Elena Urioste on Chineke! and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Violin Concerto

Urioste, Elena photo.jpg

Ahead of Chineke!’s European concert tour dates this November, we spoke to soloist Elena Urioste about her collaboration with the orchestra and Kevin John Edusei!

How did your collaboration with Chineke! and Kevin John Edusei first come about?

Since I first met Chi-chi at the 2015 Sphinx Competition, I’ve thought she was a force of nature and someone I would love to get to know. A few months after our initial Detroit meeting, I worked up the courage to effectively invite myself to take part in a Chineke! Orchestra project, and wound up performing with the group in their first Royal Festival Hall appearance the following year, which was a huge thrill and such a powerful, heartwarming performance to take part in. There is nothing quite like making music with a group of like-minded individuals, and it’s a surprisingly life-affirming feeling to share a stage with other musicians who look a bit like you. That was a sensation I never knew I needed or was even necessarily looking for, but from my first experience at the Sphinx Competition as a Junior Division competitor in 2003, it’s a feeling that’s never failed to take my breath away.

As for Kevin John Edusei, I’m so looking forward to collaborating with him again, this time at a slightly more unified eye level (he was also conducting the orchestra when I played as part of the first violin section in 2016)! What’s really fun to reflect upon is that we actually met over 15 years ago at the Aspen Music Festival, where he was a conducting fellow and I was a somewhat irresponsible teenager enjoying a summer in the Rocky Mountains! It will be such a pleasure having the time to explore the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor concerto together across many cities.

What is it about the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Violin Concerto that is so special?

This is music that cuts straight to the heart: it’s generous, delicious, and has a real inner strength that I think will speak to people whether they’re familiar with Coleridge-Taylor's music (or any classical music!) or not. The concerto happens to be incredibly well-written for the violin — the idioms fall quite naturally in the hands — and to me the language needs very little in the way of gilding. All the music asks is to be approached with honesty: the melodies and harmonies speak for themselves.

It’s an enormous privilege to have the platform to share this piece with a wider audience: this is music that absolutely deserves to be heard much more than it is. These days I find that I’m much more interested in playing music that has for whatever reason fallen through the cracks — works by women, composers of color, or pieces that have been inexplicably overlooked — rather than the same concertos, sonatas, and chamber works that everyone has heard a thousand times and are more interested in judging than experiencing with open ears. To be able to offer this extraordinarily lush, romantic work many times over the course of two weeks means not only that a wide audience of people will have the opportunity to experience it, but Kevin, the orchestra and I will have the opportunity to explore the music more luxuriously and remain open to the evolution of our relationship with it over the course of the tour. Time isn’t something that we’re often afforded as busy musicians, and I’m really looking forward to this journey: geographically, musically, and emotionally.

What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming European tour with Chineke!?

Literally everything! Getting to know the orchestra and playing large-scale chamber music together, having the space to explore this repertoire and see how it evolves over the course of the tour, performing in some of the world’s finest concert venues, conquering the Concertgebouw stairs, eating ALL the foods… and above all else, the camaraderie. There’s a special sort of alchemy that occurs when musicians are in close quarters, pouring their hearts and souls out together night after night, and I’m so looking forward to being part of this incredible team of human beings.

Join Chineke! Orchestra with Elena Urioste, conducted by Kevin John Edusei for our concerts at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Thursday 7 November, followed by our European tour concert dates:

Concert Dates

Chineke! Foundation