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Taking Five with What Will Have Been’s Violinist, Lachlan O’Donnell

Lachlan O’Donnell is a Sydney-based violinist who regularly performs throughout Australia and abroad as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral leader. As a soloist Lachlan has appeared at major concert halls throughout Europe and Australia and performed live broadcasts on stations like ABC Classic FM and WQXR New York.

Having performed with the likes of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Sydney and Melbourne Orchestras, Orchestra Victoria, the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, violinist Lachlan O’Donnell will join 3 acrobats onstage for the tour of What Will Have Been beginning this month.

We sat down with Lachlan ahead of his upcoming tour to talk music, circus and life on tour.


What was your journey into the music industry? How did you come to play violin?

As a kid, I was always very drawn to music and I’m fortunate that my parents noticed that quite early on. When I was 4 they handed me a violin and I’ve never really looked back! It was something I loved from the beginning. In terms of my journey into the industry, I think like a lot of musicians I initially didn’t have a strong sense of how music could become a career for me, I just knew it was how I wanted to spend my time. After some years studying in Australia and Europe (Vienna/London) I began to do freelance work with orchestras and ensembles around the country, and a lot of doors opened from there. I gradually figured out where my specific interests lay and started to actively pursue those things (for example I love working with composers and creating new work). These days I’ve managed to find a great balance of orchestral playing, chamber music and solo/collaborative projects in both traditional classical music and new music. That mix is constantly changing – careers in music are very unpredictable – but that’s half the fun of it!


What are you most looking forward to about this tour?

This will be the third time I’ve toured What Will Have Been – the last time was in 2017. It’s always nice to come back to a project after some time away; the break gives us all a good chance to replenish our creative energy and I often find that I return with a fresh perspective on the work. I expect a lot of new ideas will emerge as we rebuild this show for U.S. audiences, so I’m excited to see how it will all take shape and evolve throughout the tour.

Of course, the best thing about working with Circa is the privilege of collaborating with such an incredible team of performers. I’m really looking forward to reuniting with them on stage. Although we have quite different creative processes, I’ve really loved finding points of connection and discovering how our practices can complement each other. It will be exciting to step back into the circus world and continue to learn from these wonderful people.


What are you expecting from the the first leg of the tour in the U.S.A?

I’m thrilled to be touring in the U.S.A. again, I haven’t performed there since 2014 so it’s a long overdue visit. I’m looking forward to meeting our audiences and seeing their reactions to the show. It’s a really beautiful and thought-provoking creation that I’m excited to share with them.


What Will Have Been has an intimate focus on the music, what’s it like playing the pieces you’ll be playing? Are they pieces you’ve worked with before?

I perform two works in the show, both of which I’ve been playing for many years now: H.I.F. Biber’s Passacaglia for solo violin and the ‘Allemande’ and ‘Chaconne’ from J.S. Bach’s Partita no. 2 for solo violin. There is so much that is extraordinary about these two works, but what I especially hope audiences will connect with is the emotional world they offer us a window into. Bach’s Chaconne is particularly remarkable in this way – it’s not only a technically astonishing work, but when you hear it you get the sense that it’s expressing something incredibly powerful and transcendent. It’s the kind of work that reminds you of music’s ability to speak directly to us in a way that words often can’t.

What I think makes this music work so well within the context of our show, is the flexibility it affords us as performers. This music needs to feel spontaneous and improvisatory for it to be effective, so it’s an ideal fit for a show that explores how music and movement respond to each other in real-time. The fun part of What Will Have Been for me is the interaction I have with the acrobats – when I’m on stage I’m drawing inspiration from what they’re doing and playing off their physical energy, while at the same time using the music to offer new impetus to their performance. We influence each other a great deal and every show feels quite different. This interaction transforms the music from a ‘monologue’ for solo violin into more of a group conversation, and that really changes the experience of performing it in a fascinating way.


Do you think you’ll get the acrobats to show you some tricks while you’re on tour?

I would love that! Given my current level of athletic ability I imagine I might be a difficult student, but maybe they’ll be up for a challenge!


The What Will Have Been tour begins on 30 May in Santa Ana, USA and will continue throughout the U.S.A and Japan. For tour dates see here.

Circa is based in Meanjin (Brisbane) on the lands of the Jagera and Turrbal people. We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the many lands on which we create and perform. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Always was. Always will be.