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a2. orchestra team member Charlotte Greenway, sat down with violinist Helena O’Sullivan, who will be performing at our next concert “The American”. They spoke about Helena’s beginnings as a violinist, the repertoire for the upcoming concert, and playing in an chamber ensemble.

Article No. 11

Helena is currently in her Honours year of a Bachelor of Music at the University of Western Australia, under the tutelage of Shaun Lee-Chen. In the past, Helena has been awarded the Wesley Music Scholarship, the Peter Moore OAM Scholarship, the UWA Choral Society Award for Musicology, and the Flora Bunning Prize for Chamber Music with her quartet.

Recent highlights for Helena have included leading the UWA Chamber Orchestra in the West Australian Opera’s performances of Dido and Aeneas, performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in a concert sponsored by the National Seniors Australia, and performing on stage with the touring ABBA tribute band, Bjorn Again.

It’s always interesting to find out about how people began on their instrument, so this was the first thing Charlotte asked Helena. She responded, “when I was two or three years old, I watched an episode of Play School which featured a symphony orchestra. I told my parents that afternoon that I wanted to play the violin, and the next year, I started violin lessons”.

Helena O’Sullivan leading a2. orchestra as concertmaster for “Triumph & Tragedy” in 2023
Photo by James Trimble

Next, Charlotte was keen to know what Helena enjoys about the repertoire for our upcoming concert. Helena said, “I have wanted to play the American String Quartet for almost 10 years now! I first heard it when I was in Year 8, and although I had never played chamber music before, I just loved the excitement and character of the opening viola melody. I have played many fantastic quartets over the years but I still haven't had the chance to tackle the American, so I can't wait for this concert!”
Leading on from this, Charlotte was keen to know what Helena thinks about balancing personal creative expression and interpretation with other musicians, as well as the composers intentions in chamber music. Helena said, “finding a balance between different musical ideas within a chamber ensemble can be challenging, however it always comes down to listening and knowing the score. There are times where you can absolutely take expressive liberties, but other times you simply need to play a supporting role. Understanding historical convention is also important, so doing a little bit of research into the composers life and writing style is helpful. Often you need to read between the lines to discern what the composer might have wanted”.
Lastly, Charlotte asked Helena what she enjoys most about playing chamber music, to which she responded, “for me, playing chamber music is one of the most musically rewarding experiences. It allows you freedom of expression and opportunities to experiment, which often aren't possible in an orchestral setting. I also like the technical challenge of playing in a chamber group, because there's nowhere to hide! It's almost like a solo performance, but with all the fun parts of playing with others.

We are excited to have Helena perform with us as part of our upcoming concert “The American.” Tickets are selling fast so be sure to book your tickets now to see Helena on stage.

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