“Whoever that person is plays such an important role because they’re almost like an ally, they can pass messages on and they need to be a figurehead of the orchestra.” Paul said.
Choosing the right person for such an important position can be hard; however, Wright believes that 17-year-old Monika Chrost from the British School Warsaw was definitely the right person for the job. “In the auditions, she was the best one by a long way. She stood out. Not just the way she played, I was listening to tuning and phrasing but also by the way she has this presence. She is very elegant and you can tell that she loves what she does.”
While Monika has been playing the violin for 11 years, she has never played principal violin before, so naturally it is quite a challenge. She explains, “It’s not an easy task because I have to make sure that I’m the one who’s always on time and at the right place in the music. Everyone’s going to follow my moves so a lot depends on how I play. It’s very nerve-wracking”.
Monika’s role in the orchestra is to follow the conductor and lead the other violinists, of whom there are 17 in total in the orchestra. “The conductor gives us the rhythm and I have to watch his moves carefully because I show the other players when to start and to make sure that the entire orchestra plays together and starts at the same time.”
Other section leaders also play a role in ensuring their section musicians come in at the right time with the correct dynamics. Charlotte Schauer, 18 years old, from the British International School of Houston leads the flutes. She explains her approach to the role, “I communicate with my group by listening to them and I suggest what they should do to play better. Someone from my group asked me for advice on how to breathe in a fast part of one of the songs so I feel quite close to the other flutists and we are building a great relationship”.
Building strong conductor-section leader relationships is essential to create a cohesive sound. Monika says she finds Wright’s style of conducting assists to do that. She says, “He [Paul Wright] is much more friendly and cheerful than the conductors I have worked with in the past which makes the rehearsals far more interesting and less worrying. Time flows faster.” Charlotte agrees, “I really like working with Paul. He knows what you can do but he challenges you at the same time and he’s really nice. He listens very closely if you play the right notes. I just love working with him and the rest of the orchestra.”