Young violinist meets virtuoso
A local violin player with aspirations of attending music school in the fall recently had the chance to meet a musical idol in St. John’s.
Luke Welsh, 17, managed to score a 15-minute chat with world-renowned Canadian concert violinist James Ehnes during the intermission of a recent performance in St. John’s.
Ehnes, born in Brandon, Man., is a graduate of the prestigious Julliard School in New York City who has released over 20 albums and performed in 30 countries. The 35-yearold has won a Grammy Award and six Juno Awards, and is a member of the Order of Canada.
Welsh has been playing the violin for nine years, and says his start on the instrument came from a simple case of curiosity.
“I really like listening to classical music — I always have,” says Welsh, whose teacher is Nancy Case-Oates.
He already owned one recording by Ehnes when he heard the concert violinist was performing in St. John’s two years ago.
“I thought he was absolutely phenomenal,” Welsh says, recalling the first time he saw Ehnes perform. “He has always been an inspiration to my playing, just because he’s so great himself.”
The opportunity to meet Ehnes came through enquiries made by his mother, Kim, who contacted the violinist’s tour director to see if he would be holding any autograph sessions while in the capital city. An exchange of e-mails led to an invitation to meet with Ehnes during the intermission of his Feb. 11 show with the Newfoundland and Labrador Symphony Orchestra. Welsh himself is a member of the Symphony Youth Orchestra.
“We talked about the weather,” says Welsh. “His violin was starting to get used to the Newfoundland climate.”
Concerns over how Ehnes’ violin would adapt to a cool climate are no small matter. Ehnes plays a Stradivarius violin made in 1715. Stradivarius violins are considered the best in the world, and the value of Ehnes’ instrument, on loan from a collector, would likely be several million dollars.
“That was amazing, just to be close to such a recognized luthier,” Welsh says of getting so close to a violin made by the famed Antonio Stradivari.
Aside from watching the Friday performance, Welsh attended a master class led by Ehnes the day before.
While he may be an inspiration for Welsh, the Ascension Collegiate student has no lofty ambitions of becoming a concert violinist. Noting Ehnes has played since the age of four and showed enough promise to attend Julliard, Welsh knows for a fact there is a gulf in talent and dedication when it comes to himself and Ehnes.
But that is not to say Welsh is without his own musical ambitions. He will be graduating high school in the fall, and next month he will be auditioning for Memorial University’s School of Music. Welsh one day plans on becoming a music teacher.
Ehnes had some words of wisdom for the young violinist.
“He told me to practice every day,” says Welsh, whose interest in becoming an educator is inspired by the music teachers he has worked with over the years.
“ I think that music education is important because it helps everybody, even younger students, experience music. Music is so globally recognized and cultural, yet it’s also local.”