Mike Salvesen (leader)
Mike was a founding member of the RTO and for a while its only violin. Many might say, uncharitably, that this is why he became leader and modest Mike would agree that longevity is his greatest asset. However, this does not do justice to a musician who has survived not only the rapid expansion of his section but the arrival of a succession of suspected professionals (all now removed). Few leaders will have had to endure what he endures on a fortnightly basis. Without Mike, the RTO strings would not be where they are today. No one could argue with that. Mike went to the same school as Chris Fletcher (see below).
Susan Nickalls (violin 1)
Precocious promise in NZ (where Susan guested in the Wainiuomata school orchestra for their production of Joseph starring Scottish Opera’s Alex Reedijk) developed into a more mature and moving style. She ended up here, via Wellington, Easter Ross and Bosnia, with Grade 8 (no kidding) and a performer’s diploma (an RTO first and last) under her bed. Her skills on strings are only matched by her (alleged) talents on keyboards and there are suspicions that she might have tinkered with other sections of the orchestra. The musical director is now engaged in an urgent quest to find an instrument Susan cannot play.
Chris Fletcher (violin 1)
Studied piano, violin and organ enthusiastically as a child but never really got the hang of any of them though, astonishingly, he was leader of his school’s orchestra. As such, he claims to have inspired the RTO’s Mike Salveson, who attended the same institution. It certainly says something about the music department of Chris’s and Mike’s alma mater, *******, that it managed to send not one but two of its old boys to the RTO!** Other ensembles that have tolerated Chris include the Fools Quartet, a motley selection of learners who never quite made it to the Queens (or indeed any) Hall. Chris plays very loudly.
* Some names have been omitted to save embarrassment
** Make that three: Richard Seligman (see below) is another old boy and the brother of Chris.
Ilona Morison (violin 1)
Ilona Morrison was born in Hungary, home of violin virtuosity, but spent her formative years in France where music, though cherished, takes second place to other pursuits. Now British based, she likens herself to the Asterix bard and really terrible harpist Cacophonix, whose musicality often results in his own personal injury. The comparison is, of course, inaccurate – Ilona does not play the harp. She does have her uses, though, and they are great. With husband Hugh and their van, she is regularly responsible for transporting the RTO’s bigger instruments between venues, and many a concert would not have happened had it not been for this trusty pair. (Ilona, a map reader, says she cannot drive the basses and tubas to New York, however, on account of the distance.) Ilona is far too modest to mention that she designs and runs the RTO’s fantastic website.
Christine Lessels (violin 2, now 1)
Christine not only guides the second violins of the RTO, she also captains the ladies team at Gullane Golf Club, diverse roles which surprisingly have much in common. A strict time keeper, she never misses a beat but occasionally skips a rehearsal due to her many commitments. Christine puts the swing back into Glen Miller and her rendition of the Dam Busters March has been known to bring tears to fellow seconds seated nearby. A fluent French speaker, Christine is often called upon to translate complicated instructions from the musical director into the RTO vernacular. She also knows what ‘de capo’ means.
Jenny Hjul (violin 2, now 1)
Jenny studied violin under Betty Scrope, who told her mother (circa 1970) that she was either a very hard worker or a genius. A place in the school orchestra (first violins) was guaranteed, followed by acclaimed solo performances of Noon Day Haze, Ave Maria, and Martini Gavotte. Since then it’s been downhill all the way. She struggled gamely through various concerti in her own time, self-teaching the Bach E major, for example, by playing a tape of David Oistrakh and then copying, and also approaching virtuosos after concerts and begging for lessons. When one heard her he was aghast: ‘You can either play or you can’t,’ he said. She gave up completely until a chance encounter with Sandy McCall Smith alerted her to the existence of the RTO and put her back in touch with her inner Paganini.
Zandra Macpherson (violin 2, now 1)
Zandra is good at lots of things: the harp, writing (she is a published author), events organisation, tartan designing, clan networking. She also plays the violin. Late to the instrument, her progress has been somewhat compromised by other distractions (see above) and a tendency to play from ear when she can’t read the music. If her version of Highland Cathedral strays from the original it is because of her somewhat abstract approach to the notes. Zandra’s unconventional technique is one of the reasons bagpipes are brought in to accompany the RTO whenever this piece is performed.
Felicitas Mcfie (Leader violin 2)
Seconded to the RTO under an EU Directive to improve Anglo German relations, Felicitas brightens up any gathering. Though seldom seen at RTO rehearsals, she is a permanent fixture in the concert halls (upper circle) of Edinburgh and a season ticket holder at the Edinburgh International Festival. Little is known about her playing, but her favourite position is rest and she tunes her violin in an un-RTO manner, indicative of a musical education in Dusseldorf perhaps? As a mother of six, Felicitas is not expected to practise but her housekeeper, who substitutes occasionally for her, is. Felicitas is the only member of the orchestra to employ a housekeeper.
Richard Seligman (violin 2)
Pioneer of the sticky tape on the E string to locate high notes (particularly useful at the end of the 1812 Overture), Richard is nonetheless more comfortable in first position. He can’t remember when he began his musical instruction but is an enthusiastic exponent of the ‘it’s never too late’ method. Clusters of semi-quavers hold no terror – he just waits for them to pass and joins in when he can. In his fearless quest for knowledge he has been known to interrupt the musical director mid-flow to ask such pertinent questions as ‘what are dynamics?’ and ‘what piece are we playing?’ Richard is believed to be a beneficiary of a government outreach initiative.
Cross ref: Chris Fletcher (above)
Ralph Ross-Russell (violin 1) | RTO graduate 2009
David Maxwell (violin 1) | RTO graduate 2007
More to follow.