Meet the RPO: Katherine Lacy’s views on music and Mozart

In 2017, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's exceptional Principal Clarinet, Katherine Lacy, will perform Mozart's ever-popular Clarinet Concerto accompanied by the Orchestra at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, The Hawth Crawley, the High Wycombe Swan and the Rose Theatre Kingston, as part of the Orchestra's Regional Residency programme. Ahead of her tour, we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her time in the RPO and how she built her illustrious career.

What is the best thing about being a member of the RPO?

The best thing about being a member of the RPO has to be my colleagues – it's such a pleasure to come to work with such friendly people and it makes the music-making even more fun!

What inspired you to become a musician as a child?

My parents were involved in entertainment themselves and there were always classical music records on at home when I was growing up. One of my dad's favourites was Jack Brymer playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and I'm sure that it must have been that that drew me to the sound of the clarinet. I joined the recorder group in primary school and the next logical step seemed to be to take up another woodwind instrument; I was quite determined that the clarinet was the instrument for me. To think that I'm now in some way following in Jack Brymer's footsteps (he was the RPO's principal clarinet 1947–1963) is amazing!

Do you have a defining moment of your musical career so far?

The moment when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to be an orchestral musician came when I was seventeen. I was a sixth form student at Chetham's School of Music and was given the chance to play First Clarinet in Rachmaninov's Symphony No.2 at The Bridgewater Hall. It was the first time I'd really experienced that feeling of being extremely nervous about something, followed by the elation and relief of it going well, as well as the buzz of being part of such a huge team all working together to perform such an incredible piece of music. It made me feel completely alive and I just wanted to do it again and again! I knew at that point that I had to try my best to make it my career.

Where is your favourite place to perform?

When it comes to venues, I always really enjoy touring in Europe – the old concert halls there are such a pleasure to play in. A recent standout concert was playing in the Tonhalle in Zurich with the incredible Martha Argerich as soloist.

Back in the UK though, a highlight for me is always playing in the City Hall in Hull, which I think is a beautiful hall and brings with it happy memories of childhood Christmases (my mum is from very nearby) and I always enjoy our regular concerts in Cadogan Hall.

Wherever we play in the UK, from Lowestoft to Scunthorpe, I'm always struck by the warmth and enthusiasm of our audiences, which certainly makes all the travelling worthwhile!

What was the first recording you ever bought?

The first recording I ever bought with my own money would probably have been a Bon Jovi album. I used to be absolutely obsessed with them as a teenager!

What do you listen to in your spare time?

In the car it's Radio 4, and when I'm at home cooking or chilling out I love listening to music from the Big Band era, as well as anything from Cuba/South America. I used to do a bit of Salsa dancing and always find music from that part of the world completely uplifting. And you can't beat a bit of Stevie Wonder!

What makes Mozart's Clarinet Concerto so special?

In my opinion, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto is one of the best pieces, if not the best piece for any woodwind instrument ever written.

From an audience's point of view, it's simply full of great tunes and takes you through so many different characters and emotions, all in less than half an hour!

From a clarinettist's perspective, it's absolutely staggering what Mozart achieved with this piece, compared to anything that had previously been written for the instrument – it spans nearly four octaves, is incredibly virtuosic, and contains the most beautifully expressive phrases you could ever hope to play.

What are the most important lessons that your life in music has taught you?

Probably the importance of teamwork. The great thing about being in an orchestra is that feeling of being part of something far bigger than you. We might get occasional moments to shine as individuals but far more important is supporting your colleagues; listening and compromising if we sometimes have different ideas.

What advice would you offer to any young, aspiring musicians?

One of my most influential teachers was Jim Muirhead, bass clarinettist with the Hallé Orchestra. He taught me the importance of being versatile; it's such a hard profession to succeed in that you really can't have too many strings to your bow. You just never know what opportunities might come your way and you need to be ready for them! You will be constantly told how hard it is to succeed as a musician and it is true that competition is fierce; even if you make it it's certainly not an easy life, but I would say that if you really want it and are prepared to work your socks off, go for it! You won't know unless you try.


Don't miss the opportunity to hear Katherine Lacy perform Mozart's stunning Clarinet Concerto with the world-renowned Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Rose Theatre Kingston (Saturday 28 January), the High Wycombe Swan (Saturday 25 February), The Hawth Crawley (Saturday 10 June) and the Orchard Theatre in Dartford (Sunday 11 June).


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