Artist Feature: Rory McLeod

We asked violist Rory McLeod a few questions, so you can get to know him now and hear him play at Belfountain Music Festival concerts August 16-18th!

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Rory McLeod, viola

BMF: What is the coolest venue you have performed in?  

RM: I’d probably have to choose Iona Abbey, on the island of Iona in Scotland. It was built around the year 800 AD and has a stunningly resonant acoustic. We played a concert of only slow movements, because the reverb lasted so long. Other unusual contenders are a hair salon, an athletic clothing store, and the MTV Euro Awards. 

Rory with viola students at IMC

BMF: What’s the last piece you performed and what did you love about it?

RM: I recently played a string quartet by Roydon Tse that I thought was very effective. Each movement of the piece was inspired by a different place the composer had lived in. Roydon used a distinct compositional approach for each movement, using rhythms, textures and colours that gave each city a unique character. It was impressive to see a composer essentially use four different languages within the same piece. 

BMF: How do you stay sharp in your performance career?

RM: I play a lot of chamber music, so I spend a lot of time playing in contexts where I have sole responsibility for my part and I can hear myself well. When I feel like I need to sharpen my blade or get back into shape, I do simple, fundamental exercises. Open strings and slow scales for sound, Sevcik and Schradieck for left hand agility and intonation. 

BMF: What’s one tip you would have told you 14 year old self about music?

RM: Commit fully to what you’re doing, in the short term and the long term. 

Rory jamming with music students in Cuba

BMF: Do you have a specific routine for your musical practice (or outside of music) that helps you stay on track and perform at your best?

RM: I do full body strength training with kettlebells almost every day. It helps keeps my energy levels up, balances my mental state, and gives me strength to get through long days of rehearsals and performances. I’ve been doing Pavel Tsatsouline’s Simple and Sinister program for a couple of years now, and I notice an especially big difference in my ability to get through long operas without pain. If you’re curious about kettlebells, make sure you get a qualified instructor to show you the fundamentals. 

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