Antipodean creative Sally Whitwell is a pianist, composer, conductor and educator whose primary purpose is to Keep Classical Music Friendly. She’s equally happy performing solo recitals on concert platforms as she is playing rhythmic clapping games with rooms full of eight year olds. She and her partner Glennda live happily behind their shopfront studio in Sydney’s Inner West with their four fabulous felines Gandalf, Boudica, Lucky and Dickens. She enjoys cooking, walking and subversive cross stitch.
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Blog posts and interviews with Sally
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Listen & buy Sally’s recordings on iTunes
Listen & buy Sally’s recordings on Amazon
We asked Sally a few questions
- How old were you when you decided to be a musician and what led you the instrument(s) you now play? I’ve just always known that music would be my life but the details of how were a whole lot more vague. The piano was my first love, any flirtations I had with other instruments were secondary. I think your instrument chooses you, not the other way round. Her whole story about that is on her site.
- When you’re not rehearsing/performing/teaching, where are you most likely to be? The library? Or on my couch at home doing some subversive cross stitch. I mostly enjoy quiet indoor pursuits because I’m a big nerd. My favourite outdoor location in Sydney is the Succulent Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens. i love the weird shapes of cacti and succulents and I love that they are not just surviving in inhospitable environments but they are actually thriving in them, flourishing in them. Like freelance classical musicians in a modern world. Haha!
- After you finish a concert, what is the first drink you want to have in your hand? Quality bubbly. But I go through regular alcohol-free periods these days. At those times, I’ll just have an orange juice.
- If there weren’t external factors involved, how long do you think a concert should go for? A concert should go for as long as a performer can hold the attention of an audience. I think it’s a bit subjective really. The guys that used to own the Tilbury Hotel, (in the good old days when it was a wonderful cabaret venue and not yet another soulless generic Sydney bar), they had an unwritten rule for show lengths – 1st half was 35 minutes, followed by dinner then a 2nd half of 25 minutes. In their experience, that was about as long as audiences could concentrate. I usually program my concerts to be an hour without interval (with plenty of chat so the crowd can relax a little and maybe even have a laugh!).
- When should we clap? Audiences should clap when they feel compelled to show their appreciation. It’s not about observing etiquette, it’s about how compellingly musicians perform. Any responsibility for ensuring that audiences clap at the ‘right’ times rests entirely with the performers i.e. if performers convey the right energy for the whole time that they’re on stage, then they don’t get ‘accidental’ applause because the audience is right with them. You’ll see great actors do this all the time, captivate an audience in silence. Classical musicians can learn a great deal from actors. Read about my personal solution to these issues.
- Sydney Children’s Choir
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