From The Back Desk - Joy Farrall, Britten Sinfonia

Joy Farrall, the Britten Sinfonia's principal clarinettist, on why miming is a no-no, and why Berio gives her the giggles in our latest Back Desk interview.

joy farrall britten sinfonia

Name: Joy Farrall

Instrument: Principal Clarinet

Ensemble: Britten Sinfonia

Why did you decide to become a musician?
By the time I got into my 6th form at school and realised I spent all my free time playing music, how could I stop there to pursue anything else?

What's the one performance from your career that sticks in your mind?
Every concert seems to be so totally absorbing at the time and I am always so happy to be able to have achieved, hopefully, what I set out to do I can't thing that any one concert has stayed in my mind more then any other. However I have fond memories of the recording sessions for the Mozart Concerto with the Britten Sinfonia.

What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you on stage?
Having a fit of the giggles with the flute player when between us we were trying to sustain an accompanying middle B whilst the oboe player performed the Berio sequenza. We were behind a curtain at the time!

If you could work with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would be so interested to play for Willem Mengleberg as I grew up on a recording of Schubert's Rosamunde with him conducting the Concertgebouw. The clarinet solo was so free, it sounded so much like chamber music and what we strive for in Britten Sinfonia, without a conductor.

In concert, have you ever thought, "I can't actually play this bit very well, I'm going to mime and hope no-one notices"?
It is never possible to mime anything in the role I play in Britten Sinfonia and Haffner Wind Ensemble, nor do I think that would ever be an option for a professional musician. If the thought was ever there… time to retire!

Could you give us an example of the downside of the profession, something that the average concert-goer might not know about?
Probably the travelling to and from the concert venues and the fact that you often work in the hours that one's non-musical friends are taking R&R. Although that can be a positive when children are pre-school age!

Does the touring lifestyle bring out rock star behaviour in the orchestra?
Not really but a good social time can be had on tour with a bit more time available out of working hours to get to know one's colleagues.

Have you witnessed any serious diva strops in your time as a musician?  
Several, but it wouldn’t be fair to tell!

What's the biggest challenge facing musicians like you these days?
Keeping our audiences keen and strong and supportive, particularly the younger generation, in the face of so many devastating cuts to the arts and music in schools.

What's the best thing about being a musician?
Doing something for a living that you would happily do every day anyway.

Joy will be performing in the Imogen Cooper concert in February 2014. More details available here.