Over the course of the play Andrea plays a suite of solo violin pieces, written by composer Njo Kong Kie, on her 1689 Baumgartner Stradivari (on loan by the Musical Instrument Bank of the Canada Council for the Arts). I sat down with Andréa last week and spoke to her about her process of working with Kong Kie, her relationship to the music of the play, and her experience as a performer in live theatre.
Andréa, you’ve been working very closely with Kong Kie on the interpretation of the music he has written for Infinity. How has your approach to playing Kong Kie’s music differed from how you would approach the work of another composer?
Andréa: It’s really amazing to work with a composer in person. One of the best things about playing contemporary music is that you have that chance and you can ask the composer questions. But also just by getting to know them you can already sense or know what their their values are, what’s really important to them.
And also, you can see that what’s written on the page may not necessarily be what the composer means – through no fault of their own – but we’re just really restricted on the page.
There was a lot that Kong Kie could tell me when we were rehearsing. There was a certain aspect of rhythmical precision and dynamic precision and tempo, which is really interesting because tempo is very closely related to time. And Kong Kie’s very specific about tempo and how it feels. So I think he was very well chosen for this.
Kong Kie also worked really closely with Ross so that the tempo really felt right. You know: how to take one scene and send it into the next one.
It was fun getting to know Kong Kie better because I met him in 2010 in Banff. And we were just friends and I played a few pieces of his back then. I had no idea that I’d see him again or that I’d work with him. It was a nice surprise when I began Infinity: that I already knew him and that we could take it from where we left off.
Kong Kie & Andréa during Infinity's reading at The Koffler Centre
From knowing Kong Kie’s work from Banff, does the music that he wrote for Infinity feel familiar to you in some way? Or do you feel there is something different at work in this suite?
Andréa: I think he writes with a lot of integrity, so there is an essence to Kong Kie that stays.
There’s a certain attraction to these repetitive motions with a certain – I don’t want to say off-beatness – but it’s a repetitive sequence that’s a little unpredictable. That existed already in the beginning when I encountered his music in Banff. And that stayed with the music of Infinity.
But, at the same time, I think he was very flexible within that integrity to write for the play. He was there from the start, thinking about the characters and about what the music should be doing and the mood that he should be setting. So I think, yes, he has that integrity but also that flexibility.
Do you have a favourite section?
Andréa: Yeah, I really like “Milk”. That’s when Sarah Jean comes in with the violin case. I think it is the most beautifully written piece for that particular emotion where Carmen and Elliot just really love each other, but there’s so much underlying tension. And there is forwardness life, a relentless forwardness. And knowing that you just cannot make up time. It’s just a great piece: beautifully and very intelligently written. I like playing it every night. I like playing everything every night, but that’s my thing!
And also the end! If I allow myself it’s very brutal. Because I think of parents – my parents, but also all parents – and the very real struggle to communicate that they love each other when they have children and they’re so busy and they have so many different struggles. I think of all parents and those harmonics and the theme at the end are really haunting and beautiful.
Andréa performs in Infinity
Michela: At the beginning of the play Elliot says he likes musicians because they have a sense of what time is: that it doesn’t exist and that it slides. I’m wondering whether that resonates with you at all?
Andréa: It’s funny, I was a little bit like Carmen in the play. I was like, “I don’t use time-keeping terminology!” And I guess I do, but I think we just don’t realize if it’s more than other people. We’re not necessarily aware of it. But we do have a sense of timing. I mean that’s where expression lives. The expression lives in the timing.
Final question! How does the experience of playing a concert compare to the experience of playing your violin in a piece of theatre?
Andréa: It’s so different! Because – and this is one of the things made me fall in love with the theatre – in theatre the audience is expected to be free in their reactions. And every night in the theatre you can feel the audience. The audience is composed of individuals, but it has a sort of unity to it – it’s almost like a person every night
You know, it’s like that also in concerts, but you don’t get to feel it to the extent that you feel it in theatre. In concerts the audience is expected to be silent and still and quiet and that’s what we appreciate.
So playing in theatre was super because when I go to my concerts I realize it’s the same. I bring that proximity to the audience – now that I know they’re there. And they stay closer to me now. This is the gift of theatre actually.
Infinity closes on Jan 29th. Book your tickets now!