Friday 12 February 2016

Meet Emer McDonough

In another of regular Q&A blogs we asked Britten Sinfonia Principal Flute, Emer McDonough a few questions ahead of her performances of Debussy's Syrinx and his Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp this February in Norwich, Cambridge, London and Southampton.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Being on the same stage as Martha Argerich when she played Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major. I cannot begin to describe the colours she created. I'd never heard such exquisite, evocative and sultry sounds from a piano.

When are you happiest?
When we are all on holiday and all is harmonious between my three boys ...

What is your earliest musical memory?
Watching my big sister play the piano and feeling so desperate to learn too.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
My mother. She is everything I admire in a person. Kind, gentle, thoughtful, tactful, unbelievably intelligent, the most attentive listener.... I really could go on and on.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Misunderstanding a conductor's beat in the second movement of Liszt's Piano Concerto No.2 and going off piste for what seemed like an age. It was just horrible. I still don't know what I played or if he was in 2 or 4. I still blush and feel queasy when I think of it.

What is your most treasured possession?
Apart from my wedding ring and poems, pictures and stories by my kids, my holy communion cross is my most treasured possession. I've had it since I was 6 years old and I wear with it in times of need. I'd be devastated if I lost it.

What would your super power be?

Obviously to be in two places, no make that 3 or 4 places at once!! What's the technical term for that?

If you were an animal what would you be?

I love dogs and horses but I wouldn't want to be one. I caught sight of a hawk the other day riding the wind over an under 10 rugby match I was watching and I remember thinking it would have been pretty spectacular to be soaring up there.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Being absolutely useless with any technology. Speed reading and thus gleaning all the wrong or no information. Forgetting people's names the instant I hear them. Being uncomfortable with silence......

What is your favourite book?
Anything by Colm Toibin or Sebastian Barry.  Irish literature is especially dear to me, both prose and poetry, but I still love the Shakespeare sonnets and plays I learned at school and I always return to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bron

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

I don't really know. I must find one quickly though. I was about to say finishing a cup of tea when it's still hot but I realise that's more of a basic human right than a guilty pleasure. Perhaps watching a panel show called "A league of their own " with my husband. It's just so silly and daft.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Marcel Moyse, Roy Keane, Roger Federer, Ronaldo, Messi, Jessica Ennis, Judy Dench, Fireman Sam, Johnny Wilkinson, my husband, my closest friends and my three boys who all are football mad hence mainly sport themed dinner party.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To when my 2 year old slept.

How do you relax away from the concert platform?
I run, a lot.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Passing my driving test first time with a stupendous parallel parking manoeuvre & my children, oh and the principal flute stuff. I'm really very proud of that too.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To be calm and take each moment as it comes. I forget to abide by this but the intention is often there.

In a nutshell, what is your philosophy?
 "Go to bed early" seems like a good one but not very eloquent. I say it a lot to the little people and to myself but rarely does anyone, including myself, listen! So I think to treat others as you would like them to treat you is my philosophy in a slightly cracked nutshell.

Emer performs Debussy's Syrinx, a new work by Daniel Bjarnason and Debussy's Sonata for flute, viola and harp with fellow principal players, Clare Finnimore (viola) and Lucy Wakeford (harp) in Britten Sinfonia's At Lunch Three tour. Performances take place in Norwich on Fri 19 Feb, Cambridge on Tue 23 Feb and London on Wed 24 Feb. More info here

An extended version of this programme will also be performed at Southampton's Turner Sims Concert Hall on Thu 25 Feb. More info here

You can read Emer's full biography here.

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