The Sound of Music

 Internationally renowned violinist and composer Sue Aston reveals how Cornwall inspires her music

Log on to You Tube and you’ll find a haunting piece of music called “The Homecoming”. To date watched by over one million  people, the accompanying video shows a windswept Sue Aston playing her violin on the cliffs near Marazion and on Trencom Hill in West Cornwall. Worldwide viewers leave their comments that range from “Great music to make you forget about work and stress” and “Now that is talent. Thank god some of it still exists!!” to simply, “I love Cornwall ”


From her home in Goldsithney near Penzance, Sue Aston looks out of her window and reflects.  “The Cornish landscape has always been a great influence on my work as a composer whether it’s the drama of the ever changing sea, the mystery of sacred sites dotted around the countryside, sometimes the moorland with its wild ponies and vividly coloured gorse or the coastal paths and beaches; they are all places I seek out when finding a spot to sit down and compose my music”


Sue first visited Cornwall in 1990, and since then says the county has had a fascinating hold over her.  “As a composer, the natural landscape inspires my work, and from my very first visit to Cornwall up until this present day, the feeling of being somehow connected to the spirit of the Cornish landscape remains strong”


Originally from Solihull, in the West Midlands, Sue took up the violin when she was about six. “My Dad used to play the violin, as did my grandfather, so there was always a violin in the house.  I just used to play with it as you would a toy – it seemed like the natural thing to do.  I was an only child, and playing the violin used to keep me entertained. I started composing my own tunes from a very young age, as it was a way of expressing myself.  I would listen to virtuoso pieces by Paganini and Sarasate, and try to play along with them!”


At school Sue’s talent as a musician blossomed and she recalls the teacher whose passion for music had a strong influence over her. “I was inevitably involved with school concerts. Our school in Coleshill, Warwickshire always put on some amazingly ambitious performances.  Our music teacher, Mr Gumbley, was passionate about creating a high quality performance – there was no dumbing down at our school concerts so it was excellent training for me”


Later at music college Sue would scramble to gets tickets for concerts by contemporary musicians such as Simon Rattle and violinist Nigel Kennedy at Birmingham Town Hall.  “They are both brilliant musicians, and have a refreshing approach in the classical music world and I was lucky to be able to meet and perform with both of them during my time in Birmingham”. It was also during this time that Sue had her first professional gig was with a small chamber orchestra comprised of retired LSO players


As a musician Sue has travelled the world giving concerts, has released three CDs, all inspired by her beloved Cornwall and has played on albums by Gordon Giltrap and Chris De Burgh and although these days Sue has a busy schedule she still manages to make time to teach for the Cornwall Music Service. “I enjoy encouraging young people to play” she enthuses, “I always include a lot of composition work in the lessons which I think is important.  That aspect was missing from lessons when I was learning, and I think it’s important for people to be able to express themselves through their own music, as well as learning more traditional music. It’s fun when my pupils spot me on TV – it’s great because it makes them realise that you can achieve your dreams in music if you keep at it and work hard”


Sue’s relationship with Cornwall remains strong and her music strongly reflects her bond with the county with much of her music referring to specific locations. “On my album “Sacred Landscapes” There is a waltz about the ‘Merry Maidens’ stone circle near Lamorna where young girls were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath and the healing energies which are all pervasive at Madron Holy Well were the inspiration for the lilting tune simply called Madron The lush, verdant greenery that surrounds the ruins of the chapel there, and the brightly coloured clouties tied to the trees are a true spectacle”