John Asplet

In by Alison Stewart

Founder Member

Viola

When and why did you start playing the viola?

I started playing at school, Victoria College. I was playing the violin at Prep as they only allowed either violin or cello at Prep; I switched to the viola as soon as possible!

Describe your journey with that instrument.

My first viola teacher at Vic was Mr Sawyer’s wife. I recall my first term’s lessons were in the cricket pavilion at Vic – music when I started there was an after-thought! I continued to learn with the Jersey Instrumental Service for the rest of my school days.

On leaving school I did try to study for a music degree: I once had dreams of being a composer but quickly released I was never going to get anywhere and failed to get any decent offers so changed tack. Whilst at Leicester Poly I did join the Leicester University Symphony Orchestra and played a few concerts with them – including one of my favourite pieces – Berlioz’s Harold in Italy (something I’d love to play with the JSO!)

Explain to us how and why you became involved with setting up the orchestra?

The JSO started when the other John (John Grimshaw) and I were back in Jersey after studying for degrees, and having left a very strong Jersey Youth Orchestra were left with the fact that there was no large group playing a challenging programme of symphonic music. Our first aim was to attract those young people who had played in school to join an adult orchestra and to not to be afraid to take on pieces that needed us to import a few guest players. So 28 years ago the orchestra was born, and I believe it has achieved the basic aims.

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

Rather than a single concert my best memory was the first ever local rehearsal. Held in St Saviour’s Parish Hall, there was a real mixed bag of local players and Robin McEwan, our first conductor. After all the various opponents we finally had the outline of an orchestra. Otherwise every JSO concert I have played – usually the last one!

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

The only other ‘instrument’ that I have performed on is the floor polisher, which I have now played twice with the JSO in The Grand Grand Overture.

I have played with the St. Cecilia orchestra for many years.

Is music your main profession?

No, I am a Chartered Accountant by profession and work in a small trust company, Azure Trust.

Who is your favourite composer and why?

This is a very hard question. I love Shostakovich for his wonderful Symphonies and orchestration, Bela Bartok for his use of rhythm and tonal combinations, Olivier Messiaen for his organ music and the Turangalila Symphony and Alban Berg for taking the twelve tone approach and creating wonderful music such as his Violin concerto and his operas.

What is your favourite piece of classical music and why?

Either Alban Berg’s Opera Lulu or Olivier Messiaen’s organ work L’Asencion.

What music do you listen to?

Just about anything – whatever is on the radio and a very weird collection on my old MP3 player to walk to work with!

What do you love about Jersey?

The sea and Jersey Royal potatoes!

What one thing would you change about Jersey?

I would love to see a purpose built music performance venue. As the Gloucester Hall is not fit for purpose we could really do with a larger performance space, around 1,000 seats and we could then attract a range of visiting performing artists from all genres.

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

Currently I seem to be fixed on sea swimming of varying distances. This year, in a relay squad of 6 I hope to swim to France and back.

What do orchestras need to do to attract larger audiences?

Put on interesting and challenging programmes and in Jersey make sure performance dates do not clash!

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

Loose the term ‘classical’ and get young people just to enjoy music. Once we show them the range of sounds that a large orchestra can make they will be hooked. An orchestra has such a diverse range it is really amazing.

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

Christmas 2086 – the Centenary Concert of the JSO and also marking 50 years of the Jersey Symphony Hall. I will be a spritely 122!