What do you think about when joining an ensemble?

Campbell Banks joins the NPCO



You may have seen Campbell Banks’ byline in CutCommon in the past.

The brutally honest critic often writes philosophical musings as he absorbs the sounds of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and other musical events of his city. And this is one reason we think he’s pretty interesting.

But another reason is that this Hobart-raised fellow is actually quite the cellist. For instance:


The New Palm Court Orchestra certainly thought so when they watched that. Because the group handpicked the cellist – a Queensland Conservatorium of Music and Zürich University of the Arts alumnus – to join the team.

Campbell tells us what he thinks about when coming together with a new ensemble, ahead of their gig together on November 17.


Congratulations for your new role with NPCO! Tell us how this came about for you.

Thanks to CutCommon, actually! Gemma Turvey, NPCO’s Artistic Director, came across the interview about my Kodaly Remixed video and contacted me about playing in a concert in July. It was a lot of fun so I was very happy to be asked to join the group.

It’s a pretty big life decision to commit yourself to an ensemble in this way. As a musician, what are some of the things you need to consider when joining a new group?

The obvious one is having a basic musical desire to be involved with what the group is doing, which includes the repertoire and wanting to work with the other musicians. Assuming that is present, then it comes down to logistical considerations such as: do I have time for rehearsals? Is it financially viable? Will the puppies I demanded be in the green room? etc.

What was it like to rehearse for your first gig? How does it feel to become familiar to each other’s styles in these early days?

It’s been great! There’s a lot of freedom in the group, to improvise or contribute ideas to the arrangement, and everyone is very open to experiment and suggestion.

When you look ahead, what are you most hoping to achieve from working with NPCO?

There are some exciting things being planned which I probably can’t mention at this stage, so I’ll defer to my main ambitions: paying my HECS debt and not going bald.

NPCO can only help with one of those, unfortunately.

As our readers may know, you are also an extremely talented* writer and critic [*his editor’s bias] How has writing about music informed your playing? Especially when considering critics are going to be analysing YOU this time!

Thanks for pointing that out so close to the concert…I hope there are no vendettas out there for what I’ve written, as I like to think that I always kept the difficulties of performing in mind and highlighted the subjectivity of my opinion. In any case, I’m well used to criticism. Just yesterday, a student in year 5 told me: ‘Your cello sounds weird. Like, soft. And scratchy’. It was brutal.

What do you hope to convey to audiences in your first NPCO gig?

I’ll be playing two cello-centric pieces. Shadowplay by Eugene Friesen is entirely pizzicato, utilising five or six different plucking techniques (depending on the state of my fingers), including hammer-ons, thumb slapping, left-hand, etc. It will be violent and painful, but in a fun way.

The other is the Dialogo from Ligéti’s Solo Cello Sonata, in which I have a conversation with myself. I am confident we can convey this believably, as am I.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Please come!


Campbell Banks will join NPCO artistic director and pianist Gemma Turvey and the NPCO String Quartet as they present Prism, a journey through the angles of perception and illusion on 17 November, 7pm at Melbourne Recital Centre Salon.

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