Chris Buckley, NB Summer Music Festival Artist Profile:
As part of this year’s celebration, the New Brunswick Summer Music Festival are featuring interviews of artists and others who have a history of being involved in the festival over the past 20 years. Below is an excerpt from their interview with Chris Buckley by their Classical Correspondent, Erin Bowlen.
Erin Bowlen: Let’s start off with the easy questions first. What drew you to play the viola? Did the instrument choose you? Or did you choose it?
Chris Buckley: I started on piano at nine years old. At my second music camp, I ended up starting violin. My violin teacher had an elementary school age string orchestra and a teenage age full orchestra. So when I was about 15, my teacher handed me a viola and asked if I’d like to play it. I learned that the orchestra needed another viola player. It didn’t take too long to decide I preferred it. So, just lucky, I guess.
Erin Bowlen: Your tours with the Saint John String Quartet have taken you around the world and given you the opportunity to meet some very important people, not least of all the Queen of England and the Prime Minister of Canada. Do you have a favourite memory from these experiences you’d like to share?
Chris Buckley: Well, the first time in a new country is always amazing. The first “tour” we did, I believe, was a week in Maine. It was a lot of fun and got to meet really nice people and see some more of Maine than just the airline route. On our third trip to Japan, we were there for three weeks and played seven recitals. We had to prepare a lot of music: four piano quintets, five piano quartets, a piano trio, Mozart’s two flute quartets and clarinet quintet. We took two string quartets and only played them once each. One program, we played with five other musicians and one program where we played three piano works with the same pianist.
I remember food too. Our second trip to Japan, we got to go to Hong Kong where we played Elgar Introduction and Allegro with The Hong Kong Sinfonietta. One of the meals there, we found a restaurant on the other side of the island in Stanley. There were tables and chairs set up under a huge tarp. There were two huge woks filled with food being cooked by what looked like blowtorches. We sat in back right in front of the prep area and a stack of crates containing live chickens. I had “Singapore Noodles” which has been one of my favourite meals ever since, although never quite as tasty as that first time.
Erin Bowlen: How do you feel that your participation in the NB Summer Music Festival has benefited you as a musician?
Chris Buckley: The Festival has really been beneficial to me. Back when CBC recorded the recitals, there was extra pressure, but mostly it’s hearing and playing with other musicians. A bit like when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the LA Kings: before the trade, Bernie Nicholls was a good hockey player, but when he played on the same line as Gretzky, he ended up with the league scoring leaders. And lately, I have a renewed appreciation and gratitude for what I do and my viola.
To read the complete interview with Chris Buckley and to see other artist profiles, please follow the NB Summer Music Festival on Facebook.