Meet the Musicians: Andrew Seymour

16 Apr 2024

Meet Andrew Seymour, TSO Principal Clarinet and 2024 Season Soloist, as he talks about the process of bringing new composition Fire Music to life on stage at the recent 6pm Series concert.

TSO: How are you feeling post performance of Fire Music, a couple of weeks on? 

AS: Oh there’s many feelings that come after a performance like that but I guess looking back now I feel pleased that we were able to create something that really resonated with the audience. Which was always the intention of the music - through the story and the emotion in the music to create that connection. I’ve been told of so many emotional responses to the music which really means a lot to me to hear that people felt these deep emotions through the music.

TSO: How did you feel on the night on the performance?  

AS:  To be honest I actually felt pretty great! I was just really excited to finally get to perform what I think is such an incredible piece. I actually don't even recall any real nerves, the preparation and rehearsals had been excellent so I was able to enjoy the whole experience. 

Andrew Seymour
TSO: Has there been a particular bit of feedback that stood out to you from your performance?  

AS: I think everyone who has has spoken about having a personal experience of bushfire, hearing those stories and those responses to the music is really meaningful. 

TSO:  What story or feelings does this piece evoke for you personally?

AS: I find the narrative of the entire piece to be really powerful, whilst it is specifically about fire, there is also an underlying universality to it that speaks to human suffering or tragedy. But what I love is that the piece brings us through that moment of desolation to renewal, where there is hope and rejuvenation, finishing with an uplifting and joyous feeling.

TSO: Do you have a favourite section or moment in Fire Music? If so, what makes it stand out to you?

AS: Oh it’s hard to choose just one! When the clarinet enters in the 2nd movement (Fire) with energetic flourishes and high note screams like the bushfire is starting to roar out of control. Or the climax of the 3rd movement (Desolation) where the clarinet is playing at the top of the register letting out all of the emotion that has built up through the piece. 

TSO: What were some of the most challenging aspects of bringing this piece to life? Conversely, what aspects did you find most rewarding?

AS: There are quite a number of technical challenges in the piece that took significant work to learn and achieve a result I was happy with. One passage in the 2nd movement where the clarinet plays an extended series of fast, short articulated notes with large intervals was particularly challenging, then the music changes key from D minor to D# minor which makes the fingerings much more complicated!

Another big challenge in the piece is stamina, all the playing in the extreme high register of the clarinet is really taxing on the embouchure and there are some very long passages where Jabra has basically given me nowhere to breathe! Then there's that extremely long held high note in the 3rd movement – so many people afterwards commented that they couldn't believe how long I sustained that note! I did experiment with circular breathing for that note but in the end decided against it and just planned some breathing strategies to get me through it. I do get huge reward out of overcoming those challenges and then seeing the piece come together as a whole.

TSO: Going back to the start of where Fire Music came from - how does the collaboration process work with you and Jabra?

AS: Well Jabra composes and I figure out how on earth I'm going to play the ridiculously difficult things he has written!! No, I think actually there is a lot of trust between us, I trust Jabra's vision for the piece – that he doesn't just write difficult music without reason but there is a lot of time and thought and musical intention in everything he writes. And I think Jabra trusts me as a musician and performer to interpret his writing and bring to life his musical intentions. I try not to go back to Jabra with problems saying that this or that doesn't technically work on the instrument but I prefer to work out those difficulties and find a solution that captures the musical meaning.

TSO: Is there anything else you and Jabra are working on that we can look forward to?

AS: We recently recorded Fire Music in a version for Clarinet and String Quartet. We're working on some final edits on this recording so it should be ready for release very soon! We've got the album of Music for Clarinet & Piano which was released last year and I'm taking Fire Music in this version to the international Clarinet Festival later this year. Hopefully this will see Jabra's music picked up and performed by other clarinetists all over the world.

TSO: Which 3 concerts in Season 2024 would you put in your Create Your Own bundle?

AS: The next 6pm concert [Olivia Chindamo] looks to be a cracker, with Bernstein, Gershwin and I'm particularly excited to play Joe Chindamo's piece – Fantaskatto. Joe's music is colourful, energetic and very accessible.

Karin Schaupp: Scheherazade is such a great piece that only comes up occasionally for the TSO and the Guitar Concerto is again something we don't often hear live.

Beethoven’s Fifth with Mahler's Rückert Lieder with Soprano Camilla Tilling will be just beautiful. 

Create Your Own package of 2024 favourites here!

See Andrew playing the clarinet at an upcoming TSO concert in Federation Concert Hall or around the state.

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