Con Fuoco: Charlotte Fetherston, viola




Welcome to Con Fuoco, CutCommon’s interview series with emerging musicians in Australia.


Charlotte Fetherston grew up in Auckland. She received a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours from the New Zealand School of Music in 2009, and then completed a Doctor of Musical Arts at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with the support of an Australian Postgraduate Award.

After graduating, Charlotte was selected as a Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellow, and also played with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, the Sydney Camerata and the Sydney Schubert Society. Charlotte has performed across the world, and was a member of the Britten-Pears Orchestra in Suffolk in 2014.​ ​Charlotte spent 2016 in the Netherlands and was an active freelance musician appearing in countless ensembles and orchestras. This year, she toured Australia with Nigel Kennedy, and had the chance to record at Abbey Road Studios with the English Session Orchestra.

Having moved back to Sydney in July, Charlotte is a core member of the Australian Youth Orchestra’s Momentum Ensemble, plays with the Sydney Symphony and Opera Australia Orchestra,​ and enjoys painting and printmaking as a hobbies.

You can see her perform as principal viola in AYO on August 21 and 22. 


Your all time favourite piece of music, and why?

I can’t definitively answer this question as I feel that music helps us to respond to our inner emotional state and to our surroundings. So naturally, there is a range of pieces that I favour at various times of my life, or even from day to day.

Having said that, a few top works for me are​ Brahms’ String Quartet No. 1 in C minor for its raw emotion, Pärt’s Tabula Rasa for the way it allows me to be introspective, and Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2. That symphony impresses on me the power of a symphonic orchestra, and I particularly love its use in the movie Birdman.

Non-classically, I love anything by the New Zealand band Fat Freddy’s Drop, because it allows me to get out of a more serious classical mode and relax into music in a different way.

Most memorable concert experience?

Earlier this year, I had the chance to tour with Nigel Kennedy, and being on stage with him was an incredible experience every time. Kennedy is so committed to his art and I feel that he really performs with a love for music, and aims to communicate his own musical connection with both his audience and fellow musicians.

Kennedy taught me a lot about being true to my own intentions, both on stage and individually. He also doesn’t like concerts to be over-prepared, and so things were spontaneous a lot of the time. It can be hard to let go and just enjoy the experience of performing, and this taught me a lot about rehearsal versus performance.​​

Biggest fear when performing?

I wouldn’t really say it’s a fear, but I sometimes worry about when nerves are going to spring up on me. However, a lot of concert preparation and practice is about preparing for these physiological reactions and being in the right mindset to deal with them on the spot.​​

How do you psych yourself up for practice on a lazy day?

By brewing a pot of coffee​.​​

Most embarrassing moment on stage?

I’ve not really got any, but I often remember a friend of mine who had hurriedly taped his music together one minute before going on stage. Halfway through his performance (solo!), he realised that the second page was in fact taped upside down. I’ll never forget the look on this face. Luckily, he got through the performance by reading upside-down. He must have prepared well!

Best piece of musical advice you’ve received?​ 

As a student, a teacher once told me that I’d never have as much time as I had right then. She was referring to life taking over as you grow older: jobs, bills, and other responsibilities. That teacher made me realise how lucky musicians are to be able to study our craft with incredible focus for such a long period of time, and I really gained an appreciation of the time I had for practice and learning.​

Post-gig ritual?​ 

You can’t beat a good chilled beer.​​

What are you most proud of in your musical career so far?​ 

Probably my development of my own personality in my playing. I’m really coming to terms with the idea that perfection is not the aim of music, and that it takes all different types of characters and areas of expertise to make really refreshing and interesting performances.

​​What do you love most about making music?

​Sharing it with others.

What’s your ultimate goal?

I want to forge a connection between my interest in fine art and performance in some way: it’s a work in progress. Other than that, I endeavour to enjoy life, read widely and be part of a vibrant artistic community.

Charlotte will perform in Seven Last Words as part of the AYO’s Momentum Ensemble in Brisbane on August 21 and Sydney on August 22. James Crabb will direct works by Vivaldi, Gubaidulina, and his arrangements of Piazzolla, Aho, and Agri/Carli.


Images supplied.

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