Rachel Barton Pine: Rocking In Residence
Introducing our Artist-in-Residence
Internationally acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine is making her debut with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, with a two-week music residency that includes three concerts — two Subscription concerts at the Esplanade and a VCHPresents Excite! programme at the Victoria Concert Hall.
Over the weekend, she performed Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with the SSO and "shredded" her violin with our SSO string musicians. She is also sharing her expertise on traditional Scottish fiddling techniques and repertoire in the Forum Series: Scottish Traditions, in collaboration with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM) this week.
She will conclude her residency with a performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto with Principal Guest Conductor Andrew Litton and the SSO, in a concert sponsored by Conrad Centennial Singapore.
Rachel’s first and only trip to Singapore was in September 2007, when she performed the inaugural recital in the new concert hall at the YSTCM. She has been hoping to return to Singapore ever since.
I’m especially excited to collaborate with the Singapore Symphony, as I’ve heard so many great things about this orchestra.
Virtuoso Violinist, Metal Melodies
Rachel has performed with the world’s leading orchestras, including the Chicago and Vienna Symphonies, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, and Camerata Salzburg. She has worked with such renowned conductors as Zubin Mehta, Placido Domingo, Erich Leinsdorf, Neeme Järvi, and Marin Alsop.
In addition to writing and performing her own arrangements as part of an encore, she is the only living artist and the first woman in Carl Fischer’s “Masters Collection series: The Rachel Barton Pine Collection”. Rachel holds prizes from several of the world’s leading competitions, including a gold medal at the 1992 J.S. Bach International Violin Competition in Leipzig, Germany.
I played 6-string electric violin in the band, and it was fun to play many different roles: joining in on the riffs, playing shredding solos, and playing countermelody to the singer. The other bands to which I always return are the classic thrash bands like Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, Pantera, and early Metallica. My favourite Asian metal band is The Hu from Mongolia.
Rachel points out that many great rock musicians studied classical music and are inspired by the melodies, harmonies and figurations in classical music. Her favourite rock band is, of course, her own. In 2009, she joined Earthen Grave, a doom/thrash metal band and was an active member from 2010 to 2015. The band released a self-titled album in 2013.
Perseverance and Paying It Forward
Rachel’s list of accomplishments is even more impressive when you consider all the challenges she has faced on the way here. She played on borrowed instruments and scholarships paid for her violin lessons. It was a challenge to afford piano accompaniments, new strings, sheet music, audition recordings, concert clothes, and even gas for the car to drive to rehearsals.
“During my childhood, my father was frequently unemployed while my mother was raising my younger sisters and me,” she said. “We were often one missed payment away from losing our home, and our phone and electricity were frequently shut off.”
At the age of seven, she made her orchestral debut with the Chicago String Ensemble.
In 1995, at age 20, Rachel was on her way to teach music when the train door slammed shut on one of the bags she was carrying as she was exiting the carriage. The accident left her severely injured – half of her left leg was severed and her right foot was mangled. Just six months later, Rachel would return to the stage while undergoing a long journey of surgeries and therapy.
Thankfully, generous people helped me along the way, and I’ve been very blessed to repay their kindness through the work of my Rachel Barton Pine Foundation which supports young artists.
Rachel later started the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation, in 2001 to expand awareness of and appreciation for classical music. RBP Foundation’s projects include an instrument loan programme, grants for education and career, support of classical music programmes in developing countries, and creation of a supplemental curriculum of music for strings.
Advice to Aspiring Musicians
As a parent to seven-year-old daughter Sylvia, what is her advice for young violinists?
These days, there are many competitions and a lot of pressure to do things at early ages. But when you’re on stage at age 30, all that matters is whether your interpretation is meaningful, not how old you were when you first played that piece. There are so many kinds of satisfying musical life you can make for yourself, and you don’t have to do just one thing. Find your own voice, discover what your passions are, be creative, work hard, continue to grow, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing!