Jacoba Gale, BSO Viola speaks to Quarternote the BSO members magazine
Why did you decided to become a musician?
I didn’t ever decide to become a musician. I went to the Yehudi Menuhin School aged 8 and the question was never raised. It was my choice however, to be an orchestral musician rather than a chamber musician as were many of my school friends. I have always loved the thrill of a symphony orchestra and the sound it produces. Having been at a school that only catered to strings and piano I have always enjoyed the colours and sounds that the wind, brass, and percussion sections contribute.
What’s the best thing about being a musician?
Other musicians! They are a group of diverse, talented and interesting people who are great fun to be with and with whom there is good camaraderie. One has the opportunity to travel at home and abroad and the job has variety as no week is the same. Oh, and a lot of the music of course!
What’s the one performance from your career that sticks in your mind?
After 35 and a half years that’s a difficult question! The Finnish tour with Paavo Berglund, or Falstaff in Paris with Welsh National Opera are possibilities but my immediate reaction would be our 100th birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall doing Mahler Symphony No.2 with Andrew Litton. We travelled to London on a train that was named after us when we arrived at Waterloo. The hall was packed and the orchestra was on a real high. It was a very special night and I was proud to take part in such an historic occasion. I have never forgotten the atmosphere.
If you could work with one musician, who would it be and why?
I would love to have worked with Bernard Haitink especially doing Mahler or Opera. I have admired him hugely over the years and I think he is definitely the last of the “Great” conductors.
What work do you enjoy playing above all else?
This is another difficult question as there are so many things I love playing. The Rachmaninov Piano Concerti are favourites and I couldn’t live without Sibelius. I also love Gershwin and Ravel and adore doing the operas at Grange Park but I particularly love Richard Strauss so I would have to say that it would have to be Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Tell us about the history of your instrument?
My viola was made in Chicago in the workshops of William Harris Lee. The maker is Vanna So who is Malaysian. I bought it new in 1998 and it has been interesting hearing the wood becoming vibrant and the sound change as it is played. It has needed some toning down and taming at times! It has a very centred sound, verging on bright but hopefully not too astringent! The Chicago workshop are interesting in that they have taken a lot of weight out of their violas and have also made the necks slimmer so as to be more user friendly!
What are you interests outside music?
In my spare time I enjoy dressmaking and tailoring, am a keen cook and a chocolatier. Usually at Easter I raise money for charity by selling a large number of Easter eggs filled with handmade chocolates. This is a monumental task but the last effort raised over £1200! Foreign travel – recent favourites have been The Oman, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. I also do Family History and enjoy taking photographs though I wish I were more competent behind the camera! Other time is spent just enjoying being at home with my husband and 3 cats!
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