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Speed Interview: Kate Whitley

Fri Aug 30 2013

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‘They face away from the audience and the instrument is covered in felt. They play in the most tender and devastati……


Kate is one of three young composers writing brand new music for our Pub Tour. Her piece, Statice for String Quartet, will be premiered at the first night of the Pub Tour on 9 September at the Bedford in Balham and will be performed again the next day at The George Tavern in Shadwell.

In advance of all that, we put some quick-fire questions to her:

How did you get into music?

I played the piano from the age of 4 but I was never that interested in classical music; I worked really hard to pass my grade 8 piano because I wanted to impress my friends! It was much later, when I was 17 or 18, that I came across Schubert Lieder – that was the first classical music I really loved – and I got into music after that.

When did you realise you wanted to make music your career?

I don’t think I ever really have – I’ve fought it for years! My piano teachers wanted me to be a pianist, which I didn’t, and I was never sure that I wanted to be a composer. I think it has only been in the last few years – when I’ve realised that it’s possible to compose, perform and run my own projects, all at the same time, that I’ve been sure about working in music.

How do you approach composing a piece?

I look for other pieces that I like; this is always what inspires me to write my own.

When you’re not busy practicing/performing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Wishing I had a pet dog.

Who’s your musical hero?

Definitely Alban Berg. Whenever I hear his music I remember why it’s worth putting up with anything to be involved in classical music.

If you could choose to work in a different profession, what would it be and why?

My dream job would be managing overseas operations for the Red Cross – I met someone who did that for 10 years and it sounded like the best, most worthwhile, most hard work job I’ve ever heard about.

What do you fear the most?

Feeling like I have to ask someone else’s permission to be a musician.

What’s the best thing about working with the OAE?

It’s great working with people who play period instruments and have committed so much to that; it’s incredible inspiring.

Why should people come to The Night Shift?

Classical music in pubs is an amazing way to hear music in a totally new way, and discover how raw, exciting and immediate it is.

Which book do you think everybody should read?

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Send us the best photo on your phone.


This is my piece being performed by the orchestra I run and a children’s choir in Peckham Car Park this summer!

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