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ASO Principal 1st Violin Shirin Lim tells us why she’s looking forward to Simone Young’s return to the ASO, and what she’s been doing to prepare for this big concert on 23 July.

"The ASO uses music from our own library, sometimes we borrow it from the National Music Library, and sometimes we rent it. When the set of music arrives, the ASO’s Concertmaster, Natsuko Yoshimoto, goes through the 1st Violin part of the score and marks in bowings and articulations. She does this at least four weeks before the rehearsals, as the other String Section Leaders need to then mark their parts. Then, about three weeks before rehearsals begin the ASO’s Librarian, Bruce Stewart will spend many hours preparing all the string parts, marking in bowings to each and stand part. Then, about two weeks before rehearsals start, all the string players can borrow parts to practise."

Our Principal 1st Violin, Shirin Lim has been with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra for more than 26 years, and says she loves Mahler and is looking forward to performing in the upcoming Simone Young & Mahler concert in the Festival Theatre.

Image creditShirin Lim & Martin Butler by Jacqui Way


"Although we get to see the music for each program two weeks before rehearsals begin, practise is ongoing – something we've all done for years! I like to think of 'learning notes' and 'practising my instrument' as slightly separate things," Shirin says.

“Every musician has their own experience with the music, so the way they each learn the notes and prepare for concerts is different, depending on their background education,” she says.

Image creditShirin Lim by Shane Reid


The Australian describes Mahler’s Symphony No 6 as “explosive”. “…From the explosive beginning this bold, dramatic performance demanded attention, with furiously fast speeds, strong dynamic contrasts and incisive attack.”

“I love playing Mahler and am looking forward to this concert, but it will be big…and very demanding for the musicians,” Shirin says. “So, I’ll need to not only be technically ready, but physically ready too.”

“I’ll practise my part at home – which means a lot of late nights – until I know my part fully, ready for our first rehearsal. In the time leading up to a concert, I’ll listen to orchestral recordings for context and speeds. This helps me understand how my part fits with the rest of the orchestra."

Shirin keeps fit and healthy with lots of technical exercises, stretches and regular massage to ensure she is strong, agile and performance-ready.

“I love gardening, but I need to be careful not spend too much time out the garden the week of a concert, otherwise my arms will be too sore and tired. It's also a good excuse to not do too much cleaning!”

Shirin explains how the two violin sections actually play different parts. For example, while the 1st Violin Section plays the main melodic lines, the 2nd Violin section might play the supporting, harmonic role. Or vice versa.

Image creditShirin Lim by Shane Reid


Rehearsals with conductor Simone Young start on the Wednesday before this concert. This will be the first time the orchestra will rehearse this repertoire with the conductor.

“Once rehearsals start, we will be working on getting the different sections of the orchestra to play at exactly the same time, in the same way, in the right balance. The conductor has a vision or interpretation of the work, and the rehearsal process is to get all the many individuals in the orchestra to come together, to create this one vision,” Shirin says.

“Each conductor is different, but I imagine that Simone Young will start rehearsals at the top of Mahler, so she can listen and see where we’re at… Then, she’ll show us what she wants with her hands and baton, and work begins from there.”

Shirin reflects on her favourite part of any week.

“Playing the concerts is certainly where we're aiming for at the beginning of the rehearsal period, but actually the work of putting something like a great symphony together is an awesome thing, and the rehearsals can sometimes be just as rewarding.”

What an amazing way to make a living.


There are many types of articulation, each with a different effect on how the notes are played. In music notation, articulation marks include the slur, phrase mark, staccato, staccatissimo, accent, sforzando, rinforzando, and legato.

A baton is a stick that is used by conductors primarily to enlarge and enhance the manual and bodily movements associated with directing an ensemble of musicians.

The individual way of using the bow in playing a stringed instrument, including the way in which the musician approaches the music emotionally, the articulation of individual notes, and the manner in which the notes of a passage are grouped together.

A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, most often written by composers for orchestra.

A written form of a musical composition; parts for different instruments appear on separate staves on large pages.

A set of five parallel lines on any one or between any adjacent two of which a note is written to indicate its pitch.

This article was written by Michelle Robins, Publications & Communications Coordinator, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Simone Young & Mahler
Sat 23 Jul 7.30pm
Festival Theatre




This is a great read; as an audience member, the technicalities of what it is like to be on the stage is very interesting. Thank you.
Posted By: Judith Sanders on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 3:32pm
Thanks, Judith. We are so pleased you enjoyed the read. We love sharing insights into our world-class players and helping you get to know the people behind the music.
Posted By: Adelaide Symphony Orchestra on Monday, August 01, 2016 9:57am

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