Monday, December 12, 2016 11:30am
Horn players Emma Gregan and Alex Miller are our newest orchestra members. The young couple moved from Brisbane to Adelaide last year and were both awarded full-time positions with the ASO.
Above L-R Emma Gregan and Alex Miller at ASO Grainger Studio
What brought you to Adelaide?
ALEX The ASO! Before I moved down to Adelaide, I was studying in Brisbane at the Queensland Conservatorium. I did a fair bit of back and forth during the two years I worked on contract, but now I'm sticking around for good!
EMMA The ASO! I moved from Brisbane for a contract on 2nd/4th horn in 2015 and auditioned for tenure in November 2016.
Above: Alex Miller by Nathan Thomas, Toowoomba Telegraph
Above: Emma Gregan
Why did you decide to learn the horn?
ALEX Because it was the shiniest and curliest instrument that my primary school owned – and at eight years old, that seemed as good a reason as any!
EMMA I actually wanted to play the flute... sadly I was so bad at it that my school music teacher gave me a horn instead; I didn't even know what a horn was! I absolutely loved it from the first day though.
Above: Emma Gregan with a young ASO audience member following a performance of Crazy Creatures
What makes the horn such a challenging instrument to play?
ALEX I wouldn't say that playing the horn at a professional level is more challenging than playing any other instrument at a professional level, and yet the horn has developed this reputation for being monstrously difficult. Maybe it owes to the fact that our mistakes (splits, cracks, clams, fluffs, et cetera) are more obvious than those of other instruments? Plus, every horn player is responsible for playing a different part to the next, so there's really nowhere to hide when disaster strikes.
EMMA It can be a bit hard to pick out notes in the high register sometimes because our harmonics are closer together than other brass instruments. Some days it can feel a bit like trying to catch a fly with chopsticks while riding a unicycle, not that I've tried that myself.
Above: This is what Principal Horn Adrian Uren calls 'interval training' - go the horn section! L-R Adrian Uren, Alex Miller, Philip Paine and Emma Gregan (Oct 2015)
Which pieces are you most looking forward to in the ASO’s Season 2017?
ALEX There's a lot to look forward to! If I had to limit it to three works, I'd say: Brahms' Second Symphony, because there's no such thing as 'bad Brahms'; Elgar's Second Symphony, because the finale contains some of the most serene, ethereal music ever written, and; Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, because the horn parts just can't be topped!
EMMA Mendelssohn 3 is one of my favourite pieces ever so I am super excited for that. The 4th horn part is basically the best thing ever written (completely unbiased opinion). I'm also looking forward to some pieces I love but haven't played before like Bruckner 4, as well as the education concerts with Paul Rissmann (which are on my birthday!) because they are so entertaining and wonderful for both the musicians and the kids!
Above L-R: Emma Gregan and Alex Miller
What is your favourite Christmas carol?
ALEX I hadn't every really thought about this one! Maybe Good King Wenceslas? Mostly just because Wenceslas I is a fairly interesting historical figure: his life was filled with intrigue, plots, rebellions, and murder. I'm not entirely sure how he is related to Christmas.
EMMA Actually, I arranged The Three Drovers for a Christmas CD collaboration between the American Horn Quartet and the Queensland Symphony horns due for release soon; it's a gorgeous Australian tune by William James and John Wheeler who wrote a set of carols together in the ‘40s. A lot of them are summer/outback themed, which is awesome because I love our warm Christmases!
Above L-R: Emma Gregan and Alex Miller
This Q&A interview was conducted by ASO Donor Relations Manager, Alex Bassett and first published in the ASO’s November Donor Newsletter, Grace Notes. This article was re-posted by Michelle Robins, Publications & Communications Coordinator, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra with permission.
I am always very excited when the ASO play Richard Strauss--- exquisite horns full on !!