What's it like to be Rachel Holstead?

A short, informal question and answer interview with Rachel Holstead.

1. How and when did you get interested in composing?

I grew up playing both classical violin and traditional fiddle and started to compose at 15 as an extension of improvising with friends in the pub!

2. Is composing your 'day job' or do you do something else as well?

Since finishing my studies I have been experimenting with life as a freelance composer.

3. Where do you mostly get your ideas?

Everywhere and anywhere: people, instruments, language, and landscapes.

4. What are you working on at the moment?

A new work for the Irish Chamber Orchestra.

5. Describe your typical working day.

It varies depending on what stage I'm at with a project. Usually I split the day between morning, afternoon and evening and ideally spend two portions composing or researching and one on admin.

6. What is it like hearing a new piece played for the first time?

Simultaneously terrifying and exciting -- it's that buzz which keeps you going.

7. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Getting to travel to the Antarctic earlier this year to make recordings and gather ideas for a piece about Kerryman and Antarctic explorer Tom Crean.

8. What has been the lowlight of your career so far?

The one occasion where I had to withdraw a piece from a festival because I had overstretched myself and it wasn't ready.

9. What is your greatest ambition?

To write good music that has a place in the world.

10. Which musician in history do you most admire and why?

J.S. Bach, the ultimate musician.

11. Which present-day musician do you most admire and why?

There is a list, and it is much too long to fit here...

12. Which period of history would you most like to have lived in and why?

Right now, despite the mess the world is in. We have so many options open to us in the way that we choose to live. If you put your mind to it, anything is possible.

13. What is the best thing about being a composer?

Getting to work with so many different people and in such a variety of contexts.

14. What is the worst thing about being a composer?

Spending too much time alone.

15. If you weren't a composer, what other career might you have chosen?

Architect, Astronomer, Archaeologist.

16. What is your concept of heaven?

Mountains and sea.

17. What is your concept of hell?


18. What is your favourite food?

Good chocolate, no question!

19. If someone gave you three months off with unlimited travel and living expenses, what would you do?

Return to the Antarctic and go to the Arctic.

20. If you could have one thing in the world that would really help you as a composer, what would it be?

Better technique.