The Tempest seen through the eyes of a violinist

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Text: Vivian Stolt, 1st year master student, violin

 

The students of the Sibelius Academy get the chance to be part of different orchestra periods, and as a first year student my first opportunity to play along with my fellow students came nearly a month ago. I’ve been part of quite a few different student orchestras and projects along with my 15 years of playing violin, and know well that these periods can be very different. Some have a higher quality, some are more challenging and some become experiences to remember. One of this latter kind was the production of “The Tempest” in which I had the priviledge to play in. Weeks after ending the whole project I still find myself reflecting back on it.

The Tempest was a wonderful chance to see different fields of arts combine into one great whole. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to play in a symphony orchestra every now and then, I’ve rarely gotten the chance to see the music combined with a literary, theatrical and visual part.

Being part of The Tempest also pushed us all beyond our boundaries – the orchestra for instance got to be part of the theatrical performance having our own line to say in the beginning – “All is lost, let us pray”. Even though the line sounds simple I admit I realized that there might be a reason for why I’m studying violin instead of acting… Even though I have no problem what so ever to express emotions while playing, it is surprisingly hard to put ones soul into saying a line I actually don’t mean without feeling slightly artificial. Which brings me to….

… another perspective that made this project different to other orchestra periods. The project was made in collaboration with the Theatre Academy and Aalto University. One of the best things of The Tempest was getting a peek at the way the actors of the Theatre Academy work. I think I am not the only one to say – I’m impressed. We have our instruments with which we played the melodies of Sibelius, whereas the actors have no tools but their energy, voice and stage presence to use in delivering the beautiful lines of Shakespeare. Even though we saw the whole performance at least five times, none of the intensive monologues and dialogues ever left us cold. Maybe it’s best we leave acting to the actors, and do what we do best, which probably is playing.

 

For me another fascinating part of playing in the orchestra of this production was playing a different kind of Sibelius. During the past year I’ve been both playing and hearing Sibelius’ violin concerto, Humoresques and pieces for the violin and piano countless times as well as many of his wonderful symphonies and orchestral suites. As much as I love all of his music, I am ashamed to admit that before being part of this project I had no idea he’d actually composed scene music to Shakespeare’s play! Well, now I know and for sure picked up a few new favourites.

The last but not least important part of not only being part of The Tempest, but in general the symphony orchestra of the Sibelius Academy, was learning to remember and recognise the names and faces of many other fellow students. We spend countless hours practicing alone, yet the orchestra bring us together. From period to period I always come to the same conclusion – no matter how great the period has been, there is nothing better than playing in the concert and afterwards celebrate and make new friends. After all, the better we learn to know each other, the more we experience together and the better we feel about ourselves in the group, the better we are able to play together and bring the audience musical experiences we hope they will never forget.