The talented young cellist, Olivia Cho, is making her Orpheum Theatre debut playing Saint-Saens “Cello Concerto No. 1” with VAMSO on Sunday, February 23rd at 2 p.m.
Playing with an orchestra can be a daunting challenge for any young performer, but Olivia Cho is handling it with a maturity beyond her years. “It was kind of scary at first, playing with a huge orchestra, but since there’s a conductor, I can just follow him, go with his speed, and know that everything will be fine,” she said. “When you play with piano, you can take more liberties than an orchestra because there are over a 100 people in VAMSO.”
Music is a family affair for Olivia. Her father teaches music at Prince of Wales Secondary School, her mother is a singer, and her sister plays violin. “My sister (two years older) helps me a lot,” she said. “She gives me a lot of confidence, and sometimes we practice on our own. She’ll play her violin part while I play the solo part.”
Even her father helps out. “Sometimes Dad accompanies us on the piano, so we’ll play as a piano trio,” she said. “And my mother was a singer and used to be a music teacher in Korea. She even went to Russia to study music. Our family is really musical.”
Most musicians learn to deal with some degree of nervousness before a concert, and some develop routines to help them stay calm and focused before a performance. “No matter what, before every performance, I do get nervous. I just try to concentrate on the music and it seems to make things easier,” she said. “I try not to eat too heavy, and a lot of the time I’ll eat a banana because that helps calm my nerves. My mom is with me before a lot of my performances and she helps warm my hands. It’s kind of weird but it helps.”
To ease their nerves, some performers like to imagine playing to a hall of faceless strangers. Some performers take comfort in that, but not Olivia – she’d much rather be playing for friends and family. “Since it’s my first time playing with an orchestra, I definitely feel more comfortable playing with my friends. And also, my sister is in the orchestra so I can look to her for comfort”.
The “Concerto No. 1” by Camille Saint-Saens is structured as one continuous piece. There are no breaks in between movements and the last movement, Tempo Primo, is considered to be the most virtuosic part of the concerto. This last section also features a coda with new musical ideas. “The coda is my favourite part,” said Olivia. “ I just like the tune and then, how after all the dramatic parts, it dissolves into a happy ending.”
Tickets are available for purchase online until 5:00 pm on Saturday, February 22nd through the VAM website. General admission is $10, and $6 for students and seniors. After this time, tickets are only available for purchase from the Orpheum Theatre ‘Will Call’ window on Nelson Street.