or new repertoire in concert hall or tramshed with symphony orchestra or accordion’.

Although Thomas’s first love is the classical repertoire, he also performs in many other musical genres, with jazz increasingly an important strand of his career.

Contemporary music is another key interest and Thomas premiered numerous works by composers including Nico Muhly, whose concerto for six-string electric violin, Seeing is Believing, Thomas recorded with Aurora Orchestra in 2011 to critical acclaim.

So how to describe this rather eclectic approach to music making? In a 2013 interview with Christopher Morley of the Birmingham Post he said:

‘It was much later that I began to apply this knowledge to the violin, having always – wrongly – thought that the violin wasn’t a jazz instrument. Now I’m in the luxurious position of being able to get up and jam at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club having just played a recital at Wigmore Hall. But I’m definitely a classical violinist first and foremost. I think my classical playing has benefited massively from working with musicians outside classical music.’

Thomas Gould has also performed as soloist and director with Sinfonietta Riga, with whom he recorded Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending.

And on the other side of the musical spectrum he has worked with Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright and Burt Bacharach.

‘One of the most talented and charismatic British violinists of the younger generation’.
– London’s Evening Standard

Firebird Well Seasoned

St George’s, Hanover Square, London
Thursday 8 February, 7.30pm

Antonio Vivaldi
Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons)

Astor Piazzolla
Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)

Directed from the violin by Thomas Gould


Adriana Cristea

Musician of the Month: Adriana Cristea

Coming from a family of musicians, Adriana Cristea was first taught by her mother when she was 5 years old. In this edition we hear more about her musical career from that point forward…

Let’s start by hearing about your musical training and current orchestral playing…

My mother was my first violin teacher and since then my studies took off leading to the completion of my Masters of Music Degree with Distinction at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester under Yossi Zivoni. Alongside my years of musical studies I played in numerous concerts and music competitions that contributed to my professional development as a performer at the same time.

How long have you been involved with London Firebird Orchestra and what other groups are you involved with?

I first played with the Firebird Orchestra in 2015 and collaborating with this amazing ensemble has been extremely valuable as part of my career as a freelance performer in London. Other ensembles I play with include the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of London.

Adriana Cristea

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date.

In terms of solo playing I would list my recital at Saint Martin-in-the-Fields in 2016, a masterclass with Viktoria Mullova, as well as the first prize, special prize and ‘George Enescu’ medal at the Remember Enescu International Violin Competition.

With my ensemble playing I would list playing with the RNCM Symphony Orchestra under Krzysztof Penderecki himself at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and a concert tour in 2016 to Italy, Israel and Palestine with the Young Musicians European Orchestra under Paolo Olmi and Matthieu Mantanus.

Adriana Cristea

What do you see as the value of an organisation like London Firebird to younger professional musicians like yourself?

Firstly, it is the high quality of each concert that makes each instrumentalist play with energy and dedication, going beyond the text of the music.

Secondly, it is the team work and friendly atmosphere that makes its members feel at home during rehearsals and concerts.

Another valuable aspect is the wide variety of repertoire that makes each player’s experience grow with every concert. This also has a positive impact on the audience, as they have the chance to listen to different pieces of music.

I also enjoy the fact that London Firebird Orchestra’s dress code is always colourful, which adds more creativity, life and originality to the image of the Orchestra.

And finally, congratulations to Marc Corbett-Weaver and to the organisers, sponsors and benefactors of the London Firebird Orchestra for contributing to the activity of the amazing ensemble!

George English

Musician of the Month: George English

George started playing with Firebird as an extra percussionist 4 years ago but for the last season he has been timpanist. In this newsletter we hear more about the musical career of this Kent born musician…

Let’s start by hearing about your musical training and current orchestral playing…

I was very lucky to study for 5 years at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama which gave me a wonderful opportunity to be on the Orchestral Artistry Masters course in conjunction with the London Symphony Orchestra. Since leaving I have been privileged to work with some of the top orchestras in the country, including the Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Concert Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra.

What else are you involved with in the world of music?

In addition to my orchestral playing, I spend a large proportion of my career within the theatre, having worked on various productions in the West End. I thoroughly enjoy the chance to collaborate with actors and dancers and to really get to the heart of the narrative and soundscape of a work.

I am currently percussionist for Sheffield Crucible’s production of ‘Wizard of Oz’ and I’m a member of the Percussion Ensemble of London. I also play in a trio with comedienne and actress Josie Lawrence and am a regular member of the house band for the Bateaux London Thames Cruise company.

George English

Tell us about some of the highlights in your career to date…

The world of percussion is always so varied with each new day bringing a new set of challenges and opportunities. Highlights must include stepping onstage at the Adelphi and Haymarket Theatres to perform in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ – a National Theatre production starring James Corden – with a 1960s suit, slicked hair and only a washboard and a pair of spoons, it’s not something I’ll forget!

Performing Britten’s ‘Billy Budd’ at Cornwall’s at the Endellion Festival with Sir John Tomlinson, Mark Padmore and Roddy Williams in a tiny church on the Cornish coast is not something I will ever forget, truly extraordinary.

Perhaps my two most memorable experiences though have had a more somber note, having played in memorial concerts for Sir John Taverner, at Southwark Cathedral with the Icelandic Chamber Choir, and Sir Colin Davis at the Barbican with 45 brass players performing Strauss’ ‘Festmusik der Stadt Wien’ to open the LSO’s celebration concerts that were also broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

And what about your ambitions for the future?

I am a very ordinary guy and I feel hugely lucky to be working at something I love. Although it’s not always easy, I adore what I do. I always aspire to do wider and greater things and am constantly reading and listening as much as I can, to absorb all styles and methods of music and art. I would love to have a more long-term orchestral job, and within that an individual voice.

I would also love to spend time educating and inspiring future generations of musicians. I have always been incredibly fortunate to have a supportive and inspirational family and teachers and I believe that it is my responsibility to pass on what they gave to me.

George English

Finally, what do you see as the value of an organisation like London Firebird to younger professional musicians like yourself?

For me, Firebird captures the spirit of a youth orchestra, with the flexibility, discipline and ability of a professional orchestra. That combination of high level talent and also fiery passion and, at times, terrifying energy creates music making that really stimulates the love we have for our art form.

On a more personal note, the chance to play in a smaller orchestra is not something that I as a percussion player am able to do very often. Chamber orchestras and earlier romantic and classical works rarely feature more than timpani and so professionally those spots are reserved for principal players. To be able to explore the symphonies of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Haydn etc. is not something I thought I would be able to do at my age and so it’s incredible to have the opportunity to do so; and even better to do so with friends.

Agata Darashkaite

Musician of the Month: Agata Darashkaite

The opening concert of Firebird’s 2017-18 season saw violinist Agata Daraskaite’s debut appearance as leader of the Orchestra. In this newsletter we find out more about her musical life…

Let’s start by hearing about your musical training and professional development…

Having moved to the UK at the age of 14 and studied at both the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Royal College of Music in London, I feel like I’ve spent the best part of my musical training in this country. I discovered my love for chamber music while at school and also pursued some studies in baroque violin during my master’s degree. This both broadened my understanding of music and widened my instrumental skills at the same time.

Agata Darashkaite

How long have you been involved with Firebird and what other chamber and orchestral groups are you involved with?

I originally played with the London Firebird Orchestra at the start of my studies at the Royal College. During my undergraduate studies I auditioned for the Kremerata Baltica, which I joined as a permanent member in 2014 so I’ve spent the last couple of years traveling the world and exploring lots of chamber orchestra repertoire. It’s been a real pleasure to come and play with the London Firebird Orchestra as leader and to tackle some of the amazing orchestral repertoire together.

Tell us one of the highlights of your career to date…

I am absolutely delighted that my string quartet – the Consone Quartet – has been doing so well recently. What makes us a little bit different is that we play repertoire of the classical and romantic eras on gut strings and using bows of the period. We were the ensemble prize winners at the ROSL competition last year and are recording our first CD on the French Ambronay label next year.

Hear the Consonne Quartet perfoming music by Haydn and Schubert:

And what about your ambitions for the future?

I really enjoy traveling and playing music which has included performing in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, North and South Americas. It’s not an easy lifestyle but I count myself lucky to be able to earn money doing what I love doing most! I hope to be able to carry on making music and sharing it with audiences around the world – and perhaps one day start a little music and arts festival too!

Finally, what do you see as the value of an organisation like London Firebird to younger professional musicians like yourself?

London Firebird Orchestra provides the younger musicians a possibility to learn new orchestral repertoire, to meet fellow musicians, build contacts and to work with so many different artists including some great soloists and conductors.

He Wu

Soloist Feature: He Wu

With just a few days to go before our 2017-18 launch concert La Vie Parisienne on 10 October, we feature the Chinese soprano He Wu who will be performing famous arias by Offenbach and Bizet…

Chinese-born soprano He Wu started her career as a child star. Her selection as a Young Artist at the National Opera Studio brought her to London where she was supported by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She then studied at the Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and Royal College of Music International Opera School.

After being selected as a Samling Scholar, in 2015 she won the Lies Askonas Singing Competition, the Voice of China European Competition, and was a finalist in the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Competition, as well as the Francisco Viñas International Singing Competition.

Here is a sample of this wonderful voice from Massenet’s opera Manon with ‘Je marche sur tous le chemins’:

On the concert platform she has sung as soloist in the Beethoven Symphony No.9 with the Wiener Symphoniker, Mahler Symphony No.2 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Vivaldi Gloria and Mozart Exsultate Jubilate with the Amersham Festival Orchestra, Beethoven Mass in C and Choral Fantasy at St John’s Smith Square, and the Classical Morning concert at Royal Albert Hall.

He Wu

He Wu has also given recitals in the LSO Schubert Series at the Barbican Centre, ‘Opera Roots’ at the King’s Place and ‘Opera Night’ at Mallorca Music Festival, Spain. She also gave recitals in Barcelona, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Abu Dhabi.

Here are some of He Wu’s major opera engagements to date:
• Daiyu in the Chinese première of San Francisco Opera production ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’
• Receptionist in the ENO’s world première of Tansy Davies’s ‘Between Worlds’
• Königen der Nacht in ‘Die Zauberflöte’ at the RCM Britten Theatre
• Marie in ‘La Fille du Régiment’;
• Princesse & Le Feu in ‘L’enfant et les sortilèges’.
• Diana in ‘Giove in Argo’ at the London Handel Festival
• Susanna in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ with Opera North
• Amor in ‘Orfeo ed Eurydice’ at the Longborough Festival Opera.

Meeting Madame Peng

Meeting Madame Peng

During President Xi’s 2015 visit to the UK, He Wu was honoured to be invited to sing for the First Lady of China Madam Peng at the Royal College of Music. First Lady Peng Liyuan is a famous folk singer in her native China.

Aleksei Kiseliov

Soloist feature: Aleksei Kiseliov

In this edition we focus on Belarusian cellist Aleksei Kiseliov who will be performing Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto no. 1 in Firebird’s opening season concert La Vie Parisienne on 10 October.

Born in Belarus in 1985, Aleksei began his musical studies when he was only 5 years old at the Republican Music College with Vladimir Perlin. He gave his first public recital aged 8 and a year later toured Holland as a soloist with the Chamber Orchestra of the Republican Music College.

La Trianon

La Trianon

In 1997 Aleksei was a prize-winner at the Tchaikovsky International Youth Competition in St Petersburg and became ‘Belarus Pupil of the Year’, a scholar of the President’s Fund of Belarus and received a special prize from the Vladimir Spivakov Fund. By the age of 13 he was performing as a soloist in Paris’ venues such as Cortot Hall and Trianone Theatre.

In 2000, Aleksei began studying with Tilman Wick in Hannover and 3 years later moved to London to study with Prof. Jerome Pernoo at the Royal College of Music. In London he won numerous competitions and awards. Meanwhile, his solo and concert work was developing in Europe, UK, USA as well as in his home country of Belarus.

