Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SATOSHI on Dame Evelyn Glennie

“What was the most frequently asked question?” I asked hoping that she will bring up the topic of her deafness on her own, but then her response after a nervous chuckle was, “How did I get involved with music?” Well, that didn’t help.

The reality is not that Evelyn doesn’t want to talk about her profound deafness, but instead in her words, “It is very difficult to talk about the subject with pocket answers.” So, in response to this “less” frequently asked question, she published Hearing Essay in which she discusses her condition extensively, and one can find the essay in her website. On that note, I was more than keen to talk to her about her music.

Below is the link to my interview with her for Time-Out Hong Kong.

My interview with Dame Evelyn Glennie lasted for exactly 35 minutes and 23 seconds; and it was definitely the highlight of my day. At first, when I was invited to interview her, the intention was to do it through email, which makes sense since I was in Hong Kong and she was in UK and also she is deaf. But surprisingly, Evelyn insisted that we should just do it over the phone. What happened was just amazing! You see Evelyn read lips, so when I talked over the speaker-phone, I can hear Carla (her assistant) mouthing my question and Evelyn will just respond to me directly over the phone.

What was featured in the Time-Out magazine was only a very small part of the interview. I hope that one day, I will be able to find some time to be able to write about the rest of the conversation that talked about concert halls, conductors.. all the way down to haggis!


Published in Time-Out Hong Kong: September 15-28 2010 issue No. 63, p.87

Dame Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Glennie is profoundly deaf, an extraordinary affliction for a renowned musician, but she’s not so keen on talking about it. “It is very difficult to talk about the subject with pocket answers,” she says over the phone from the UK, conducting the interview with the aid of a helper. But it’s not that she avoids the subject. She’s published a discussion, Hearing Essay, in which she discusses her condition extensively (which is available on her website,, but often her deafness is something that people get stuck on. Sometimes, people fail to really examine her extraordinary career.

After all, with 26 solo recordings, a Grammy award, more than 100 performances a year worldwide, a damehood in 2007 for her services to music and induction into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2008, Glennie has successfully created and sustained a full-time career as a solo percussionist.

This fortnight, Glennie will appear with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong for its season launch, performing her own transcription of Vivaldi’s Flautino Concerto in C major RV443. “It was in a concert that I was performing with the great recorder player Michala Petri and she performed this piece. I was absolutely enthralled, obviously by her playing but also by the music itself. I just felt that perhaps there is a possibility of arranging it for vibraphone and still using the same string orchestra and harpsichord. I find it works really well for the vibraphone. I almost prefer it more so than on a piccolo recorder or piccolo flute.”

When asked why she chose vibraphone instead of other percussion instruments such as marimba, she earnestly explains: “I like the sparkle of the vibraphone and you can sustain a note in a vibraphone which is absolutely vital in the second movement. I can actually take the tempo considerably slower than it would be played in a wind instrument. At the same time with the other two fast movements, I can really clip along pretty well. Marimba is much more of a wood-type experience and there is no real possibility of getting a dry sound, and getting that contrast in the same way that you can in a vibraphone.”

Despite having more than 160 works written for her by eminent composers, Evelyn is also open and eager to try new works originally written for other percussionists. City Hall will see the Asian premiere of the Marimba Concerto by Hong Kong-based American composer Alexis Alrich and will also see the first time Evelyn plays the piece.

The other piece making an Asian premiere is Joe Duddell’s Snowblind. Evelyn was very ardent to stress that “obviously I want to feature a British composer. This is also an opportunity to perform a piece that brings both the marimba and the vibraphone together.”

Evelyn is also known to perform barefoot as, according to her, it gives her an extra dimension of feeling the sound. When asked whether she would ever consider performing in less than just barefoot, she boldly declares, “Oh! I would love to do that!” then she quickly adds, “But I don’t think I would be asked back for a repeat performance!”

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At September 22, 2010 at 4:18 PM , Anonymous HT said...

Please find the time to write about the rest of the conversation, this interview must have made your day eh? Good job PPP!


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