Philharmonic dream for Wigan maestro

Sophie Mather has a place with the Philharmonic
Sophie Mather has a place with the Philharmonic
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Talent, hard work and perseverance have paid off for a Wigan-born professional violinist after she landed a permanent job with one of the country’s top orchestras.

Sophie Mather has performed many a time as an "extra player" with the Royal Philharmonic over several years, the outfit calling on her services as and when required.

But now, after a long and tough audition process, which gave established members playing alongside her on the platform the final say, she has been accepted as a full-time instrumentalist with the crack, international outfit.

It will see the 31-year-old playing in more than 200 concerts a year at venues around the world and indeed she is already heading for a tour of the US later this month and has a series of engagements in Italy scheduled with it for April.

Sophie said she was very pleased at the new stability that the appointment to the first violin section brings.

It is an indefinite arrangement but she remains a freelance so she can continue to play in other orchestras (Manchester Camerata, the Welsh National Opera orchestra and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields among them) and smaller groups including her Berkeley Ensemble which visited Wigan Music Society four years ago.

She said: "It is a real relief to have some guaranteed work with an orchestra that has so many incredible players and I learn so much from having these people around me.

"I also like the Royal Philharmonic’s musical scope. It covers lighter material than some orchestras, but it also has a very big and varied repertoire.

"You can be playing six sell-out classical spectaculars at the Royal Albert Hall in a row and then the next day be giving a concert of music that is far less well known.

"The deal is that I can play in all the concerts conducted by the principal conductor and principal guest conductor which work out at four or five a week.

"Then there is all the film and television stuff of which the RPO does quite a bit. Among the recent scores we have done have included the new thriller McMafia and Blue Planet II. The orchestra also has a number of residencies, mainly in the South of England, although it also has a big education project going on in Hull too.

"So there’s plenty to be getting on with. And yet another appeal of the job is its flexibility of being able to say whether you want to take part in a particular concert or not."

Sophie lives in North West London with the French horn player David McQueen and jokes that she is still nowhere near to being able to afford a flat in the capital.

But her musical CV to date is an impressive one and music has been part of her life for as long as she can remember.

Her parents Colin and Alison are themselves musicians and it was they who set a four-year-old Sophie on the road to success when she began violin lessons with Marion Fletcher.

It was soon clear she had an aptitude for music, and while she attended Bolton School right through from four to 18, she also enrolled at the Royal Northern College of Music’s junior school from the age of 11 where she studied violin with Helen Feltrup and Richard Deakin and came on so well that she successfully auditioned for the National Children’s Orchestra and later the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Sir Simon Rattle being one of the giants of the classical scene under whose baton she played as a member of the latter body.

After her A-levels Sophie took a joint music course during which her time was divided between the RNCM and Manchester University.

Thereafter she completed an MA at London’s Royal Academy of Music where she mainly studied under the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s leader Clio Gould before going out into the big bad world of freelance work and teaching.