“Aleksei Kiseliov’s performance was just sublime. 
Clearly, a great future awaits him”

– Dame Judi Dench

From 2007 Aleksei studied with Raphael Wallfisch at the RCM followed by Natalie Clein at Trinity Laban, and the following year began directing his own International Music Festival ‘Melodrama’ in London and Minsk.

Aleksei Kiseliov

Aleksei Kiseliov

Since 2011, Aleksei combines his solo career with his orchestral role as a Principal Cellist of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, where he regularly performs as a soloist and in chamber groups. He also teaches at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

And Firebird Friends will be in for a real treat at our 2017/18 season launch event at a central London gallery on 27 September. Aleksei will be joining us the reception and will perform the Prelude from J S Bach’s Cello Suite No 6.

If you are not already a Firebird Friend this is the perfect opportunity to join and share in a range of benefits as well as help support the development of Firebird.

Tom Blomfield

Musician of the Month: Tom Blomfield

We are absolutely thrilled with the news that our very own Tom Blomfield has been appointed joint principal at The Philharmonia Orchestra where he will share the position of Principal Oboe with Gordon Hunt.

In addition to playing with London Firebird Orchestra, Tom has played as principal oboe in a number of projects with the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra with Edward Gardner, Oliver Knussen and Sir Mark Elder. In his second year at the RAM, Tom was selected to play principal oboe in the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble with Trevor Pinnock, in a  project that culminated in a release on Linn Records of Mozart’s Serenade for 13 Winds in B Flat.

Rising star

Originally from North Wales, in 2012 Tom became the Gregynog Young Musician and Chester Young musician, gaving solo recitals at the Machynlleth and Tenby music festivals and at the Wesley Chapel in Chester. 

In the same year, he appeared as soloist in the Vaughan Williams and Boughton oboe concertos.

Tom has appeared as guest principal oboe with the London Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra, and has performed with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Sinfonia Cymru. At the age of 22, Tom joins the Philharmonia in September 2017.

“We are delighted that Tom is joining the Philharmonia Orchestra. The members were hugely impressed with Tom’s performances with the Orchestra, and we look forward to welcoming him.”

– Kira Doherty, Chair of the Philharmonia Orchestra

Tom has also been involved in various Firebird outreach projects including the wind quintet workshop project performing and recording student compositions at Middlesex University in 2016

Make sure you have the dates in your diary for the London Firebird Orchestra’s 2017-18 concert series.

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Owen Nicolaou

Musician of the Month: Owen Nicolaou


Double bassist Owen Nicolaou is a relatively recent recruit to the London Firebird Orchestra. We discover more about his developing musical career…

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your training to date

I started learning the double bass at school when I was 15, and I enjoyed taking part in local, county, and national youth orchestras, before auditioning to study in London.

I am currently studying the double bass at the Royal College or Music, and I am enjoying the wide variety of London’s musical life. I am trying my hand at everything I can from period performance to experimental music. So far I haven’t come across anything that I haven’t enjoyed.

2. How long have you been involved with London Firebird Orchestra?

It was only recently that I played my first concert with the Orchestra with performances of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. Since then, I’ve been part of a couple of other performances with Firebird, and have enjoyed every one immensely.

Owen Nicolaou

3. What other music ensembles and orchestras are you involved with?

Since beginning my studies in London, I have been playing lots of chamber music with the Temple Ensemble, including a very enjoyable tour of Southern France last Summer, where we played works by Beethoven, Schubert, Handel, and Mozart. I have also played with several interesting orchestras including the Arch Sinfonia, Silk Street Sinfonia, and London Young Sinfonia.

4. Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date

The most fun I’ve had so far was playing Schubert’s Octet in the Wigmore Hall with the Temple Ensemble. The other great thing about college has to be playing amazing works with incredible conductors. My favourite to date was Sibelius’ 5th Symphony with Nicholas Collon. As well as orchestral playing, I have been chosen to play solo repertoire in masterclasses to world renowned bass players, such as Rick Stotijn, Paul Ellison, and David Moore. I have found that I always learn a huge amount, as every teacher on the bass seems to be able to bring an entirely fresh perspective on any aspect of music.

Owen Nicolaou

5. And what are your future ambitions in music?

Currently I am getting a taste of everything at College and having an incredible timed time playing Opera, Jazz, Historical Performance, Contemporary… The list goes on! My hope is to play regularly in a major symphony orchestra in London, but I am far from deciding that that is my final goal.

6. Finally, what do you see as the value of an orchestra like London Firebird to younger professional musicians like yourself?

Playing with London Firebird is an excellent opportunity for students like myself to experience working with incredible soloists. I found myself learning so much about music just listening to clarinetist Matthew Hunt for example, and also working with conductors, and other orchestra members outside the conservatoire environment. I am also experiencing new music, meeting new people, and trying out new approaches to the music we are playing. I have had the time of my life playing with Firebird, and I hope I am able to continue doing so for a long time!

Michael Thrift, Suzanne Fischer, George Jackson, Lance Mok

Artists Update July 2017

In this edition we catch up with a selection of some of the wonderful musicians who have performed with the London Firebird Orchestra in the past season to hear more about what they have been up to in their careers and their plans for the year ahead…

Michael Thrift: Conductor

Michael conducted Celestial Grandeur on 13 June, the final concert in our 2016-17 season with works by Mozart, Grieg and Beethoven and featuring piano soloists Marc Corbett-Weaver.

Michael Thrift

Michael Thrift

“I’m delighted to have been appointed Music Director of Ormond Opera (based in Richmond) after a very successful Madama Butterfly last year as guest conductor. I’m also looking forward to competing in the Blue Danube Opera Conducting Competition in July in – of all places – Bulgaria. It’s a two week-long competition and features excerpts from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Saint Saens Samson et Dalila, Mozart’s Die Entführung aus den Serail and a new opera Orpheus by John Robertson.

“Later this year I’ll be tackling two big operatic cornerstones with two different companies: Lucia di Lammermoor with Fulham Opera and Carmen with Ormond Opera. Looking further ahead, I have also been booked to conduct Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West in 2020) and Bellini’s I Puritani in 2022.”

Suzanne Fischer: Soprano

Suzanne was our soloist in February’s From London to Vienna conducted by George Jackson when she performed arias from Mozart’s operas Cosí fan Tutte and Le Nozze di Figaro.

“After completing a tour of the UK with English Touring Opera as Lady Saphir in Patience, I’m looking forwad to an exciting autumn with Strauss at the Aldeburgh festival, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem with Oxford Lieder Festival and scenes as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Prussian Chamber Orchestra. Looking ahead to summer 2018 I am very excited to be making my debut with Longborough Festival Opera.”

Suzanne Fischer

Suzanne Fischer

George Jackson: Conductor

George conducted From London to Vienna on 12 February featuring music by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Haydn with Violinist, Benjamin Baker and Soprano Suzanne Fischer.

“Currently, I’m hopping between Hamburg and Leeds and in mid-July I will be conducting the world premiere of Immer Weiter, an exciting new opera at Hamburg’s Staatsoper. I am also involved in the revival of Opera North’s stunning production of Britten’s Billy Budd for the Aldeburgh Festival.

George Jackson

George Jackson

“This season, I joined the music staff of Opera Rara, a fascinating London-based company who unearth rare and forgotten works by bel canto era composers. I am also beginning a new position at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien as Head of Music and Assistant Conductor, working principally on Robert Carsen’s new production of Berg’s Wozzeck.

“In Italy, I am a regular guest at the Haydn Orchestra di Bolzano, and conducted their winter and spring regional tours with Tchaikovsky’s 1st Symphony and Beethoven’s Eroica.  I look forward to returning as guest conductor this summer for three weeks of open-air concerts.

“In Romania I brought the Enigma Variations to Cluj-Napoca and the Transylvanian Philharmonic back in May, and I look forward to returning next with Schumann’s Fourth Symphony. This was my last season as the Sir Charles Mackerras Fellow at Trinity Laban. I really enjoyed performing Nino Rota’s ‘La Strada’, complete with orchestral choreography, as well as a side-by-side concert of Nutcracker highlights with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.”

Lance Mok: Composer

Lance’s Two Loves was the winner of this year’s Firebird Composer of the Year Competition which received its World Premiere on 16 March as part of Heroics and Hijinx conducted by Nicolas Nebout.

Lance Mok

Lance Mok

“Over the past few months I have been busy preparing for exams, but I am now working on some new song cycles based on Shakespeare’s sonnets. Each of these will feature a less-commonly-used obbligato instrument. One of these will feature a chromatic harmonica, so I am looking forward to visiting Taipei and Seoul this summer where I will be working with harmonicist Gordon Lee and his students to expose myself more intensively to the sounds and technical possibilities of the instrument.

“On the performance side, I am planning recital programmes mixing contemporary music and works more in the traditional repertoire. Featuring works by Ligeti, Liszt and Scriabin, I plan to present this in London after the summer.”

Ben Voce (pictured by Nick Rutter)

Musician of the Month: Ben Voce

Ben Voce is one of our orchestral viola players – but it turns out that was actually quite a recent decision as he was studying on a Maths degree course at Imperial College London. In this interview we find out more about how Ben came to be a viola player with the London Firebird Orchestra.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your training to date.

Getting a place at Imperial College London worked out quite well because I got a scholarship to have my lessons at the Royal College of Music with Jonathan Barritt. Maybe because viola players are always in demand and also due to the kindness of the RCM by the time I graduated I had appeared as principal viola of the RCM Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras, played in viola and chamber music masterclasses and had many chamber groups at the college.

This was a great education and even though I did a Maths degree I was still able to enjoy the full music college life. I am currently studying privately with Martin Outram and am considering going back to do a masters in viola somewhere.

Ben Voce in the orchestra

Ben Voce in the orchestra

How long have you been involved with London Firebird Orchestra and what other music ensembles/orchestras are you currently involved with?

I first played with Firebird in October 2016 as co-principal viola. I was actually covering for a friend of mine who couldn’t do it, which turned out to be quite lucky! I’ve been playing as principal viola since then.

I do a lot of chamber music mainly. I consider that the real home of the viola, which is sometimes a slightly under appreciated instrument in solo and orchestral repertoire. I’ve always played in string quartets and been attending festivals and courses. At the moment I’m involved with Maiastra who are a group that put on string chamber music concerts.

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date.

I suppose as a viola player you always remember the concertos when you get the chance to do them. Playing the Bowen concerto with my school orchestra and the Trinity College of Music Junior Department orchestra in 2013 was quite big for me, but of course you always remember your first time… Since then, playing the Telemann concerto at the Royal Albert Hall in 2016 was wonderful and I’ll always remember some very happy summers spent at the Dartington Summer Festival with string quartets.

What are your ambitions in music (or any other field)?

About half way through my degree I realised a city maths job wasn’t for me and I am now settled on a career in music, but not necessarily exclusively viola playing. My teacher says that these days musicians need more of a “portfolio existence” anyway. I am really very drawn to conducting but I’m not sure yet what form this will take.

Ben Voce playing

Ben Voce playing

I’m thinking of setting up a small group to play modern music which I’d conduct and then play the viola for classical repertoire. Anything I do will include some viola playing and I’d love to be a chamber musician and play in chamber orchestras, but conducting seems like the greater long term prospect at the moment.

Finally, what do you see as the value of Firebird to younger professional musicians like yourself?

Orchestras like Firebird play an important role in bridging the gap between college and professional working life. The opportunity to learn repertoire and work when you’re either still in college or have just left is really good experience. However, the social side of it also shouldn’t be underestimated. By playing in these orchestras you meet young musicians from other colleges and make good friends and contacts – and that is essential in all walks of life.