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Hugh Mackay - Cello

Interview

1- Your formative musical education was at St. Mary’s Music School (Edinburgh). How do you recall those times and your teachers?

I was very fortunate to have a wonderful experience at St Mary’s, both as a chorister initially and later as an instrumental student. My teacher Ruth Beauchamp, along with other distinguished members of the faculty, provided me with a world class musical education. In addition to that, I fondly remember the chamber music we used to play and ardently rehearse for concerts as students. Overall it was a hugely positive time.

2- Is your family musical?

My family is very musical but few have pursued it as a career. My mother taught me and my siblings a few chords on the guitar and there was always an electronic piano to play around on.

3- Currently you are studying with Hannah Roberts and Jonathan Manson at the Royal Academy of Music in London. How is this progressing?

I absolutely love working with Hannah and Jonathan! It is a remarkable privilege to learn from such distinguished and skills players and teachers and I count myself very lucky. Since coming to London for my studies, I believe my playing has changed hugely, and that I now have a much more vivid understanding of cello playing in general. I have found that the Academy is a busy but encouraging environment in which to work and progress, and there are many opportunities there and in London generally.

4- In 2019, you were part of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Experience Scheme, working with the orchestra throughout 2019 including concerts at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest. Can you tell us more about this project and how enriching this was?

My year in the OAE Experience Scheme was a steep learning curve for me. It was a nerve-racking, intense and hugely rewarding period which exposed me to a new level of ensemble playing which I had previously never had the opportunity to experience. The concerts in Bucharest were very exciting – I love travelling and to travel for work is a dream for me. The Atheneum Concert Hall in which we played is beautiful and sounds fantastic.

5- You were the co-principal cellist of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. How did this experience help you develop musically develop further?

The training and discipline we had in the NYO was amazing, and the concert opportunities and repertoire during my time in it were a total dream. I really enjoyed being part of a community of like-minded teenagers, having previously been in a kind of ‘bubble’ of musicians and students, and it opened my eyes to exciting things going on elsewhere in the UK.

6- In 2017 you played at the Festival Berlioz in La Côte-Saint-André, France with the NYO, playing Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ under the direction of Gerry Cornelius. How special was this performance?

Gerry had an amazing vision for the piece and we all became hugely invested in his interpretation of it. I remember him showing us a portion of a Pina Bausch production of the ballet which made a powerful impression on me. When we went to play at the hall in La Côte-Saint-André, we had previously played the Stravinsky with Thomas Adès conducting at the BBC Proms, and so it felt like quite a shift coming back to the piece from a different viewpoint.

7- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

I have many fond musical memories but a particular favourite was the time when our quartet, the Clova Quartet, came together for the first time to learn at a chamber festival in the Highlands of Scotland. We were totally free to delve into the scores of the music and learn from fantastic coaches, as well as getting to know each other better and enjoy the Scottish countryside.

8- How often do your practice?

Every day, but I prefer not to practice too late in the evening.

9- Would you consider teaching music in the future?

I think teaching is something I would benefit hugely from, but I also recognise that I have to find a space in which I can be useful and which suits me creatively. In the past I have had students and assisted more senior coaches in course settings.

10- What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?

Remember to love the music. I find the more we love it, the more it gives to us. It’s a reciprocal relationship.

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submission March 2021