Meet Claire Babington

Claire Babington is an expert cellist performing with Fiori on Sunday so being a nosey soul, I thought that I’d have a chat with her and give you the low down on this exciting young artist.

Much like Heidi Fardell, Claire started her music career at the age of five with the recorder, only moving on to the cello when she was about nine. Apparently it was quite a late start; lots of her friends started at the age of four!

So as I’m talking with Claire, I rub away the image of a child playing an adult sized cello, legs dangling, in order for Claire to explain that children start with smaller sized cellos and work their way up as they grow.

“The smallest is really quite cute but I think I started on the next size up as I’ve always been a bit tall and gangly!”

Claire discovered the cello at primary school when a teacher came into her class and asked if anybody wanted to try playing the instrument.

“I don’t know why but my hand shot up

“I tried it out and got on fine. I had to do a test to see if I could pick out certain notes. Basically they wanted to see if I had any musicality. Neither of my parents were particularly musical but I had a great-grandfather who played the mandolin!”

Where Claire grew up in Aberdeen, lessons were free which she mentions as a real incentive – perhaps more for her parents than for Claire! Her first competition was at Aberdeen Music Festival.

“I was lucky as there was a lot of encouragement in the area towards music and arts.

Despite being quite isolated, the Aberdeen Music Festival was a great introduction to performing and people came from all over the north east to compete.

It was in public, up on a stage in front of people. It was great experience as it was marked and there were medals awarded, so I became accustomed to competition and constructive criticism. My teacher was always very keen to get me into competitions.”

When asked at what point Claire started to see music as a career option she says it was when deciding what school subjects to take. As the number of young people playing instruments started to dwindle in Claire’s teens, it was only the “hardcore ones” left. Those hardcore few drove the competition to higher standards which reflects as being a real confidence builder.

“I learnt from errors that I made both musically or in general life. You soon make sure that you’re wearing the right clothing when playing a big cello!

I couldn’t imagine life without music and the thought of it only being a hobby seemed mediocre. Although I don’t mean that in an arrogant way.”

And it doesn’t come across as arrogant because I can sense a real love in what she’s saying.

It wasn’t so much a love for academia that drove Claire to complete an undergraduate degree at The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, or going on to achieve a post graduate diploma and then a masters at The University of Manchester, because she “felt I needed to do more”. The intensive playing kept her going. Not bad for some one who classifies herself as not academic!

It seems that from a relatively young age, Claire expected high levels of performance from herself, a level of dedication that now sees her as an accomplished artist. In addition to teaching cello, she travels far and wide to perform on many a stage.

In addition to her work with Fiori, she performs alongside her husband in electric string quartet Litmus. She also plays with her sister, Amanda who you might just recognise! Amanda is an accomplished violinist and recorder player. In fact, she’s a regular Fiori player.

“Music became part of family life. I’m not sure that I was the reason that Amanda started to play. More like she could see that I was having a good time which maybe encouraged her to get involved. Our parents probably thought that if you’re carting one around then you might as well cart around two!”

Juggling unsociable hours performing and teaching requires a strong support network. So it’s lucky that she’s surrounded by musicians. As I’m talking to Claire, she and Amanda are travelling to a workshop but they’ve got cake and are having a catch up so it makes it bearable!

“Sometimes my husband and I are like ships passing in the night.

“It can be lonely at times, practising and staying motivated. It requires a lot of physical and mental strength. The amount of time that I’ve wanted just to watch TV!

But thankfully she doesn’t which means that you can enjoy the fruits of Claire’s labours as she, and pianist Pavel Timofejevsky, perform their Young Artists Recital Sunday at Fawsley Hall.

FF