Dreams of a violin

Rebecca Daniel. Photo: Grahame (Nim) McConnell. Top: Dreams of Falling.

She learned to read music before she could read words, was born a stone’s throw from London’s famed Abbey Road studios, and saw Mozart’s opera The Marriage of figaro at the age of four (her father being artistic director of Kent Opera). But if Rebecca Daniel’s future as a musician was almost inevitable, her career’s extraordinary diversity was not. The brilliant violinist variously has recorded with INXS, performed with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, accompanied major musicals and played in Carnegie Hall.

Rebecca, who lives in Kanimbla Valley on the Blue Mountains’ western fringe, studied at the Royal Academy of Music, and was coached by the finest players and conductors, including the Amadeus String Quartet and Sir Colin Davis.

“My first professional job was at the age of nine,” she recalls, “singing the role of a cupid in John Blow’s opera Venus and Adonis, touring England and Germany. My second job was also in an opera. This time a much larger role, in the Benjamin Britten opera The Turn of the Screw, directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner, and conducted by Sir Roger Norrington. I was the first child to perform the role at the age of 12.”

But her career would focus on her violin rather than voice, even though she continues to sing. In 1985 she acquired an exquisite Andrea Castagneri violin, made in Paris in 1741.  “It’s not a huge sounding instrument,” says Rebecca, “but throughout my career the sweet, emotive sound has drawn compliments that it’s almost voice-like.”

When she was invited to join the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Sydney in 1988, she jumped at the chance, having family connections in Australia. She spent two years with the ACO, before marrying and going freelance, including with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and accompanying Pavarotti, Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey.

“I discovered that I loved working in a recording studio,” she says, “and did many sessions and concerts with, among others, John Farnham, Anthony Warlow and Olivia Newton-John, INXS, Men at Work, James Galway and the Chieftains, Bread and Tommy Emmanuel. An absolute highlight was touring in a string quartet with John Denver. He was a true chamber musician, and a complete joy to watch perform.”

Thereafter she began working in musical theatre, including being Orchestra Leader for Phantom of the Opera 929 times, before she and her husband moved to Kanimbla. “We wanted to bring up our children in this stunning area,” she says. Since living there, she’s diversified into Celtic music, and has also begun composing and arranging, and will be performing her Suite for String Quartet with The Kanimbla Quartet in Springwood and Canberra in March.

Rebecca also plays and sings with Dreams of Falling, the trio led by Walkley Award-winning writer John Shand, who delivers assorted poetry and prose and plays drums, joined by guitarist Leigh Birkett. “It’s a completely different performance experience to anything else I’ve done,” she says, “and takes the audience on quite an emotional journey.”

Dreams of Falling: Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Sunday February 26, 1-3pm (https://bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au/public_programs/dreams-of-falling).