Geoghegan interviewed by Carla Rees
Geoghegan is a 19 year old bassoonist
who has an exciting future ahead of her.
Seen recently as one of three finalists
on the BBC television programme, Classical
Star, she is currently a second year
student at the Royal Academy of Music
in London. She has just signed a deal
with Chandos, and looks set to follow
her ambition of popularizing the bassoon
as a solo instrument.
CR: How did you begin
playing the bassoon?
KG: My mum is a music
education consultant, so I grew up around
music. She gave me piano lessons, and
I started to learn the violin when I was
five. I played for seven years and only
got to about Grade Five! There was a bassoon
lying around in a store cupboard at school
when I was twelve, and they wanted someone
to play it who was already learning an
instrument so theyíd be able to pick it
up quickly. It felt so much more comfortable
and natural to play, everything just seemed
to click with the bassoon.
CR: Who were your main
teachers and influences?
KG: I started to learn
with a saxophonist (Russell Cowieson)
at school, who was great, and very inspiring.
Then I went to the Junior Department at
the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, where
I studied with Janet Bloxwich for five
years. Then I came to the Academy to study
with John Orford. Itís hard to find recordings
of the bassoon to listen to, but I particularly
like Milan Turkovicís playing. I also
enjoy listening to the London orchestra
principals, like Rachel Gough and Robin
CR: What repertoire do
KG: I would have loved
Shostakovich to have written a bassoon
concerto! His music is so exciting. Iím
a big fan of the three main classical
bassoon concertos (Hummel, Weber and Mozart),
but Iíll play anything that appeals to
me. Iím not particularly into contemporary
music, but I do like some new pieces.
French recital repertoire is also very
lyrical and exciting to play.
CR: What made you enter
KG: To be honest, I was
bored! My end of year exams finished early
and I had five weeks with nothing to do,
so I thought it would be fun. The age
limit was 19, and I decided to give it
a try, but I didnít expect to go very
far in the competition. They auditioned
300 people, and then cut the numbers down
to eighteen for the programme.
CR: How was the experience
of making the programme?
KG: It was quite strange
being followed by cameras twenty-four
hours a day. The first weekend was a bit
surreal, because we werenít used to the
cameras at all, and we didnít get much
of a chance to get to know each other,
but it got better once we were in the
house. I found some of the tasks a bit
strange; a few of them seemed to be set
up for the TV audience, and they were
quite embarrassing, but the recording
project and the concerto final were great.
The other competitors were all very friendly
and we genuinely got on well Ė it wasnít
just an illusion for TV. We spent three
weeks in the house, and werenít allowed
to leave, though we did go out to concerts
at weekends. We had contact with the judges
on the challenge and judging days, but
Matthew Barley was there all the time.
We practised from 9 till 1 and then spent
the rest of the time with him. He gave
us a concert on the first day, and it
was inspiring to hear him play; he can
do pretty much anything with a cello!
CR: What kind of reaction
did the programme get from your colleagues
at the RAM?
KG: It was hugely supportive.
There were three of us from the Academy
in the top five, so everyone was backing
CR: One of the judges,
Steve Abbott, was there to comment on
the commercial viability of the contestants
and the marketability of their product.
Did his advice make you change your ideas
about how to promote your instrument?
KG: In many ways, he
just made me more determined to succeed,
and to prove him wrong. People say that
you canít sell bassoon music, but there
arenít many bassoon recordings available
and there is a need to fill the gap.
CR: How did the recording
contract with Chandos come about?
KG: Chandos approached
me the day after the TV broadcast of the
final in November, to record the Hummel.
It all moved on very quickly from there
and I didnít really have much time to
stop and think about it all! We recorded
it in January in St Georgeís Hall in Bradford,
with the Opera North Orchestra conducted
by Benjamin Wallfisch. Thereís a concert
on 10th June at Fulham Palace
to launch the disc, and thereíll be one
in Edinburgh as well at some point.
CR: What repertoire will
you be playing on the CD?
KG: The CD includes the
Hummel concerto and Weberís Andante
and Hungarian Rondo, an orchestrated
version of Summertime, which works
really well (I played a bassoon and piano
arrangement on the TV programme), the
Elgar Romance and some shorter
concert pieces by Berwald and Jacobi.
Itís a good mix of things and I think
it makes an appealing programme. My teacher,
John Orford, gave me advice on which repertoire
to choose; playing the Gershwin was his
idea. The record deal made me feel much
more positive about things. I was quite
down about not winning the competition,
and the deal changed everything. There
are three discs lined up so far, and I
think Chandos are well suited to bassoon
repertoire, so itís a happy balance. The
next CD will be another orchestral one
and the third will cover French recital
CR: Youíve talked about
promoting the bassoon as a solo instrument.
How do you plan to do that?
KG: The programme was
the first building block along the way,
and now the recording contract, which
helps a lot too! I think it is a lot to
do with personality and determination.
There is a lot of repertoire out there
for bassoon, and Iíd like to show what
exists. For example, there are 42 Vivaldi
concertos, and lots of other pieces which
donít get performed very often.
CR: Have you had lots
of work offers as a result of the programme?
KG: I have, and itís
all very exciting! Iím playing a concerto
with the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra this
summer, which is an orchestra I used to
be in. Last year, they had Nicola Benedetti
as soloist, so itís a hard act to follow!
My bassoon teacher is acting as my mentor/manager
at the moment, and advising me about repertoire
choices and about which of the offers
to take on. I donít get any support from
the programme now that itís over; thatís
just the winner, but in many ways its
nicer not to have won, because I have
a bit more freedom and I know that people
are booking me because they genuinely
want me for how I play.
CR: How do you balance
all the demands on your time?
KG: Itís quite hard to
balance everything with my studies at
the Academy; itís definitely better to
be busy and the RAM are quite accommodating,
but there are only seven bassoonists here
and a lot of orchestral playing and chamber
music to cover. There is a chamber music
element to the course, and I am in three
wind quintets, a trio and an octet.
CR: What are your career
KG: There is obviously
quite a big emphasis on solo repertoire
at the moment, but itís probably not feasible
as a bassoonist to do just that, so Iíd
like to do some orchestral playing and
chamber music as well.
Karenís first disc with
Chandos is available in June, and the
launch concert takes place on 10th
June at Fulham Palace.