Tim Yu and Anna Da Silva Chen

“Nothing beats playing music with others”

We catch up with former Emerging Artists Anna da Silva Chen and Tim Yu as they experience life on the road with the Australian Chamber Orchestra together.

It was music that first brought violinists Anna da Silva Chen and Tim Yu together as young students. Now they find themselves close to the finish line of the long and challenging process of joining the ACO.

Friends both on and off the stage, the pair first crossed paths at the University of Melbourne before going on to study under the same teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium the following year. Over the ensuing eight years, they played together in various forms, and are currently sharing the stage with the ACO as part of the national tour of Altstaedt Plays Haydn & Tchaikovsky.

Tim Yu and Anna Da Silva Chen

Having grown up in Richard Tognetti’s own hometown of Wollongong, Anna recalls the first time she heard the Orchestra perform live.

“It was like going to see your favourite band! I remember being exhilarated by every performance,” she says. “The ACO is one of very few orchestras who include Wollongong in some of their tours, so lucky little me heard them for the first time at Wollongong Town Hall.”

Anna De Silva Chen

One of Tim’s first experiences of the ACO was hearing the renowned violinist Ilya Gringolts perform with the Orchestra and being “blown away”. In a full-circle moment, Tim went on to perform with Ilya when made his return to Australia last year to play Bruch’s beloved Violin Concerto.

To share the stage with the Orchestra they’ve admired for so many years is an experience which Tim says is “surreal” and Anna describes as “simultaneously humbling and invigorating!”

Being on this journey together is especially meaningful. “I feel very lucky and happy to have a long-time friend in the Orchestra with whom I can share these memories,” says Anna.

“Every performance is a little different - and we love to share those different moments by acknowledging it and giving a smile or look!” Tim adds.

Anna and Tim

When thinking about who it was in their life who opened their eyes up to music, both credit their parents.

“I was introduced to music by my dad - he played violin briefly in his childhood and loves to listen to all things classical. I grew up listening to Mahler and Beethoven symphonies every time we got in the car,” Tim says.

Anna says both parents introduced her to music in different ways. “My father especially loved the depth of classical works and always wished to learn an instrument but never had the opportunity, so he made that possible for me […] My mother’s way of introducing me to music was entirely different and unintentional. She was the first person I ever saw being brought to tears by music, specifically Portuguese fado — songs of lament and longing. Her connection to it being purely emotional left a lasting impression.”

Tim Yu young

A crucial turning point in both Anna and Tim’s musical journeys was successfully auditioning for the ACO’s flagship talent development initiative, the Emerging Artist Program.

“Being an ACO Emerging Artist was incredibly fulfilling and motivating,” recalls Anna, saying that her mentor, former ACO Violin Mark Ingwersen, “guided me with great sensitivity and helped cultivate some much-needed self-belief.”

Tim’s experience was a little more disrupted, thanks to the Covid pandemic. However, it meant he was able to work with three different mentors over a couple of years – former ACO violinist Glenn Christensen, as well as ACO Violins Ike See and Liisa Pallandi. Tim was thrilled to be able to join the ACO Collective tours to Western Australia in 2022 with his long-time friend and fellow Emerging Artist, Anna.

“They were so much fun, we played incredible music and everyone was just so ecstatic to be there and to really work together to create something special. To have been a part of that is something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon,” Tim reminisces.

Tim Yu and Anna Da Silva Chen

For both Tim and Anna, it’s clear that chamber music is first and foremost a collaborative and collective pursuit – not only on stage between themselves and their fellow performers, but also with the audience.

“I love chamber music and playing with other colleagues, and I wanted to do it more often. The Emerging Artist program gave the opportunity to do that with the very best and like-minded musicians,” remarks Tim.

“I think the level of communication and understanding that can be achieved through chamber music is unmatched by any other language,” says Anna. “My playing would be quite underdeveloped and much less interesting without the influence of others through this collaborative process. Hearing the music beyond one’s own part and expanding one’s understanding of a work by playing with musicians who think differently are skills which enrich all the other parts of our lives too,” she continues.

And the audience’s role in this relationship is equally important.

“Every audience member contributes a very particular energy and aura. Responding to these created atmospheres in real time is one of my favourite things about performing,” says Anna.

For Tim, “the audience changes everything … the energy and enthusiasm we get back from the audience feeds into our performance. And playing for an audience is what transforms our playing into a performance!”

Finally, what does music mean to them?

Tim: “Connection.”

Anna: “Everything.”

Tim Yu and Anna Da Silva Chen

By donating to the ACO today, you can help ensure the future of programs like our Emerging Artist Program to support the next generation of Australian musicians. With your support, we can continue bringing people together through the power and joy of music.

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