Tag Archives: cello

An interview with: cellist Rebecca McNaught, Two Moors Festival competition winner

We recently revealed the winners of this year’s Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform competition (which comes with a top prize of £250 in cash and the chance to play alongside professional musicians in our main two-week event this October).

Now, we’re catching up with each of our four winners to find out more about them ahead of the autumn and to see how they’re preparing for this major concert. We recently featured interviews with our youngest-ever winner violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes and cellist Willard Carter, and now it’s cellist Rebecca McNaught’s turn.

Rebecca really impressed us with her playing at the final in May, particularly her rendition of Shostakovich’s Sonata (which you can see a video of here).


Rebecca McNaught
Rebecca McNaught

2MF: What made you first pick up the cello?
RM: There was a lot of music around when I was very tiny and my mum took me to baby music classes so music has long been a part of my life! I actually began with the piano but because my mum had played the cello there was one in the house and I began to beg to be allowed to play. My parents actually held off until I was six and I’ve never looked back since.

2MF: What was the hardest part about first learning to play?
RM: I found learning the cello very frustrating to begin with, but in some respects that was a good thing because I put more work in. There’s so much to put in place and make correct but I was listening to recordings of professional cellists so I knew what it should sound like, and it just didn’t! I remember walking into my second lesson and asking how vibrato worked – my teacher had to tell me to wait until I was ready to start things like that!

I used to have massive tantrums, to the extent that my parents had to tell me to put the cello down and come back later. I would flat out refuse because I hadn’t yet got it right, so when I exchanged my first quarter-sized cello for a half, it was sent back with tear tracks all the way down it!

2MF: How much do you have to practice in order to reach your standard?
RM: That’s a very tricky question… a lot, but not as much as I would like to because academic work sometimes gets in the way. When juggling music and school work, there are times when the school work is neglected for practising for a big concert and other times when the practice has to be sacrificed for exams – it’s all about time management! My ideal amount would be two hours a day during the week but three or four at weekends.

2MF: What’s your practising process like?
RM: I always start with some simple exercises to warm up, for example some of the Feuillard studies and then (of course!) some scales. I think it’s then important to prioritise the pieces that need the most work and focus on the most challenging areas or those pieces, taking them in sections. When approaching a concert and all the pieces are on a similar level, I try to practise them in the order that I would perform them. This means that I am feeling tired when I start to practise the pieces at the end. Sometimes it’s also good to do a run through of a programme and get a feel for the level of stamina before working on the weaker sections.

2MF: Any tips for caring for your cello for young musicians just starting out?
RM: I can’t talk, not with the tear tracks!! It’s very important to always know exactly where your cello is and whether or not you have put it in a safe place. I once had my cello kicked over at an orchestra rehearsal in the place I would usually leave it, but I now always put it back in the case during breaks. Make sure the strings are cleaned at the end of each rehearsal to prevent the rosin residue that builds up and that you have undone your bow properly to help the hair last longer.

2MF: What about any tips for first starting to learn?
RM: Put in as much work as you like when you are young, especially if you love it! It stands you in good stead for disciplined practice in the future and means you have developed your technique from a young age. And try not to get too frustrated…

2MF: Did you expect to win the Two Moors competition?
RM: This is the second year I had entered the competition, which meant I knew the system much better and felt very comfortable in the performance space. That said, I didn’t feel like I had played anywhere near my best in the final round of auditions and was therefore very disappointed coming out of the audition room so it was a big surprise to have won it.

2MF: How will you be preparing for the concert in October?
RM: I’m currently in the process of choosing my repertoire. I have had a lot of concerts recently using the same or a similar programme so I’m looking forward to spending the summer learning some new pieces that I can use in October. It’s going to be a busy October, what with starting university, so I would like to be as prepared as possible before I leave home.

2MF: What do you plan to be when you leave university?
RM: I think it’s important that I keep my options as open as possible at the moment, but music will always be there. Some options I have are to take a postgraduate degree in performance, but I am also very interested in teaching (especially primary school age) and arts administration.

