Spotlight on Sarah Matthews

We sat down with Sarah Matthews, Conductor of Endeavour Strings, ahead of her preparation for the Autumn Concert. Here's what she had to say...

What do you enjoy most about Conducting Endeavour Strings?

I really enjoy seeing the transformation of these young children throughout the year. They come into the group at a very beginner level - I think the record is a current member, who had been having group lessons for about 1 term prior to joining. They leave the group with an understanding of ensemble playing as a team effort, their playing improves and they are eager to continue on into other groups. The most important aspect for me is that they have been exposed to music, not just from their own playing, but listening to other groups and do develop a love of music that will last a whole lifetime - a little love goes a long way!

What has been your involvement with the TYO to this point?

I moved to Tasmania in October 2013 and joined the TYO as part of the conducting team almost straight away and have maintained this role to date. I try to initiate exciting projects for the group, one of which was playing at aged care homes. They really enjoy these events and the residents love watching these young children perform and having a chat with them afterwards. It is good for both the players and the residents. I am trying to dream up some way of combining the group with a sporting event, as I have some really cool pieces based around sports themes. Any ideas would be really welcome!

What is your favourite piece of music?

This is a tricky question as I am a self-confessed music addict, and I listen to pieces for different reasons. I would say one of the all-time greats and a big energy high for me is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, but if I’m feeling a bit challenged by life situations I may want to listen to some Shostakovich (the 8th string quartet, for example) to experience this remarkable composer’s depth, immense tenacity and ability to triumph over relentless persecution. If I am in awe of nature I may listen to Sibelius’ violin concerto or a later symphony of Dvorak. For sheer beauty of sound and an emotional poignancy I would listen to Vaughan-Williams' The Lark Ascending (performed by Hugh Bean on solo violin) although I am usually a basket-case afterwards! For a cleansing of the soul I may listen to a choral work such as Spem in Alium, by Thomas Tallis, or to go really deep into the stratosphere I like to listen to the Sarod music of Mrs Sharma and the ragas of Bhajan Sopori on Santoor, but maybe that is a bit deep!

What is your dream piece to perform?

I find with any type of performing that the experience is very strong, spontaneous (if it is going well) and direct. For this reason, with conducting, I would choose a piece that is very harmonious, whose energy ‘plays the players,’ such as Mozart’s Symphony No.40 or one of his piano concertos. As a tremendous mental and technical challenge, I would like to have a go at The Rite of Spring, but I’m not sure that Stravinsky would appreciate it, with all the changes of metre virtually every bar! In chamber music, to perform a late Beethoven String Quartet to a high standard is a personal ambition and also for many other string players, no doubt. He is a tough taskmaster and his music is so concise, making tremendous demands of the players and achieving a depth of vision and height of energy that is unparalleled by even other great composers (in my opinion). For solo pieces, I would love to perform The Protecting Veil by John Tavener. This piece is written in praise of ‘The Mother,’ and the sound world it creates is so beautiful and uplifting. To be sat in the middle of it would be an utter joy. 

What are you looking forward to the most in the next Autumn Concert on 22 May?

I am really looking forward to seeing how the Endeavour Strings manage the performance situation at the autumn concert, which will be a first performance for many of the players. I am also looking forward to hearing and watching the other groups. I learn so much from the other conductors too, their choice of repertoire, their conducting and management of their groups and general approach to the situation. I also really enjoy catching up with their parents, friends and relatives afterwards and try not to eat too much of the food!

Endeavour Strings will play at TYO's Autumn Concert at 2:00pm on Saturday 22 May, 2016. For more details, click HERE.

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