MY personal experience of the violin extends to ducking for cover whenever those tell-tell screeching sounds of my sister’s music practice filled the house. But far from berating her for assaulting my eardrums, north London violinist Thomas Gould informs me I should have commended her for even attempting to learn the string instrument.
“Those screeching noises never completely go away,” the 26-year-old admits, ahead of a charity concert at Lauderdale House next week. “If you don’t play for a week they’ll be back. The screeches remind you it’s hard, I would say probably the hardest of all string instruments to learn. You can play a tune on a piano relatively quickly, and play the clarinet acceptably within a year, but it takes maybe ten years to play a melody really wonderfully on a violin.”
While my sister gave up her musical aspirations, Thomas, who first picked up a violin aged three, thankfully persevered with his, following in the footsteps of his equally talented older sibling Clio Gould.
“A big part of my perseverance was seeing my sister succeed,” the Royal Academy of Music graduate recalls. “She is 15 years older than me, so when I was about ten and getting to that age when it was difficult to keep up with the demands of school and maintaining practice of an instrument, I was looking at my sister who had come through those difficulties and was having a brilliant time socialising with all these amazingly talented people. It all seemed so wonderful.”
Now an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, Thomas, a former pupil of Hampstead’s University College School, combines a busy solo career with the positions of leader of Aurora Orchestra, co-leader of Britten Sinfonia and guest leader of McGill Chamber Orchestra in Montreal. Highlights, he tells me, include recent performances of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending at the Albert Hall, Barbican and Bridgewater Hall. But one concert really stands out above the rest.
“The more personal achievement was in 2008,” he says. “My father had died after a long illness and about two weeks later I performed a concert by Thomas Adès. It was a particularly cathartic experience, very moving and emotional.”
Clearly aware of the power of music, when an old school friend’s mother asked him to support the charity the Akili Trust, Thomas didn’t hesitate to offer his services for free.
Set up six years ago by film producer Nicci Crowther, the Akili Trust aims to promote education and literacy in rural Kenya by establishing and supporting community libraries. Thomas, who will be joined by eight other local young performers on the bill, will perform a trio of short pieces (one by Nico Muhly and two by Bach) for the concert on his 1754 Gennaro Gagliano violin.
“I more or less sleep with it under my pillow,” he jokes about his prized instrument. “I certainly take the case to my bedroom at night.”
The Akili Trust concert is at Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill, on Thursday, February 4, 7.30pm. Tickets: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07855 327 556 . Details: www.thomasgould.com or www.akilitrust.org