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Five Minutes with: Chris Griffiths, Principal Horn with Northern Sinfonia

Posted on 6 June 2012

How did your very first audition go?
“If at first you don’t succeed…”
My 1st audition, 1 of countless others over the years, was in 1966 for…….Northern Sinfonia! Considering it was my 1st year as a student at the Royal Acadamy of Music, I realised I was being over ambitious and felt happy for the experience, not really expecting to land a job. I auditioned a few more times, as Northern Sinfonia horn jobs came up. My final one, in 1990, the best I’ve ever done, anywhere, gained me a position with NS!

When and where was the first time you performed with Northern Sinfonia?
York University, 1985, Alan Hacker Clarinet soloist, Richard Hickox conducting.

What is your most memorable concert? (either playing or listening)
Listening – Aix en Provence Festival – c.1980 – Janet Baker – ‘Dido’s Lament’ – Scottish Chamber Orchestra – open air theatre at midnight under a clear Mediterranean sky, with my wife.

Who or what inspires you as a musician?
Dennis Brain – not only the finest horn player ever, probably the finest wind player. I started playing the horn soon after he died. Inspired by his recordings; never heard him live.

What’s your favourite venue to perform in?
Sage Gateshead (not just saying that…)

What are the pros and cons of playing in a chamber orchestra as opposed to a symphony orchestra?
When I was 1st horn with Scottish Chamber Orchestra I wanted to also play in a symphony orchestra. These days I’m very happy with my lot! For a horn player, chamber orchestra repertoire may be kinder to overall well-being.

How much time per week, is spent practising at home, rather than in Sinfonia rehearsals, and how does this fit in with your home life?
Enough to keep limbered up – it surprises me that I’m in a physically active job, like a sportsman, as I never managed sport at school because of disability.

Who’s your favourite conductor that you’ve worked with at Northern Sinfonia , and why?
I’m quite critical of conductors and often feel I could do a lot of things better myself!
But probably Christian Zacharius, as he is such a great all rounder – not just a brilliant pianist. Also a very nice person.

Better with or without conductor?
With, if efficient. Saves time and angst.

What’s on your iPod?
Nothing. I don’t live with wall to wall music, unlike a lot of musicians. I play CDs in my car only if in the right mood….

Tell us an advantage of living and working in the North East?
Just 2 of many! – Proximity to Scotland + Geordies are great!

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