Chats at ANAM with: violinist Leanne McGowan

Leanne McGowan wordpress_photo credit Joseph Byford

Violinist Leanne McGowan. Photo credit: Joseph Byford

Our next chat at ANAM is with The Talent alumni, violinist Leanne McGowan. Leanne appeared on The Talent in Season 2 2019, and took out third prize. You can find out more about Leanne here.

Leanne, thanks very much for having a chat. When did you appear on The Talent?

I was on The Talent near the end of last year.

Was it your first time playing on radio?

Definitely it was my first time playing live on radio. I’ve done snippets here and there on radio before, but never a whole performance.

In a nutshell, what was that experience like playing live?

I wouldn’t say nerve-wracking, but quite exhilarating because it’s kind of weird to not have an audience right in front of you, but know that there’s so many other people who could be tuning in at that very moment. So it was very different to say, a live performance, where you can feel the audience there.

What did you perform?

I played, in the first round, the first movement of the Debussy Violin Sonata, and the Hubay Carmen Fantasy.

Why did you choose that repertoire?

Well, I thought it was quite a nice contrast with the two pieces. Because the Hubay’s very brilliant, virtuosic…if you know the opera Carmen, there’s been quite a few violin works based around that, so it’s very brilliant and virtuosic. And the Debussy’s like, a completely different sound world. Impressionistic, beautiful melodies.

When you have a performance coming up, what do you do to get into the right headspace?

Well, I think it depends on the type of performance but for something like this, a competition, definitely practice performing and getting into that headspace. Doing things slowly, feeling confident with the works and just kind of building it up, having the performance as a goal in mind.

Because you were performing on radio, did you do anything differently?

Yeah, I think just in the approach to my playing, I took more care with not being too rough. Because it’s quite different from playing in, say, a large hall where it’s more soloistic and you can really bash things out. But with the radio, having the mic so close, you have to kind of be more refined and a little bit more careful with how you play.

What were you most nervous about before appearing on The Talent, and how did you get through it?

Probably the most nerve-wracking thing was that it was different, like I hadn’t really done anything like that before. So it was the unknown. But I soon realised it wasn’t nerve-wracking at all, being in the studio and everyone was very lovely, and having the pianist there playing with you is kind of just like, not thinking about everything else and just focusing on the music and what you’re playing.

What about the talking part?

Yeah. I mean, both the adjudicators were lovely, and it was nice to hear feedback afterwards.

What was the most fun thing about appearing on The Talent?

I think it was definitely very cool to be featured on live radio. Just the chance to perform and play those two works definitely helped me in preparation for performance and getting over nerves and stuff like that. And it was also really nice to actually meet the adjudicators and get that time with them afterwards and get some feedback right then and there, right after you performed.

For you, what’s it like performing in a radio studio compared with a concert hall?

So, I think being in a concert hall, it’s such a larger space and with all the audience in front of you, you really have to project. Everything’s kind of larger than life, whereas on the radio there’s no-one watching you. They’re just listening. So, you have to pay more attention to the sound, not so much how you look, but what they’re listening to. Imagine being the listener, and maybe even focussing more on the character and things [the listener] will hear without actually seeing you. So, you have to pay much more attention to what will come through just from listening.

If you had one tip for making the most of your time on radio, what would it be?

Definitely make sure you prepare really well, so that you’re not nervous. A little bit of nerves are good, but make sure you prepare really well, and just enjoy it.

Have you got some words of encouragement for the current performers on The Talent?

I think, at the end of the day, enjoy yourself, pour your heart into the music, and if you do that, you can’t go wrong. The listeners will love it.

This interview was conducted thanks to the Australian National Academy of Music.

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