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15 Questions to Eleanor Turner

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello! I’m very well thanks...sitting at home in Stamford, poring over this virtual interview, feeling very important to have been asked questions!

What’s on your schedule right now?
A couple of concertos coming up in the next month, Reinecke and Mozart, and lots of Double Action Harp Duo concerts with Keziah Thomas, plus some solo commitments, teaching and making sure my three-and-a-half year old gets to bed in time because he’s got kindergarten the moment we’re listening to an audio book of Enid Blyton’s ‘Five on a Treasure Island’.

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a farmer....but then music sort of chose me.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
In absolute truth, my son influences me because he makes me happy and demands fun at all times. God influences me crucially because amidst the wonder of nature, my worries about page 27 of the concerto pale away. And for pure artistry, I am in complete awe of Alicia Keys.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
The hardest thing is leaving my child to go to work. The best thing is that my job is exhilarating and challenging.

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Not with me! There are so many crises in the World right now... I don’t think classical music can compare to anything of real importance. There is a crisis with the government... they have made it impossible for parents to stay at home and spend any real time with their kids. A real love of music often starts in the home and at an early age. Many children are now having their first experiences of music on the television and in the background. Then... when they come to me for their harp lessons it is almost as if the music is too boring for them without the moving images! Furthermore,  it’s now cool to be bad...classical music is beautiful and teaches it’s never going to be cool in that way. On the positive, inspirational teachers make pupils inspired and receptive musicians, and there are still plenty of both around!

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?
Argh, where do you find these people?! I couldn’t possibly talk to anyone so narrow-minded, sorry! But as you’ve asked me, I am recalling Daniel Barenboim saying recently in one of his Reith lectures, that after performing one recital of Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues he had the sudden feeling that everything written afterwards was superfluous! Obviously, that was just a joke but it highlighted the fact that most of our Western music has been written using the same 12 notes in different combinations since Bach’s definitive collection, but also said much about his performance of that music. Perhaps that evening he experienced a sort of transcendental feeling that left him so totally edified that he had that fleeting thought about that very special music. This is difficult to bring to a recording, especially when perfection is often the prerequisite, but it’s not impossible. People will always be interested to see their favourite artist perform music old and new, and a CD provides a memento of a great occassion. And there is so much music being written all the time! Some excellent film scores too – my son and I  love listening to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack on the school run – it’s a perfect start to the day, hearing the delicately phrased piano playing of Jean-Yves Thibaudet as the sun rises over Lincolnshire. Another favourite of mine is Blood on the Floor by Mark-Anthony Turnage. Moving, funky, soulful, excellent performances and a sense of excitement at a new fusion being made between’s got everything! Like children, we love having stories told to us, often the same story over and over again. A beautiful CD performed by a decent interpreter can be just like a good story with every reading offering new inflections and meaning.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
On stage, I just go for it! I try to make everything in the music as exciting as life is for me in my best moments and be honest about the not-so-good times.

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
Using your own words to describe an event or a feeling.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.
False.... it is impossible to put emotions in anything, something’s either there or it’s not. It can be under the current or brimming over to the surface. Every performer is different and every audience brings a unique atmosphere to an event too. Above all, the emotion has to be honest. I don’t think it has to be too personal, either. Music touches people in so many different ways.

True or false: “Music is my first love” first boyfriend – that got me head-over-heels! (I was probably about seven!) Then music was the best way of remembering those feelings.

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.
False. Nadia Boulanger said that to appreciate classical music you either had to know nothing about it, or everything. Which at least encompasses the whole range of peoples experience with classical music!

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
Star Wars Imperial March, conducted by Darth Vader...this is for my son’s benefit. O Duo (you know, the amazing percussion duo...) went to see them recently and was riveted in every good way a girl can be, Alicia Keys, Gidon Kremer doing Piazzolla...Shostakovich 7....Usher would have to make a guest appearance and do the moonwalk and crotch thing.... d’ya think I’ve gone over budget?

What’s your favourite classical CD at the moment?

Prokofiev Violin Concerto played by Maxim Vengerov... the only CD I have ever loved like my life depended on it!

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
I play the piano but never clicked with it like I do with the harp.

Eleanor Turner

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