Bursting out of the pit at any Birmingham Royal Ballet performance will be the glorious sound of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, our wonderful live orchestra. In an ongoing series of interview with the players, we spoke to Vera Pereira, who explained the path that led to her current role as Bassist.

Vera Pereira

How old were you when you first started playing?
I was 12 when I started the double bass but have been learning music since I was 6. I started with the organ, moving on to piano and finally double bass.

What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
I went through different phases. We always had a lot of animals in my family so I wanted to be a veterinarian at some point. Then I thought it would be cool to be a dancer. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized I wanted to do music.

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
Since September 2014, so 7 months.

What’s your favourite ballet music?
I love the classics. It always makes me happy to play Nutcracker or Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky but my favourite composer for ballet music would have to be Stravinsky, because his music was very revolutionary.

What’s your favourite pop song?
My favourite song is ‘When I Fall in Love’ by Nat King Cole but I don’t think of it so much as a pop song. I also like Esperanza Spalding and Regina Spektor.

What instrument would you choose to play other than your own?
I always thought it would be fun to play the harp. The sound palette is very soothing. Having carried a double bass my whole life though, I know better than to pick a big instrument as it’s a hassle to carry around in the tube. I’d probably go for a piccolo or something…

Favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
I haven’t yet made up my mind on which pit is the best but I do know that Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona is my all-time favourite concert hall! It’s very original, having ornate decorations all around it in a Gaudi-inspired building. What it has in terms of looks is mirrored in its excellent acoustics that make it a pleasure to play in.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
Definitely anything from the Warehouse Café in Birmingham which combines modern vegetarian with home-style food.

How do you relax away from music?
I love reading, baking, reading about baking as well as more sporty activities such as going to the gym and doing Zumba. I’m also an avid photographer, taking pictures whenever I can.

If, like our Bassist, you’re a fan of Tchaikovsky, you might like to know that we’re performing Serenade in Plymouth this week, as well as Swan Lake throughout the UK this autumn and winter! Click each show title for details

Carmen Flores is the Principal Viola player with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the orchestra of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Audiences have most recently been enjoying her performance in the current season of Coppélia, which features a beautiful Viola solo in Act III.

Carmen kindly took time out from a busy rehearsal and performance schedule to discuss her life as a musician.

Carmen Flores

How old were you when you first started playing?
I was 6 years old when I first started taking violin lessons using the Suzuki Method. In typical fashion for most viola players, at both my school orchestra and youth orchestra, the San Diego Youth Symphony, they needed violas, so I volunteered to play at age 12. I haven’t looked back since!

What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
When I was a child, I knew I wanted to travel and see the world, and experience new cultures. At first I thought I would be diplomat or ambassador, but fortunately my career in music has fulfilled that curiosity by taking me all over the world.

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
I joined the Royal Ballet Sinfonia in 2007. It’s been amazing to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet company grow and change since then.

What’s your favourite ballet music?
I will always remember the first two ballets that I played with the RBS when joining – Ravel’s sensuous Daphnis and Chloë, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Those two scores always elicit a strong emotional response from the orchestra, probably because of all the drama in the music. My favourite ballet ever is Nutcracker – this is Tchiakovsky’s most memorable music. And of course, I can’t forget the viola solos in Coppélia and Giselle; I love playing them!

Favourite pop song?
I’ll have to admit that my 3-year-old daughter’s influence on me is quite powerful; “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen is constantly on in the house…it’s also my shower song!

What instrument would you choose other than your own?
Aside from viola, I always loved singing, so I would choose to sing aside from playing.

Favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
I love the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff. It’s one of the most beautiful modern concert halls in the UK, with the design using natural materials of slate, metal, wood and glass. The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden also has a special vibe to it – all of that history.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
I’ll go for the local specialties of wherever I’m on tour – I love hunting around and exploring the area. For a constant, I’ll treat myself to a calming cream tea and scones.

How do you relax away from music?
I love cooking, and that helps me relax. I haven’t always been a big cook, but ever since we’ve moved house and have a bigger kitchen, I’ve been experimenting a lot!

Click here to find out more about Birmingham Royal Ballet’s final Coppélia performances at Theatre Royal Plymouth, 26-28 March 2015.

Llinos Owen plays Bassoon in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia – the orchestra of Birmingham Royal Ballet. With the orchestra currently lifting the roof off the London Coliseum with the mighty Carmina burana, Llinos kindly took time to discuss her life as a musician…

Llinos Owen, Bassoon player

How old were you when you first started playing?
I started learning the piano with my grandmother when I was 4, then played the flute briefly and the clarinet, before being intrigued by a smelly old bassoon in a school cupboard when I was 14.

What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
I wanted to be a swimming teacher when I was at primary school, and I don’t think I realised that being a musician could be a real ‘job’ until later on.

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
This is my first year in the job.

What’s your favourite ballet music?
Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – so aggressive and yet so beautiful!

What’s your favourite pop song?
‘Adra’ by Gwyneth Glyn. It’s a Welsh pop song about missing home.

What instrument would you choose to play other than your own?
Anything lighter and easier to carry than bassoon and contra, but I particularly like the sound of the cello and the French horn.

Favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
I like playing into the acoustic of the Bridgewater hall in Manchester, but I love being at the NCPA in Mumbai because being in India is always exciting. My favourite pit is at the Birmingham Hippodrome because it’s 9 miles from my house.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
Great seafood at Platters restaurant in Plymouth.

How do you relax away from music?
I go sea kayaking mainly in Scotland and Wales and do a bit of bird watching. I enjoy baking, but it’s always a disaster.

Click here to book for this week’s final shows at London Coliseum, and click here to book for the June performances of Carmina burana at Birmingham Hippodrome!

Robert Simmons (pictured left) plays Second Violin for the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the orchestra of Birmingham Royal Ballet. In this, his 10th anniversary season with the Company, he kindly answered a few questions about himself…

Robert Simmons (left)

How old were you when you first started playing?
Seven. With the amazing Kent Music School. I was on a waiting list to learn violin and couldn’t wait to start. Many of my family had played in the Hoo (Rochester) Silver Band under conductors such as Eric Ball so a string instrument was an unusual choice!

What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
A journalist.

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
Since October 2004 (It’s my 10th anniversary year, though I’m still waiting for my birthday cake!)

What’s your favourite ballet music?
Apollo (Stravinsky). It’s incredibly moving music and I first played it on trial so it has good memories for me. It gives me goose bumps. We play it really well!

What is your favourite pop song?
Sit Down, by James (Not their best song – but the first single I bought with my own money and my introduction to a great band).

What instrument would you choose other than your own?
Trumpet.

Favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
Sunderland Empire – a wonderful open pit, great to be on show for once! Bridgewater Hall for concerts.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
Anything from The Peach Garden in Chinatown. My home from home in Birmingham.

How do you relax away from music?
I’m a coffee snob! I love discovering coffees and brewing techniques from roasters like @hasbean and @squaremile. Premium coffee is an affordable luxury. I also love holidays with my family, mid century furniture and watching Mad Men.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia are currently touring with Birmingham Royal Ballet, performing Coppélia throughout the UK. Click here for details.

Meet Mike Allen, Principal Trumpet player with our orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Mike

How old were you when you first started playing?
When I was 7 years old I found my dad’s trumpet in the loft and used to sit in front of the TV, honking along to whatever music was playing on the BBC2 test card

What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
I guess I always wanted to be some sort of sports person… a tennis player during Wimbledon, a sprinter during the Olympics and a footballer for the rest of the year.

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
I’ve been a member for 14 years, but worked regularly with the orchestra for 10 years before that.

What’s your favourite ballet music?
Hard one that. I love the Prokofiev ballets, especially Cinderella as it has the most scrummy trumpet tune at the end. But my Desert Island ballet piece would have to be Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloë.

What is your favourite pop song?
I was never into pop music as a kid, but used to listen to big band music all the time, especially trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. However, when I was 30, a colleague of mine got me hooked on the music of rock guitarist Joe Satriani and I have that on in the car most of the time.

What instrument would you choose other than your own?
Electric guitar. I have already mastered the ‘air’ guitar!

Favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
The Coliseum in London is the best pit for brass and I think the Symphony Hall in Birmingham is a fantastic concert hall.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
When we’re in Birmingham, we’re spoiled with a choice of loads of Chinese restaurants right outside The Hippodrome. But in Plymouth, there’s Captain Jasper’s Burger Bar.

How do you relax away from music?
Holidays in Florida! We’ve been going as a family for more than 15 years and I love it :-)

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia will be performing at all forthcoming Birmingham Royal Ballet shows, as well as rising up out of the orchestra pit for an Evening of Music and Dance at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall this month.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia are the orchestra of Birmingham Royal Ballet, and it is their fantastic performance of Tchaikovsky’s fabulous score that delighted attendees of our recent Nutcracker season. With the show now over, Cellist Jane Rainey kindly answered some of our questions…

Jane Rainey

How old were you when you first started playing?
I started the recorder about aged 6 and the cello aged 8. I was tall for my age and was offered a cello to try rather than a violin.

What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to play the cello professionally. It was my little piece of autonomy and I loved it.

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
22 years, I joined in March 1992.

What’s your favourite ballet music?
I love Manon by Massenet, it is tremendously moving and challenging to play. I also love Slaughter on Tenth Avenue which is jazzy and vibrant.

Favourite pop song?
Eva Cassidy’s version of “Over The Rainbow”; hauntingly beautiful and very spiritual.

What instrument would you choose other than your own?
I think the timpani must be very satisfying to play and adds a wonderful depth and timbre to the orchestra. I can’t imagine playing anything other than the cello really.

Favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
Sunderland’s Empire Theatre is a beautiful traditional old theatre whilst The Royal Opera House Covent Garden has a special ambience and good facilities. I have fond memories of Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
Usually somewhere with a voucher, preferably 40% off food! I don’t eat meat so somewhere with a more enlightened vegetarian option!

How do you relax away from music?
My husband Alaster Bentley (oboe) and I have five cats and they are a huge part of our lives. I am also a Reiki Practitioner and believe in a holistic and balanced approach to life, so I meditate every day and practice Yoga. I also have a rather obsessive love of horse racing! In the photo above, you can see me with” Irving” at a visit to champion trainer Paul Nicholl’s yard. My cello is made by Colin Irving and it was a great joy to meet his namesake!

Jane and her fellow players will be rising up out of the orchestra pit in January, to take centre stage for An Evening of Music and Dance at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. Book now to avoid missing out!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.