Studio Symphony Orchestra

A Player's Perspective

Meet members of the orchestra and find out what makes them tick!

Bernagh Brims | Alan Greenlee

 

Bernagh BrimsBernagh Brims plays 'cello in the orchestra.

How long have you been with the SSO?

Well I’m not going to specify a date as I joined as a flute player when I was 16! I played for a number of years until work and family commitments got in the way.  I re-emerged some 20 years later having taken up the cello, and have been playing this time around for about 25 years.

What is your musical background?

I played flute in various youth orchestras and did Grade 8.  I gained a place in the Royal Academy to study music, but in the same month was accepted for a job in the BBC, which I took.  I have never regretted it – I think amateur musicians have more fun than professional ones!

Who is your favourite composer?

A nearly impossible question.  Weber when I am feeling happy, Chopin when at peace, and Bach when life gets tough.

What do you enjoy most about your instrument?

The sound of a cello is beautiful, and I am always trying to find it.  It is a very physical instrument, and I like the feeling that every part of you is involved in trying to produce a musical sound.

What do you like most about playing in the SSO?

After several weeks of rehearsals, there is nearly always a moment in a concert – maybe playing a ‘big’ piece by Mahler or Shostakovich – when you are surrounded by this huge sound and everyone is playing their hearts out, and you think, yes, this is what it is all about!

Do you perform in any other groups?

Not now.  I used to enjoy playing in a wind quintet, and later a string quartet.

Do you ever get nervous before concerts?

Not as a cellist - there is sort of safety in numbers.  (I remember being a wind player could be seriously scary.)

What is your most memorable moment with the SSO so far?

Walking on to the stage of the new Waterfront Hall for the first time to play in Haydn’s Creation, with massed choirs from both sides of the Border, and having been very involved in the publicity for weeks beforehand, and seeing the hall was packed. (The performance was a wonderful experience to be part of as well.)

Any embarrassing SSO moments that you’re willing to share?!

Being the only cello who turned up for a read-through of a Brahms Symphony – way out of my league.

What piece would you most like the SSO to perform?

One of the massive Bruckner symphonies (can we afford all the brass players??)

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Alan GreenleeAlan Greenlee plays 2nd clarinet in the orchestra.

How long have you been with the SSO?

I joined the SSO in September 1981, which is longer ago than I care to remember!

What is your musical background?

I have always loved music and studied it to A level at school.  My teacher played in the SSO at that time and brought me along to a rehearsal – I remember it was Elgar’s overture “Froissart” – and I was completely bowled over.

Who is your favourite composer?

That’s a hard one.  It’s difficult to single out just one.  I have always been a big William Walton fan, but I also have a particular liking for Beethoven, Mahler and Sibelius amongst many others.

What do you enjoy most about your instrument?

I enjoy the great dynamic range of the clarinet.  You can make the sound emerge from nothing, crescendo to very loud, and diminuendo again to nothing. I also enjoy the great warmth of sound that you can create, which allows you to be very expressive.

What do you like most about playing in the SSO?

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to perform such a wide range of great music under professional direction in such a relaxed and enjoyable way.  I have learned an enormous amount over the years and developed immeasurably as a musician.    

Do you perform in any other groups?

I used to play in a small wind ensemble at Queen’s University, but nowadays I enjoy playing in the Studio Wind Quintet.  We also occasionally get to play some wind octets and that is great fun.

Do you ever get nervous before concerts?

Not really, but I can get quite nervous during them!

What is your most memorable moment with the SSO so far?

I have a particularly fond memory of our performance of Verdi’s Requiem in the Waterfront in 1999. That was a great concert and a wonderful experience.  But I think my personal highlight was playing 1st clarinet in Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony in the Ulster Hall in 2002. Or playing bass clarinet in Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony - that was good too! 

Any embarrassing SSO moments that you’re willing to share?!

I played bass clarinet in Mahler’s 1st Symphony and completely fluffed the opening at the concert.  Things like that are going to happen every now and again, but you feel bad about it because you’re letting everyone down.  I have fluffed plenty of other things, but I’m not going to admit to them here just in case nobody noticed and I got away with them!

What piece would you most like the SSO to perform?

There are so many!  Quite a few symphonies - Walton's 1st, Mahler's 3rd, Beethoven's 9th - as I said, there are so many!

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