Q&A with APO Assistant Concertmaster, Miranda Adams

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand. 

How long have you been a musician in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra?
I joined in 1993 as Assistant Concertmaster, so that’s 28 years. 

What is your musical background? Have you always wanted to be a musician?
My uncle Glynne Adams was principal viola of NZSO in the early days, and my aunt Elsa was a pro-violinist; so the culture was always there in the family.

The children in my family were sent to music classes from an early age. My brother Peter and I continued on to be professionals.

He is a professor of music at Otago University. At various points, I wanted to be an actress, an opera singer or a full-time conductor. But, I always knew I was destined to be a violinist. It’s in my blood, I guess! 

Can you tell me a bit more about the Jade String Quartet?
Jade began 18 years ago, in 2003. It included myself, William Hanfling, Robert Ashworth and Claudia Price on Cello. It was devastating to lose Claudia to cancer in 2014, but Dave Garner and later on Edith Salzmann have now joined the team. We’re very happy to be joined by APO musicians Liu-Yi Retallick, Charmian Keay and Xin (James) Jin from time to time as well.

We have toured New Zealand several times and we have another one coming up this June. We’ve got a handful of albums published and we’ve played multiple public and school recitals. We have also commissioned countless NZ string quartets, which is something that I’m particularly proud of.

Can you play any another instrument, other than the violin?
I’m a brilliant viola player, which I hide under a bushel due to my husband (Robert Ashworth, APO Viola), haha. I’m a rotten cellist, but I did once play it in a Nelson performance of The Messiah, when the group that needed me were truly desperate. I led a traditional Indonesian percussion ensemble called the Auckland Gamelan Group for many years. I also do a bit of conducting. 

What is your funniest story from performing as an orchestra musician?
Probably when I was playing with Southern Sinfonia (which, back then was the Dunedin Civic Orchestra) in 1988 with Bramwell Tovey, the conductor of the Sadlers Wells Ballet Company.

Halfway through a performance of Swan Lake, he managed to lose his balance and fall gracefully off the podium down amongst us players in the pit. He somehow retained his dignity and climbed back up, as if nothing had happened – we were in fits!

What are you most looking forward to in the APO’s 2021 season?
It’s a toss-up between the The Trusts Community Foundation Opera in Concert: Beethoven’s Fidelio, and The New Zealand Herald Premier Series: Mahler 5. Both are deeply emotional works, and of course, I’m a huge fan of all opera! 

What are your interests outside of music?
Too many. I try to limit myself to farm-and-family-related activities, which includes my horses, gardening, making preserves, homebrew and balms from harvested produce, tending to my honeybees, spinning and knitting my alpaca's wool, mosaics, and being creative with family; especially my gorgeous granddaughter Sahara.

What makes you happiest?
The simple things! Getting off technology and playing croquet in good company, while enjoying wood-fired pizza, or alternatively taking horses and dogs on a big ride.

What might surprise people to know about you?
I’m not a foodie type. I really dislike cooking meals (apart from DIY pizza) and I only use the Edmonds Cookbook (though my Aunt Daisy has some easy classics too).

Quickfire! What is your favourite-at-the-moment...?

Book: Anything by NZ author Robin Hyde, Persephone in Winter is incredible.

Movie: All of the James Bond films

TV Show: Nothing at the moment – just The Last Kingdom when I’m at Jocelyn Healy’s house

Food: Homemade pizza!

Song: Anything by Joni Mitchell, especially ‘Hissing of Summer Lawns’

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