10 minutes with…Kate Suthers

"I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t present in my life"

We talk to violinist Kate Suthers who is directing our Scottish Creations tour.

23 May 2022

Kate Suthers with violin

Violinist Kate Suthers is directing our current tour, Scottish Creations. We caught up with her to find out more about her career and work with Scottish Ensemble and then put our quick-fire questions to her.

Can you tell us what got you started in music?

I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t present in my life. My favourite videos as a child were musicals like My Fair Lady and The Music Man, and my brother was already learning the cello by the time I was born, so there was always music around the house. My parents took me to concerts from a young age too, so I guess it’s not that surprising that I started learning to play the violin when I was 3.

What inspired you to take up the violin in particular? Was there ever a chance you could have played something else entirely?

I think I actually wanted to play the cello to be like Patrick, my brother, but my parents foresaw that driving two cellos around would be a nightmare, so steered me towards the “small cello”. I was lucky that my mum in particular has an encyclopaedic knowledge of string repertoire – two CDs; a compilation of Fritz Kreisler playing his own compositions and arrangements, and a recording of Iona Brown playing The Lark Ascending; and my cello dreams were long forgotten.

Can you tell us a bit about your career, where it’s taken you and who you’ve got to work with over the years?

I’ve been able to try lots of different forms of music making in my career; quartet, chamber and symphony orchestras, opera, a West End show, contemporary music and sessions; and toured all around the world. After studying at the Royal Academy of Music with Gyorgy Pauk, I had jobs in two orchestras before going freelance. One constant through it all has been playing with Scottish Ensemble. I first played with the Ensemble as a student in 2014, for the big project associated with the Commonwealth Games. In the years since, from the magical candlelit Christmas tours to cross art form collaborations in projects like Prelude with Andersson Dance, this Ensemble has inspired me through my whole career.

What’s different about Scottish Ensemble, what do you particularly look forward to when playing with us?

The wonderful thing about coming to play with Scottish Ensemble is that the projects are so varied and inventive. The only constant when coming in is the incredible string playing and music making. Everything else is movable, and designed to present each programme to the audience in the most communicative way. I love knowing that there’ll always be something unexpected and fresh!

Can you tell us a little about the music featured in Scottish Creations? Is it challenging playing both contemporary classical and traditional music in one night?

The concert programme is based around Ailie Robertson’s fantastic new piece, Archetypes. In between the five movements we’re playing pieces by four other Scottish composers. It’s pretty cool that all but one piece that we’re playing are works by living composers! I love the way each of the pieces forms a window through to the next, so that each of Ailie’s characters has a partner or mirror piece.

The folk session takes tunes from each of the locations we’re touring to, starting in Mull and taking the audience all the way to Dundee via Skye, Inverness, Shetland and Aberdeen. Both the concert and folk elements of this tour are a real celebration of Scotland, and storytelling through music. The only challenge is that I’ll forget to play, having been mesmerised by Ailie’s beautiful clasarch playing!

And now for our quick questions...

Which phone number do you call the most?
Richard, my partner; apart from anything else he can always make me laugh.

Where, or what, is perfection?
Sydney Harbour.

What special talent or skill do you wish you possessed?
Being fluent in multiple languages, and/or, being able to play the piano and sing at the same time.

What is the most recent album that you’ve bought or streamed?
Self Esteem Prioritise Pleasure

What is your current most-played piece of music?
I think that award has consistently gone to the Danish String Quartet for a couple of years, for their albums Wood Works and Last Leaf.

What is your most guilty pleasure?
Eating family sized packs of crisps.

What is your favourite smell?
Freshly ground coffee

What keeps you awake at night?
This week: unprepared metric modulation in Sally Beamish’s octet, Partita.
Usually: snoring.

What is your favourite ritual?
My skincare!

What’s your signature dish in the kitchen?
I tend to be queen of side dishes, but my go-to main would be the beef and lamb meatballs with broad beans from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Jerusalem.

Kate directs Scottish Creations, which is on tour to Skye, Inverness, Shetland, Aberdeen and Dundee. Details.

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