Join Australia’s most acclaimed international violinist Ian Cooper with opera stars, prima ballerinas, pipe band and the Blue Danube Orchestra to evoke the sheer exuberance of An Afternoon at the Proms – A Musical Spectacular.
Hi Ian. What’s been your most memorable performance?
I had the honour of being commissioned to write and perform a piece for the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. That was one of the most exciting nights of my life. I remember being in the dressing-room under the stadium before the show started. Every minute or so there was a thunderous rumbling from above. It took me a while to realise that this tremendous noise and shaking was the crowd’s giant Mexican wave passing overhead as they were waiting for the show to start.
During my piece, the Tin Symphony, there were a thousand performers on the stadium floor – acrobats, tap dancers, giant Ned Kellys etc. Playing in front of such a huge and electrified audience, there was no place for nerves. Performance instinct took over. What hadn’t dawned on me until later was that it had been watched around the world by an estimated 2.85 billion viewers. I’m really glad that figure didn’t hit me until afterwards.
What do you enjoy about playing the violin?
I love seeing the joy that playing beautiful music gives people. I can feel it from the stage. There’s an element of artistic licence in our performances, and especially with Gypsy music – there’s plenty of scope for interpretation. I really enjoy that freedom, and it makes every performance unique and a little bit different from the time before. It’s invigorating for a performer and the audience can sense that spontaneity as well. That’s what live concerts are all about, I think.
How much of the year do you typically spend travelling?
I am on tour over half the year. I’ve come to the realiastion that not all my audiences are going to come and see me play at home, so I must be prepared to travel to them. I am also a pilot, which makes it a little easier when performing around Australia.
What do you love most about touring?
I guess I’m a bit of a Gypsy – I just love being on the road, meeting new audiences and seeing the world. Last year I gave concerts in over 30 countries.
I also enjoy bringing home some of the music I hear on my travels and presenting it to Australian audiences. I have recently added Irish fiddle and Gypsy music to my concert repertoire, and they both go down a treat.
Your show has a cast of over 44 performers, which sounds exciting. How has the preparation been?
The producers and I have a fabulous team of performers, who all work hard to bring this production to Australian audiences. The rehearsals have been smooth, and there is a real buzz amongst the cast before each performance. We just can’t wait to get on stage!!
Many would describe your life as a musician as being a pretty charmed one, able to travel the world from a young age and performing in front of live audiences. What are some of your favourite memories from those very early days?
My first overseas trip was to Hawaii, mainland U.S. and Canada when I was seven. I was part of a group of violin students to represent Australia at an international violin convention. I performed in Japan when I was 10 for NHK Television, and in high school I went to Europe with a youth orchestra and again with my school band. I’ll never forget the gorgeous sound of playing solo violin in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London and performing with the Vienna Boys Choir.
You were awarded a scholarship to study at the N.S.W. Conservatorium of Music when you were eight. How do you feel these studies helped to shape the artist you are today?
I was fortunate to have been taught by the very best violin teachers in Australia. I was also a member of the Sydney Youth Orchestra under the conductor Stuart Challender. My passion for European and Russian orchestral music was ignited then, and I remember enjoying playing Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Mahler.
You have released 13 CDs, have received multiple MO, ACE and Aria Awards amongst many other achievements. What’s next on the agenda for you after you wrap up your current concert series?
I just want to continue taking music that’s been loved for centuries to audiences all over Australia and showcasing some of this country’s finest singers, dancers and musicians. The whole cast looks forward to these concerts and giving people a show to remember.
Where would we find you in your spare time?
Sailing with my kids on Sydney Harbour.
See An Afternoon at the Proms at the Glasshouse June 1st, 2pm.
Visit glasshouse.org.au or call the Box Office 6581 8888 for more info.