Paul Dyer and Bianca Porcheddu (baroque violin) chat about life, adventure and performance nerves over brunch
What would you like for brunch, Bianca?
Fresh fruit, yoghurt and cereal; something filling but healthy. And if there are tea leaves, I’d love a cup of strong English tea with milk. I don’t think tea made from teabags tastes quite as good!
It's all in the technique! I'm more of a coffee man myself. Can you tell us about your very first instrument?
I trained on a modern instrument. I’m not sure that I can remember the very first one, although I do remember a terrible violin I had at about age 8, which had a brown fingerboard. Interestingly, when I started I didn’t use a shoulder rest for about 4 years as I found it so uncomfortable, constricting and rigid, but I was eventually trained to use a shoulder rest. Perhaps even from then, the signs pointed towards me playing early music on a period instrument! I had to re-learn playing without all that apparatus when I studied in Holland.
How often do you practice?
Always! For me, practice is always present somehow. Even if it’s mental practice – an image, colour or sound, or a feeling in my hand. When I was studying music I would practise for 3-6 hours a day. I like to practise in the morning; I’m definitely a morning person.
Did you always know you wanted to be a professional musician?
Yes and no; I was fairly open minded. I didn’t study music at school, I had my lessons outside of school, which perhaps helped. When I was younger I liked the idea of being a teacher or a lawyer – I think that I was motivated to do something for people. Things that are both technical and creative or artistic appeal to me. I suppose what these professions have in common is having to convince or persuade an audience. I’m lucky in that I teach Italian as well as performing music. I believe in being a life-long learner, we are so lucky to be able to discover new interests all through our lives. I remember I wanted to be a biological oceanographer as well!
What's your favourite place in to be?
My family love outdoor adventures and the Brindabella National Park is not too far from where we live in Canberra, camping out there. The stars are incredible. Also we are so lucky to be able to take weekend trips to the South Coast. The wildlife there is so special, and the bush setting against the sea is just beautiful, I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Do you have any pre-concert rituals to stifle nerves?
I like to go for a run in the morning if there’s time; I love the sensation of running and the opportunity to think and concentrate on my breathing. I enjoy being backstage with the other musicians, having a good laugh just before going on stage. I believe in being surrounded with positive energy.
Is there a random fact people don't know about you?
I love scuba diving and was thrilled to be the sixth person in the world to dive in the Cave of Deer in Sardinia (Grotta dei Cervi ) in around 2003. It’s an amazing grotto where pre-ice age deer skeletons are preserved in the limestone, it was an incredible experience to see fossils dating back about 150,000 years! Currently people aren’t allowed to dive in this cave as it is a protected zone, so I was very lucky.
Where’s the furthest place from home that you’ve played?
Around 2000 I played in Denmark on a tour, which was heaps of fun. I’m not sure if that’s the furthest I’ve been, but it felt like it at the time. I was living and studying in the Hague and working with various orchestras around Europe. I think I was in Denmark with the European Union Baroque Orchestra, which helps young people make the transition from being students to becoming professional performers. I worked with so many fantastic musicians, some of whom have gone on to perform with the Brandenburg as international guest artists! You are never too far from your roots!
Do you remember when we first met?
I always had a passion for early music, especially the sound of gut strings – the rawness, honest and beautiful timbre of gut really appealed to me when I listened to period-playing recordings, but I had no idea how to access these instruments or who could possibly mentor me. I was completing my Honours degree in Australia at the time, considering going to Europe to pursue postgraduate studies, and I wanted to learn more about period playing. I was aware of the Brandenburg, so I called the admin office in Edgecliff and left a message, hoping to get some information. Not long after, you called me back! I was so thrilled and surprised, as I thought it was such a long shot, I really didn’t expect to hear back, especially not directly from the Artistic Director! You put me in touch with the then Concertmaster Lucinda Moon who kindly gave me lessons and mentored me. She has been a role model since and one of my best mentors. It was an exciting time for me. So this was over 17 years ago, you were so welcoming and generous and you are still so generous to young performers coming through the ranks. I’ve been performing with the Brandenburg ever since!