TSO musicians in isolation – what did they get up to?

Like the rest of us, the musicians of the TSO are starting to emerge from months of isolation.  During this time, many have found comfort in the garden or have rediscovered a love of cooking. Some have been juggling homeschooling their children, while others are taking the opportunity to explore new repertoire or whole new fields. We caught up with a few members of the TSO string section to find out what they’ve been up to, what they’ve learned, and what they have enjoyed (and not) about staying socially distanced.

What have you played?

James Menzies (Double Bass): Rolling out the bass quartets!  (Check them out online through TSO Daily Dose). I’ve also been involved in a couple of projects with local composer Jabra Latham.

William Newbery (Viola): I've been in the fortunate position of having a bit of repertoire that I had recently performed with Jennifer Marten-Smith that we could use for the Daily Dose - Bach and Glazunov. I also learned a duo for viola and flute by Devienne that I've had on recording for years but never played. We got the Kettering Piano Quartet back together for some Mozart and I've got a few more plans for the immediate future - hopefully more Mozart, a little Boismortier (I know .... who?), perhaps some CPE Bach (he's really underrated - he's written some terrific music), and hopefully some more repertoire for viola and piano. At home I've been chipping away at studies by Kreutzer and caprices by Rode.

Alison Lazaroff-Somssich (Violin): Duets with my sister Susanna! (Susanna Low, TSO violin).

What have you cooked? Have you made sourdough?

Edwina George (Violin):  Lots of Japanese food! Ramen (broth, noodles, slow pork, soy sauce eggs all from scratch), okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), gyoza (even the wrappers from scratch). Focaccia, bread (regular white and whole meal - not a huge sourdough fan - controversial!). Apple muffins, banana bread with choc chips, jam drops (with jam from Dave Robins (TSO Principal Trombone), scones, carrot cake, cornflake bikkies, crumpets, date/espresso loaf, choc chip cookies, cinnamon buns with cream cheese drizzle. Lots of Ottolenghi recipes!

Anna Larsen Roach (Viola): I’ve found it hard to organise meals non-stop for my hungry family, so I’ve started working my way through recipes based on puff pastry - not ideal for the waistline but varied and filling enough to keep even the hungriest teenager at bay for a few hours. So far I’ve cooked Spinach Pie, Fish Pie, pastries and I recently cooked a Beef Wellington. Also, anything by Nadiya Hussein is delicious. Maybe I should experiment on salads next to offset the carb overload?

Lucy Carrig (Principal Second Violin): No sourdough but I’m enjoying having more time to cook. My favourite dish so far is Asian inspired slow cooked beef which made 3 completely different meals. Soooo tasty!! Teaching the kids to cook also means we are now having a lot more choc chip biscuits in the house. We have been cooking together often which is fun.

What have you read/watched?

William Newbery (Viola): Scott and I are working our way through Gotham on Netflix. It's a bit of mindless, comic book escapism with several delightfully over the top villains. I'm also working through The Blacklist on my exercise bike.

Edwina George (Violin): I joined a Virtual Bookclub: some good some bad. I’m currently reading ‘She Said’ about the Harvey Weinstein story. Netflix: The Last Dance, Bodyguard

Alison Lazaroff-Somssich (Violin): I’ve read Camus “The Plague” (of course) and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou as audio books while I cooked or gardened. Also read heaps of articles about global politics and listened to masses of podcasts about Australian, US, and UK politics, coronavirus and mental health.

What have you made?

William Newbery (Viola): I can't even keep a straight face when trying to deceive people into thinking I'm any kind of handyman. If drilling a hole in it doesn't work then I'm out!

Alison Lazaroff-Somssich (Violin): I sewed a dozen Facemasks for my family which fortunately were not needed! (They were floral though so you really would’ve had to be desperate! 😊). Also, I did some art – a couple of oil paintings and some lino prints.

