New Faces at ANAM


We're delighted to welcome a number of new faces to ANAM in 2024. From our new cohort of musicians, to new staff and faculty, there are some wonderful new people to meet around ANAM this year.

Lets get to know three of these new faces - Alex Owens who joins us as our Music Librarian, Emma John who joins us in her first year of training playing the horn, and we wlcome back Adam Chalabi who commences this year as resident faculty, head of violin.

Alex Owens, Emma John and Adam Chalabi.

Alex Owens

Tell us about yourself in one sentence?

A muso enamoured with the field and trying to do it all across performance, admin, writing and producing; a classical vocalist with a misplaced adoration of chamber and orchestral repertoire; and an advocate passionate about supporting and uplifting musicians and their stories. Also a home baker with an outsized sweet tooth kept in check by enjoying all the parts of a triathlon… even if I haven’t put them all together just yet!

What am I most looking forward to in starting at ANAM as Music Librarian?

I’m most excited about getting to better know the musicians and faculty, many of whom I’ve seen on stage producing multiple incredible performances, and sharing in all the music making slated for the year. An early highlight for me will be seeing musicians put the finishing touches on Gurre-Lieder, a special work to me that captured my imagination just as I was discovering art music.

One piece of music that has been influential / a favourite of yours and why?

It changes so regularly, but I’ve recently been fascinated with the late Kaija Saariaho’s opera Innocence. I was lucky enough to see this in London last year, and the way it merges Kaija’s own naturalistic musical voice with cultural and political threads was both overwhelming and deeply moving. Art that responds to the challenges of our time and that brings people together through shared experience and understanding is more important than ever, and you could feel the audience collectively hold their breath through the climax and come closer together as a result. These are the sorts of works I know ANAM students and faculty treasure, and I’m so excited to work with them to find and realise new and thought-provoking works and programs. 

Emma John

What are you looking forward to most about starting at ANAM in 2024?

I am incredibly excited to join the ANAM cohort. Such a group of vastly talented young musicians is quite terrifying, but it is an immense opportunity for personal and communal growth that I cannot wait to dive into. I am honestly most looking forward to learning how much I don't know about music and the horn!

What is one piece of music that has been influential / a favourite of yours and why?

Richard Strauss' Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs) has been a favourite of mine for quite a while now. For me, it is simply the most beautiful and emotionally evocative piece of music ever written. This work taught me the power that music holds in conveying ideas and emotions, especially when you are able to find meaningful personal connections to the music. Being able to play such a piece you not only get to experience the complexity and depth of sentiment, but also pass on your own response to listeners and your fellow players. I actually can't listen to it very often because I cry every time!

Adam Chalabi

What are you looking forward to most about being on ANAM Faculty this year?

This is my second stint at ANAM after a break of ten years. When I worked at ANAM previously those years counted amongst the happiest periods of my professional life. Although the organisation has evolved in the most wonderous ways since that time, it really feels like I am coming home. I’ve always associated ANAM with great collegiality amongst staff, wonderfully talented students and faculty and above all a commitment to those students in terms of overall excellence of the program. There exists at ANAM such a wonderfully diverse range of opportunities, and great connectivity with strategies in regard of practice, performance craft and career pathways (amongst many other things). The excellent support from the program team is something that I particularly value. This allows the faculty to focus on (and improve) our core teaching and performance skills which is a major factor behind ANAM’s continued success and ability to keep evolving.

What is one piece of music that has been influential / a favourite of yours and why?

I think for me, memorable music becomes as associated with or representative of a particular time in life as anything else. Photos, tastes, smells..... all pale in comparison to the gut reaction of hearing a particular piece that is meaningful to me.

Music was an ever present in my household growing up. Dad was a classical music enthusiast who wasn't at peace unless the radio or record player was pumping at full volume. Mum had more diverse taste but the same raw love of music was there.... and infectious. I remember in particular the astonishing array of records that dad brought back from a study trip that he led to St Petersburg (he sold all of his clothes to buy them!). Amongst them was the cellist Daniel Shafran playing Brahms E minor sonata (shamefully, I can't remember the pianist). The warmth of the vibrato, the richness of sound, the fragility of expression and the utter humanity in his playing was foundational in nurturing a belief in a certain form of sound production which I hold dear to this day.

I think the piece of music that left the most lasting impression on me as a teenager was the first time I heard Beethoven's op.132 string quartet performed live in concert. The third movement is the ultimate expression of Beethoven's struggle with seemingly everything in his life. There is heart-breaking poignancy here but (unusually for slow movements in late Beethoven quartets) this is also tinged with optimism. The Andante 3/8 section is as exuberant and cathartic as anything Beethoven ever wrote but his dealings in the lydian mode either side of those Andante sections are nothing short of revelatory. I remember the Chilingirian Quartet in a church in Beckenham, London on a cold winter evening with their seemingly endless bows seeking endless expression from the music and transporting me to the certainty that music was the most wondrous world to be involved with.

At music college in England, I remember the Lindsay Quartet playing Haydn every fortnight at the University of Manchester concert series. This was not the Haydn that I aspired to play- at first it almost offended my ears. Deficiencies in intonation, raw sound production, less than perfect ensemble....the ambitious violinist in me couldn't see past any of those things. But then the spontaneity, the joy of live performance, the conveyance of a life well lived (by both composer and performers) took over and their approach suddenly transcended any aesthetic imperfections. It stirred almost nationalistic pride in me that four elderly English gents 'got' the spirit of Haydn more than any quartet I had heard before (or since for that matter). On a slight tangent, Haydn symphonies are some of the most robust pieces of music I have ever encountered. I say this not because they are on my desert island disc but simply because I have done so many bad performances of them in which the music somehow survives unscathed. I think that is worthy of a mention in itself!

My years in Switzerland were dominated by baroque and early classical repertoire. I had not encountered Ignaz Biber before we played 'Battalia' with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. That piece made me want to leave the orchestra just so I could find an orchestra to lead so I could play it my way (I was Principal 2nd Violin at the time)! It's a raucous mess of a piece depicting a battle scene with astonishing dissonances, percussive and futuristic string sound effects and searching melodic material that demands expressive ornamentation. Somewhat paradoxically I had a movement of this played at my wedding......!

And onto the present day.....well I'm glad to report that my tastes have somewhat broadened. I actually love Taylor Swift (in all seriousness), Chris Thile, Sia (Chandelier- what a song!).....I’m not sure I have ever heard a piece as poignant as Max Richter’s ‘On the Nature of Daylight’.

Most goose bump inducing......? The coda of both the first movement of Mendelssohn's Octet, and the first movement of Beethoven's op.74 String Quartet plus anything by Coldplay....


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