2MF: Which pieces do you most enjoy playing and why?
RM: The fast, furious and cheeky pieces are often a lot of fun to perform because you can really interact with the audience and play around with the interpretation. But some of my most enjoyable memories of performances have been playing slow and beautiful pieces, and attempting to keep the audience attention entirely focused so that there is a complete stillness and tranquillity in the room when you finish. Sometimes the ensuing silence is more important and more poignant than the music itself.


An interview with: cellist Willard Carter, Two Moors Festival Competition winner

Last month, we revealed the four winners of our prestigious Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform competition, all of whom took home a £250 cash prize and the opportunity to play alongside professional musicians in our main two-week event taking place in October.

We’ve caught up with each of the successful young musicians – 10-year-old violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes, cellist Willard Carter, cellist Rebecca McNaught and cornet player Andrew Wingham – and will be featuring interviews with each of them on the blog in the coming weeks.

We’ve already posted our interview with Hannah (our youngest-ever winner!) and now we’re chatting with 12-year-old cellist Willard Carter, who’s been playing the cello for seven years and hopes one day to become a professional musician.


Willard Carter, cellist2MF: What attracted you to the cello?

WC: My brother and sister played the violin and the viola, so just before I turned five, I was given a choice of which instrument I would like to play. I loved the sound and the depth of the cello.
2MF: How much time do you dedicate to practising?

WC: I practice the cello for about three hours a day. I divide up my practice into exercises, studies and pieces. I love practising, so I never get tired of it.
2MF: What did you do first when you found out you’d won the Two Moors competition?

WC: I was at school when my mum called to tell me about winning and it was the best feeling I have ever had, I couldn’t actually believe it.
2MF: How did you prepare for the final round?

WC: With lots of patience and hard work, practising slowly and then building up, especially for the Haydn, which was a big step up.
2MF: Do you get nervous before you play in concert?

WC: I do get nervous before I perform but I just have to think about what I’m playing and when I start the music takes over.
2MF: How excited are you to be performing alongside professional musicians in this year’s Two Moors Festival?

WC: Very! As a chorister at Wells Cathedral we sang alongside wonderful professional singers and worked with contemporary composers. There is nothing more exciting than being guided and flanked by experienced musicians.
2MF: How will you be preparing for the concert?

WC: Although I am playing many different pieces of music at the moment I am waiting for my teacher to confirm what I will be playing at the Two Moors. It will be wonderful to have the summer to start exploring what I will be playing.

2MF: Which cellists do you most admire?

WC: I admire Mitslav Rostropovich because he sends warmth and expression to whoever is listening. Also he worked with so many composers and inspired a lot of cello repertoire. I also admire Pablo Casals, particularly for his playing of the Bach Cello Suites, which I love.

2MF: What pieces are your favourites to play?

WC: I like playing Prokofiev, which is very fun and lively, and as I have a Russian teacher he gives me a lot of Russian repertoire. I also love all the Bach suites because they’re a long journey of exploration.
2MF: What do you do when you’re not playing the cello?

WC: When I’m not practising the cello my mum makes me do exercise, either walking the dog or swimming, I also like playing with my brother (if he’s in a good mood) and I am also a collector of Lego mini figures.

Head to our website to find out more about our Young Musicians Platform Competition and how you can enter next year’s event.



Julian Lloyd Webber puts cello to rest

We were very sad here at the Two Moors Festival to hear that acclaimed cellist Julian Lloyd Webber will no longer be able to play the cello professionally because of a herniated disc in his neck.

He’s been a staunch supporter of the Two Moors Festival and has played in many concerts with us over the years, as well as going off on all sorts of musical jaunts across the Middle East with artistic director Penny Adie.

Penny had this to say about the sad news: “Julian and I have worked together on many wonderful concerts within the festival and elsewhere, and the thought that we won’t again hear that glorious warm sound emanating from his cello is too sad to contemplate. His concert in Exeter Cathedral with the many young instrumentalists who took part in 2011 was the most moving ever and his infectious enthusiasm inspired them all to greater things. In one case, it proved to be the turning point in whether to make music her career – it did.”

We’d love to hear about the concerts you saw Julian play in. Share your memories in the comments below.