27 February 2014

Flinders Quartet: Over a skinny latté I

Helen Ayres

The first in a series of interviews with members of Flinders Quartet.
First published in Flinders Quartet: February update 2014

Some eight year olds at Highbury Primary School in Adelaide sat in a circle. The teacher asked what they wanted to be. Helen, firmly, “Violin teacher”. Two years later school camp clashed with the visit of advanced Japanese Suzuki students.
 “I can’t decide. I can’t.”
 Dad said, “I’ll count, you say ‘camp’ or ‘violin’.”
 “One … two … .”
 “Ever since,” Helen says, “violin has been my priority.”

Image: www.nicholaspurcell.com.au:
Used with permission. Thank you Nicholas

She had piano lessons, too and swam. Eventually she played netball and squash. “Lately,” she says, “I’ve been tempted by the cello and the viola. I wanted a C string on my violin (violas have one) to see what I could get out of my violin. But it makes sense to play at the highest level of self-expression you can on the instrument you play best. The temptation for other instruments is about discovering aspects of your own. For me, it comes back to the violin.”

 “I’d always wanted to play second violin. Playing with Seraphim Trio showed me that the violin in a piano trio is like first violin in a quartet. Now, with Flinders Quartet, I’m happiest in that role.”

 She once wrote “Enescu's music exploits the tactile joys of being a violinist.” “Tactile joy,” she says, “is the physical experience of playing. The physicality of the way your fingers move, the way you can feel your body moving, the way you feel the bow on the strings. Enescu’s is very earthy, gypsy-influenced music. I love letting go of everything I’ve learned, playing the way I imagine a gypsy violinist would play, completely from the heart – even though his work is influenced by Brahms and Ravel – being aware of every single finger movement for what it is, not trying to force my fingers into a particular way of playing but letting them do what they want to do.”

OVER A SKINNY LATTÉ - the series
This month Helen Ayres, Violin I, talks about violins and violin playing. Other members of Flinders Quartet will follow during the year.

Next month Paul Dean talks about his new quartet, to be premiered by FQ in October. He was taking his daughter to hockey when the opening hit him: a G# – actually three. Second violin, viola and cello will play a G#, each with a different type of mute.

During 2014 I will follow the growth of Paul’s quartet – writing, rehearsal, performance – and all the bits in between. ‘Bits’ here are, critically, the Flinders Quartet musicians who will take Paul Dean’s response to the death of the brilliant young violinist and Paul's  friend Richard Pollett and present it to you, FQ’s friends.

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