WASO violist Elliot O’Brien has an easy way to explain the different roles the violin and the bigger, deeper sounding viola have in an orchestra – after all, he has played both.
“If you think of it as a rock band, the first violins are like the soloist or lead singer and the viola is one of the backup singers,” O’Brien said.
“We help make the lead singer sound really good. We play a lot of the accompaniment.”
The 27-year-old told his mum when he was three years old growing up in Dublin that he wanted to play the violin.
“I don’t come from a musical family. No one plays anything really, so they started me on a Fisher-Price violin and hoped it would keep me going but I wanted the real thing,” O’Brien said.
“My uncle gave me an old guitar because it was cheaper. I actually got the guitar, put it on my shoulder and got some chopsticks and glued them together to use as a bow. After that they enrolled me in classes and it went from there.”
O’Brien and his family moved to Perth when he was 17 years old and it was during his time at WAAPA that he was recommended to switch to viola because of the better employment opportunities and less competition in the niche field.
He joined WASO last year after two years at the National Academy of Music in Melbourne and will perform in Stars Wars: A New Hope In Concert at Riverside Theatre on September 28 and 29, where the orchestra will accompany the film with the live score.
“When the first Star Wars film came out, which is the one we’re playing, originally George Lucas was going to use just classical music that was already written like when 2001: A Space Odyssey used a Strauss piece,” he said.
“That was his original plan until Steven Spielberg told him the guy who wrote the music for Jaws, John Williams, was amazing and he should check him out.
“A lot of the music in films at that time was futuristic because they were using electronic keyboards and synthesisers making wacky sounds. But they went the other way and borrowed from Wagner a bit, using leitmotifs in his opera.
“Like the ominous Darth Vader’s The Imperial March and then every time you hear the heroic theme you know Luke is about to appear on screen or the good guys are back. It seems obvious to us now but at the time it was groundbreaking. I think the music helped in the success of Star Wars; it’s what makes it.”
What: Star Wars: A New Hope In Concert
Where: Riverside Theatre
When: September 28 and 29