Cornwall , with its beautiful landscapes and myths is a home to one of the world’s finest violinist. Sue Aston has carved a name for herself as one of the influential musicians of this generation as she tackles Classical, traditional and original materials.
This lady is very busy these days and it took a while before she got back to me with my questions . It’s always fun to exchange ideas with someone so down to earth … a real person apart from the image you see in your CD cover!
Cornwall has always tickled my fancy with its rich history and myths. I admit my introduction it it was through National Geographic as a kid. I didn’t know I would end up talking to someone from that region. Wow, there are things in this universe that is indeed stronger than our will. Surprise, surprise!
And so on with our interview:
Hello Sue. Welcome to The Celtic Music Fan site. How are you doing today?
Great thanks! I’m having a cup of tea and looking out to a gorgeous view of the sea, so the day has started well!
-You are currently recording. Can you tell us about this new album of yours?
This new album is called ‘Between Worlds’, and gets its title from the idea that the point where the sea meets the land is said to be between worlds. It’s taking much longer to record than expected, as I’m arranging parts for lots of musicians to play and record for me. I have a cellist, flautist, concert pianist, mezzo soprano, and my son on classical guitar all performing with me. Oh, and a marvelous folk band too!!
–A New single is out this October , 2009. Can you tell us more about this single?
The single is a double A side: ‘Mazey Dazey’ is a folk track inspired by the Golowan festival here in Penzance. The other track ‘Forbidden City’ is a different style, and is a gentle melodic track for violin, piano and percussion. It was originally composed for a youth theatre production, but I have since expanded it, and it is inspired by the music from Anime films.
-What made you choose the violin as your primary instrument? I know you also play the piano.
My Dad and Grandfather both played the violin, so there was always a violin in the house, which
I would have a go on from a young age. It feels natural for me to express myself musically on the violin. The piano feels more detached, but I do enjoy playing it and writing music on it.
-Please tell us a brief insight into your use of folklore and legends and aspects of you own life to trigger each composition.
Cornwall is rich in folklore, particularly the area in the far west where I live. You can’t go past a stone circle or rock or cove without a legend being attached to it! This is very inspiring, and seems to bring old stories to life in the present day.
-You have appeared in The BBC1 ‘Heaven and Earth Show’ .Your music has been played over and over in on the Sky TV classical music channel ‘O Music’.You must be delighted with the exposure you gained.
It has certainly helped to bring my music to a much wider audience, which is fantastic. I’m also going to be filming for mycornwall.tv very soon, which is an internet based TV channel. I will be doing a video diary for them, as well as interviewing other composers.
– The music video for The Home Coming is one of your most popular pieces, and has been viewed over half a million note:533,500 times on You Tube.What’s your reaction to this?
I think it’s totally amazing! I guess there must be some aspect of the music which people identify with. The idea of returning to a place where you feel in your heart that you belong to.
-Your music has been has been described as ‘Celtic music for the classically appreciative’ by Cornish World Editor Nigel Pengelly. How do you feel about this?
I think it sums up my music perfectly! It’s always hard to categorize music, but I’m a classically trained musician writing music which hopefully appeals to a wide audience. This music is inspired by the Celtic landscape.
-Can tell us more about your musical upbringing. Your family must be very much into music.
I had a huge amount of support from my family, and luckily I still do. As a child, my parents and grandparents played the violin, my mom has a great singing voice. My husband and two sons all enjoy playing the guitar.
-What kind of music was heavily played in your household?
My dad and I listened to violin concertos by Elgar, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Britten. That fired me up to play, then I would go and listen to some punk or rock music! Quite a mixture!
-Cornwall has remained strong to have its own distinctive Celtic voice. Do you speak Cornish?
If I could, I would have answered this question in Cornish, so unfortunately, I don’t!
-You have touched people in all levels through your music.What do you think is it about Celtic music that causes such response from people?
I think Celtic music has a timeless quality to it. It is the people’s music, in a sense that it has been around for such a long time. It comes from the heart, and resonates with people on a deep level without being high brow.
– You are a classical violinist first , and then an interpreter of traditional as well as folk greats. What is it about your classical training that is a positive aspect of your performance?
I think that having studied the technical aspects of playing the violin to such a degree, then this gives me more options to create different and hopefully more exciting aspects in the performance of the music, such as fancy bowing and the like!
-The Cornish landscape remains a constant source of inspiration for you. What is it about the landscape that gives you the this inspiration on your works?
It’s the sense of the power of nature and beauty of the natural world. The spirit of this and the enormity of it is very inspiring.
-Tori Amos resides in Cornwall. The TV movie Mists of Avalon, a different take on the Arthurian myth was also shot in location over there. What is it about Cornwall that dazzles people from around the world?
The Cornish landscape is just so varied and dramatic. The coastline is stunning – you have the contrast between the rougher north coast, and the gentler, almost Mediterranean south coast. The countryside is beautiful, and the ancient sites are awesome. Then you have the beaches!
-What music are you currently listening to?
I have Julian Cope playing at the moment – a favourite of mine! I’m also enjoying Steve Vai’s technical guitar brilliance, and also I’m into Celtic metal.
-Any future projects you might want to tell us about?
I’m looking forward to giving some exposure to hidden Cornish composers in a series for mycornwall.tv. It will be called ‘Sessions with Sue’! There is so much talent out there that needs to be recognized!
-Where can people buy your albums?
From Amazon, CD baby and ITunes.
-Apart from listening to music to relieve stress, what are the other things on your list that can help our readers?
I would recommend long windswept walks followed by a cream tea as a good starting point!
-How do you deal with negativity, be it from critics or just everyday situation?
Luckily, I don’t get much negativity. If I do then I just focus on all the wonderful positive feedback that I get!
-Any musical advice to aspiring violists out there?
Practice like mad, then chill out afterwards!
-What brand of violin are you playing?
I’m about to embark upon a search for a new instrument, but at the moment my violin is a modern instrument by Francois Bignon.
-Any preparation you do before a performance?
Lots of practice then lots of food and sleep!
-A message to our readers?
Please buy my music, so that I can write even more music! Then visit Cornwall, and see what inspires me and countless others!
Pictures courtesy of her official website and MySpace.