We caught up with Rebecca Miller ahead of Enigma, taking place at Warwick Hall Thursday 12 January 2023 and asked her five all important questions.
The Swan: We are looking forward to you conducting ‘Enigma – an English Mystery’ with Roderick Williams this January, at Warwick Hall. Which piece are you looking forward to conducting the most?
Oh, that’s not a fair question! That’s like asking which of my children I like best! I’m looking forward to working on Roddy’s piece, ‘Corona’ as it’s always a joy to work with a composer/performer – it’s such a unique situation to have the composer on stage with you and changes my role of interpreting a score so greatly. I am also looking forward to conducting Enigma, of course – whenever I have a chance to conduct Elgar, it’s a special experience for me.
The Swan: Have you conducted any of the pieces before, if so which pieces, where and who with?
I have conducted Enigma on previous occasions – I have done it in Mexico, in Sweden, and in the US, all places where Elgar’s Enigma doesn’t hold the same traditions and expectations as in the UK, so those opportunities to present the English Elgar tradition have been fascinating and exciting.
The Swan: Did you always want to be conductor and when did you first realise you had something special?
No, I didn’t think about being a conductor until shortly before university. My fascination of conducting has always been with making music with other people, and with its emphasis on studying the score – how’s it’s put together, what makes it special, getting to know the composer from many angles, etc. When I got to music college, I conducted an orchestra for the first time, and I distinctly remember the sensation of feeling like I’d finally found a ‘suit that fit’ – it felt like I was meant to be there.
The Swan: Baton or hand? Which do you feel more comfortable using and why?
I use a combination of both – for strings-only, or for slow movements, I often feel that I can connect more with the sound without a baton, and often find that it improves listening and communication between players, but I like using the baton for more rhythmic music, music that needs more precision, or with a bigger orchestra where it’s more difficult for the people at the back to see just my hand. But it mostly depends on the orchestra and what I sense they need / don’t need.
The Swan: What advice would you give to any budding conductors out there? And is there any advice you wish you had received when you first started out?
Gosh, how long have you got? I’ll try to be brief… young conductors thinking of going into the profession should not do so lightly or think it’s easy. You should only do it if you can’t NOT do it. It’s an incredibly tough profession, even though it may look easy from the outside. The most important thing I would advise would be to work on your communication and people skills and expand your mind and experience as much as possible – go to the theatre, museums, travel, observe, read, and LIVE. Being a conductor is so much more than ‘stick technique’, which can actually be learned fairly quickly. It’s about human communication, leadership, and management – you must enable the people in front of you and work with them – persuade and coax them, but also empower them; and you’ve got to have reams of knowledge, a fierce work ethic, and an ability to adjust your perspective; and you must have the courage of your conviction as well as a good dose of humility and resilience.
‘Enigma – an English Mystery’ is on 12 January 2023, at 7:30pm at Warwick Hall. Tickets cost £15 and £5 for children under 16 and are available here.