ELLIOT SAMPHIER

In by Alison Stewart

When and why did you start playing the violin?

I was aged seven when I first started to learn the violin.  It was the first instrument that was on offer at St Georges Prep School.  I started off sounding as painful as anyone can imagine, but eventually it started to sound more appealing and I knew from then that I wanted to play violin and be involved in music somehow from that point. 

Describe your journey with that instrument.  

I was first taught by Julie Millow when I was in Primary School.  I studied with her for a number of years and was very grateful that she recognised that to stretch me as a player I needed more specialised tuition. She put me in touch with Professor Ben Holland of Chethams Music School and Royal Northern College of Music with whom I commenced, and still have lessons.  I went through the ABRSM Grades, gaining a Distinction mark at Grade 8.  I was involved from a young age with the JIS orchestras, eventually leading the Youth Orchestra. I enjoyed taking part in many years worth of the Jersey Eisteddfod, and also competed in Jersey’s Young Musician of the Year competition.  I reached the final of the competition twice, once in 2011 and then again in 2012 before winning the title in 2013.  During this time, I also took lessons in performance with ‘cellist, Gerard Le Feuvre.  I have also performed with The Band of the Royal Marines and the Kings Chamber orchestra.  In my final year at Victoria College I embarked on the audition process for conservatoires and gained offers to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Royal Northern College of Music.  I was also awarded a scholarship for the Royal Welsh College of Music.  I chose to study at the Royal Northern College of Music where I continued my studies with Ben.  I am now in my fourth and final year at RNCM, under the tutelage of Alexander Sitkovetsky – of the Sitkovetsky Trio.  I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in many orchestras and chamber groups within RNCM, especially completing the annual Montepulciano Tour, Italy in 2015 and 2016.

How long have you played for the JSO?

I first played in the 2011 Christmas concert, playing Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

What has been your favourite JSO concert that you have performed in?

I have enjoyed every concert I have played in therefore it is a difficult question to answer!  For example, being given the fantastic opportunity to lead the second violins in last summer’s concert was an amazing experience, which I am very grateful for.  However, playing Shostakovich’s fifth and Sibelius’ Violin concerto was a very exciting challenge as I am a strong admirer of Shostakovich’s symphonies particularly his 5th. 

Do you play any other instruments or belong to any other musical groups on the island?

I used to play piano and completed Grade 7.  On a casual basis, I enjoy playing guitar.  I am also a member of the No Strings Attached String Quartet.

Who is your favourite composer and why?

I go through stages of who my favourite composer is, but as I said earlier, I am a big fan of Shostakovich, mainly his symphonies. I think one of my reasons for liking him is the context in which he was writing his main compositions: the fifth, seventh and eleventh being my favourite symphonies. It was a powerful and moving part of the 20th century in which there was room for composers to stretch out of the ‘norm’ and experiment with many new ideas, especially with tonality.  

I also love playing chamber music by Mendelssohn.  There’s something about the way he writes his string quartets that appeals to me, and particularly the second quartet in A minor – it is great fun to play; there are so many different colours involved in it.

What is your favourite piece of classical music and why?

Almost an impossible question to only give one answer to!  However, to listen to, it would have to be Shostakovich’s seventh symphony, ‘Leningrad’.  The build-up in the first movement is brilliantly composed and you can really feel the tension throughout.  To play, that is harder to decide upon, as there is so many orchestral, ensemble and solo works to consider.

What music do you listen to?

I’m generally quite open to listening to many genres, however, I would say that I listen to bands or artists similar to Bombay Bicycle Club or Alt-J.

What do you love about Jersey?

The fact that it is a beautiful place to grow up in.  The beaches and the cliffs are fantastic.  Jersey, my home, has become even more special since studying in Manchester.

What one thing would you change about Jersey?

It’s not so much about changing something about Jersey, but I definitely think it’s important for Jersey to consider building a purpose built Concert Hall, which would accommodate intimate performances such as solo recitals to performances of big orchestral works.

What other passions do you have in life apart from music?

I am a big football fan, supporting Liverpool F.C.  I am also a regular festival-goer and love seeing live gigs.  Manchester has a great scene for that.

What do orchestras need to do to attract larger audiences?

Attracting bigger audiences, in my opinion, is not necessarily what it’s all about.  I think it is more important for orchestras to build stronger links with education and outreach programmes.  The JSO have been very successful with this.  I think it is more about developing stronger links and engaging with younger people, making music more accessible.  They will in turn fill the auditorium…

How best do we encourage young people to become interested in classical music?

Allowing them to see all the facets of music and what is on offer.  I think that professionals should go into schools regularly to talk to students about music and the life of a musician, whilst also demonstrating what each instrument can offer.  Following this, I think young people should have the opportunity of being allowed to join in whenever they can, through workshops for example.  I have gained a wealth of good advice and guidance from JSO’s leader Martin Smith and Principal Conductor Philip Ellis

If you could visit any musical period or see/meet/hear or play with any artist, what would you choose?

Although I’ve probably talked about it tirelessly, I think being around in the early stages of the 20th Century would have been very exciting.  There was so much happening and it is fascinating to read about the receptions some works were given and how successful they are now regarded.

What do you have planned for the next five years?

After my studies at undergraduate level at RNCM, I will be staying in Manchester seeking as many music-related opportunities as I possibly can.  As well as performing, I have a keen interest behind the scenes of an orchestra, such as management and programming.  Ideally I would love to be performing with an orchestra in five years time or at the very least being involved in the music industry at some level.

Why the Barber Violin Concerto?

This work immediately gripped me.  Each movement has a different and special purpose, covering all kinds of different emotions.  For example, the first movement explores a lyrical and very tranquil introduction from the solo violin.  There are some beautiful, crunchy harmonies that build up the tension, which then resolve in a really emphatic and satisfying manner.  There is regular interplay with the orchestra and it’s important to listen out for themes that can be stated by the solo violin or even the orchestra, in particular the introduction to the second movement.  It begins with a really beautiful oboe solo that is later repeated in the solo violin part.  To me, the regular shifts of harmonies between major and minor chords in this movement are really emotive.  The third movement is a real contrast to what the rest of the concerto has portrayed, demonstrating a real virtuosity of the violin and orchestral playing.  One moment, you might think that it is written simply in triplets, until you actually realise that solo violin is not even playing on the beat.  It’s truly an explosive ending to a concerto and to say I’m excited to have the honour of playing it with the JSO is an understatement.