Wires, Strings & Other Things - Meet Andreea!

Andreea Banciu is our viola player in Wires, Strings & Other Things. Andreea plays the viola beautifully and reads complicated sheets of music as if they were fairy tales. We asked Andreea to answer some questions about herself and her musical instrument. Read on to find out all about Andreea!

Q: Andreea, how would you describe the sound of your musical instrument: the viola?

A: Warm, velvety, rich, creamy, “hot-chocolatey” (like a creamy hot chocolate).

Q: If your instrument was an animal, what would it be?

A: The register of the viola is the closest to the human voice so I have never thought of my instrument as an animal but rather as a human. If I had to pick an animal, it would probably be a koala or a panda bear, as the deep, round sound of the viola makes me think of a cuddly, fluffy bear. It could also be a swan, as there’s something quite elegant, refined and dignified in its expression. That’s quite a combination, half a cuddly bear-half an elegant swan!

Q: What do you like best about your instrument?

A: What I like best about the viola is that it has an extraordinary palette of sound colours (from warm and velvety to dry and icy, from vibrant to still, from rich and round to thin and small) which helps me to create the most amazing stories, characters and feelings.

Q: What’s the thing you find most annoying about your instrument?

A: There isn’t anything really annoying but sometimes the size of the instrument and the position of my left arm when holding it can make it quite tiring to play.

Q: What age were you when you started playing your instrument?

A: I was 7 years old when I started playing music. I started on the violin and switched to the viola when I was 11.

Q: Did you have lessons, or where did you learn to play?

A: At the age of 7, following an entry audition, I was admitted to the best music school in the country, George Enescu music school in Bucharest, capital of Romania. For the next 12 years, I was a pupil at this school after which my studies continued at the University of Music, Bucharest; Royal Academy of music, London; Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada; Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia, Madrid and numerous other master classes all over the world.

Q: What is your earliest musical memory?

A: Some of my earliest musical memories are my parents listening to music on LPs at home and being brought, again by my parents, to see and hear the National Symphony Orchestra of Romania.

Q: What inspired you to choose your instrument?

A: I started on the violin, as at that time, the only options for a 6/7 year old beginner in the music school were either violin or piano and, as I didn’t have a piano at home and my parents also liked the violin, that was the most natural choice! I switched to the viola 5 years later, when it was possible to choose another instrument.

Q: How much time to you spend practising every week?

A: That depends on what I’m preparing for and if the pieces I’m working on are new or some I’ve played before. For the last few weeks, I’ve been practicing around 4-5 hours daily, on my own, and another 2-3 with my quartet, as I had to prepare a lot of pieces for an important festival. But I usually practise around two hours daily, individually, plus another 3 with my quartet.

Q: What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?!

A: It’s happened twice, both with my quartet, when we were still students or at the very beginning of our career: once we were playing in front of our teacher, a well-known and respected musician, and our colleagues, and we all got lost and couldn’t get back for what seemed like an eternity (probably a minute or two!). Another time, we had just finished playing a concert in Germany for a big crowd and, as the audience kept clapping, we decided to play an encore. The only thing is that we each understood differently where we were playing from so our beautiful encore turned into a cacophony of sound!

Q: Outside of music, name one thing that you are really excellent at and one thing that you are really rubbish at!

A: I’m quite good at spotting mistakes in a text. Also I’m excellent at sleeping! I’m not great at being efficient.

Q: Have you ever performed for anyone really famous?

A: Yes - quite a few people: the late pope John Paul the second, Prince Charles, Nelson Mandela, President Michael D Higgins, the poet Seamus Heaney, presidents of Romania, ambassadors, and the actors Angela Lansbury, Angelica Huston and Patrick Stewart.

Q: What groups do you perform with and what sort of music do you usually play?

A: I have been playing in the Contempo string quartet since I was a student. For the last few years, I have also been a guest leader of the viola section of the National Symphony Orchestra Ireland. I mainly play classical music but I sometimes collaborate with Trad (Martin O’Connor), pop or jazz musicians.

Q: What’s the coolest place you’ve performed in?

A: North Korea and Pope John Paul the second’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, Italy.

Want to know more about the viola?

Watch this TED Talk all about the viola presented by the violist Jennifer Stumm!

Andreea will be performing in Wires, Stings & Other Things, The Ark and Music Network’s new music show for ages 6+ composed by Brian Irvine and directed by Wouter Van Looy. Wires, Strings & Other Things will be at The Ark and on tour nationwide from 5 February – 3 April 2022. Click here to find out more and to book.