Helen Ireland, originally from Adelaide, has made Melbourne her home since moving in 2000 to attend the Australian National Academy of Music. Soon after Flinders Quartet was formed, and as her dream had been for many years to be a member of a permanent string quartet it is not surprising that the Flinders Quartet has formed the centre of her musical life in Melbourne. Helen is also a core member of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and teaches viola at Melbourne University.
A graduate of the Canberra School of Music, Helen was awarded the Erica Haas prize for chamber music. She participated in several Australian Youth Orchestra tours, becoming principal viola of the Camerata in 1998. In 1996, Helen was a finalist in the viola competition at the International Winter School for Strings.
Helen has worked with many leading Australian orchestras, including the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. She plays regularly with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria where she has been guest principal and associate principal. In the second half of 2008 she was Assistant Coordinator of Strings at Melbourne University.
Helen is qualified as a Feldenkrais practitioner and looks forward to helping other musicians with this work.
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We asked her 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 can’t remember the precise moment, but by the end of primary school I was pretty keen. Wonderful experiences such as National Music Comp and AYO and listening to recordings of the hugely inspirational Yuri Bashmet really fueled the passion during high school as did the opportunity to go to Marryatville High School with many like minded people and excellent music education.
It was mostly chance that led me to the viola but I think it was meant to be 🙂 I was tricked really. My primary school said that they didn’t have a violin only a viola. I was eight and they thought I would be too small to play what was a 3/4 sized violin strung as a viola but I really wanted to do it so my mum went in to bat for me as I was tall for my age. they let me have it and the string teacher at our school was actually a violinist and was lovely. I fell in love with the viola sound and that was it I guess!
- When you’re not rehearsing/performing/teaching, where are you most likely to be? At the moment spending time with my baby boy, Kaan. He’s taking up pretty much all of my spare time right now. If I get the chance I’ll go for a swim and I always like looking at new recipes and attempting to prepare a meal if Kaan will let me! I usually have a good TV series on the go to keep me occuplied since I’m at home a lot. I just watched all of the Wire. Brilliant!
- After you finish a concert, what is the first drink you want to have in your hand?In the colder months a red wine or in Summer a champagne. Something I’m looking forward to being able to embrace again more in the future 🙂
- If there weren’t external factors involved, how long do you think a concert should go for?I really like a 1 hour concert without an interval. It doesn’t need to be long. I just want something to transport me to another place, stimulate me, relax me or all of the above. That might happen in one 10 minute piece. I don’t think we need to have long concerts for the sake of it.
- When should we clap? It really bothers me that the ‘clapping issue’ actually keeps some people away from classical concerts, so in that sense I think we really need to say that it’s find to clap between movements. It does get a bit more complicated though when clapping during moments that the musicians and the composer have really set up to be silent are covered with clapping because then it can detract from the experience of the concert for at least some audience members. I think we should really encourage people to not go onto auto pilot with clapping and try to be ‘intune’ with the mood on the stage, but then just go with the moment and not be ashamed or embarrassed if they clap and no one else does.
A member of
- Flinders Quartet
- Melbourne Chamber Orchestra