Lucy Carrig (Principal Second Violin): I’ve discovered I can get quite obsessed with jigsaws so I’m taking a break! My last one was a map of the world made up of tiny photos. It was a nightmare that had to be done!! One morning at 9 I decided I’d only do it until 10. The next time I looked at the clock it was 11.10! I guess I know I’m still able to focus on something!

Have you had a 'pandemic project'?

James Menzies (Double Bass): I've enrolled in in a coding and cyber security course online, hoping to teach myself some valuable skills.

Edwina George (Violin): Not specifically, though lots of handstands to re-live my childhood gymnastics days!

Anna Larsen Roach (Viola): My Easter ‘pandemic project’ was to paint the back of our house, after a lengthy renovation late last year we replaced the back of the house with new weather boards so it was time to paint them. Just when you scratch the surface of a project a new task needs to be done so I am painting the garage and the letterbox (I enthusiastically bolted and glued the letterbox to the retaining wall 15 years ago and I can’t get it off!!) and maybe then I’ll start on the shed...

Are you homeschooling? How have you found it?

Edwina George (Violin): I’m homeschooling myself. I have enrolled in a postgrad intro finance subject. Turns out my skills are much better used on the violin.

Anna Larsen Roach (Viola): Homeschooling. Where do I start? Mostly I sat in a conspicuous spot and sent both boys back to their rooms until it was time for morning tea and lunch. It’s fascinating how long a toilet break can take when they are procrastinating! We set goals for them to work towards (some would call it bribery...) and mostly this has helped. I realized I needed to be patient because we all found it difficult to keep motivated with so many distractions at home.

Lucy Carrig (Principal Second Violin): I’ve homeschooling two 12 year olds who are at different schools. I really loved it! It was so nice having them around all the time. I’m now much more up to date with my year 7 maths and have really enjoyed learning about Ancient China! It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been good to be able to be here to help the kids. We’ve been able to do more music than normal too which has been great. We’ve added our own subject of “home economics” to add some new skills.

What have you enjoyed about isolation? ('Nothing' is a totally legitimate answer!)

James Menzies (Double Bass): That it's socially acceptable to wear trackies the entire day.

William Newbery (Viola): I think it's been very healthy to have the pressure of constant repertoire to learn removed and have the leisure to really examine some of the weaker areas in my playing. Which I don't lack for. Making recordings for Daily Dose has been distressingly revealing which is inspirational and galling in equal measures. I'm walking locally a lot more. Dexter (my whippet) and I have explored our immediate surroundings in far greater detail than ever before.

Alison Lazaroff-Somssich (Violin): I have loved having so much time to garden, cook and do art while listening to books and podcasts.

What have you missed most? Least?

James Menzies (Double Bass): Concerts (goes without saying), but also going to the pubs, social interactions and hugs.

Edwina George (Violin): Being on stage. Feeling like I have a purpose in society, contributing (other than baking!). I would’ve loved to get up to QLD to see my family for Easter. They ‘kindly’ shared many photos of blue skies, sandy beaches, and everyone in bathers. I missed both niece and nephew’s birthdays, and may yet miss Dad’s 70th birthday dinner.

Lucy Carrig (Principal Second Violin): I miss the idea that I might be able to travel to see family and friends. Not even being able to plan a trip or having people visit is difficult. I miss meeting friends to catch up in person over a coffee. I don’t miss all the cars that park in our street! I can always find a park!

Is there anything you have learned or experienced during isolation that you would like to continue as life returns to ‘normal’?

William Newbery (Viola): Video calling with friends and family. How was I not doing that earlier? My immediate family is quite spread out - Adelaide, Milang, Geelong, Toowoomba and of course Hobart. Scott has family in Queensland and Sydney. I guess we just hadn't realised how nice it is to organise a conference call and wave at nieces and nephews while telling siblings and parents that we don't have any news apart from a bit of gardening.

Edwina George (Violin): A much slower pace of life. Loved having my partner around all the time.

Anna Larsen Roach (Viola): I have learnt to let go and not set too many unrealistic tasks for myself and not be too hard on myself. I’ve really enjoyed bushwalking with the family and this is something I hope can continue post Covid 19.