Young vi­o­lin­ist meets vir­tu­oso

The Compass - - PORTHTE - BY ANDREWROBINSON

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.”

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