By: Paul Hunter, Feature Reporter (Toronto Star)
Published: Sunday, March 6, 2016
HAMILTON— Gemma New is briefly transported back in time as she mimes quick bow strokes in a passionate burst of air violin.
There is no music but she can feel it.
“You can’t even hear yourself, it’s so loud,” she says, dreamily recounting a magical concert on a distant stage.
“You’re just going for it and there’s an energy you get from a large group of people playing together, excited about the sound. It’s powerful.
“That sound moved me. It moved my soul.”
Some search their entire lives for direction. New, 29, had her epiphany when she was 12.
That performance was the eureka moment for the little girl playing first violin in the fourth pair in a New Zealand youth orchestra. The journey it started would bring her here to FirstOntario Concert Hall (formerly Hamilton Place) as the newest music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.
A music director not only conducts but is also the artistic head of an orchestra, taking a leadership role in determining a repertoire, creating a vision for performances and selecting soloists, among other details.
With an ability to connect to both her audience and the musicians, New brings warmth and artistry to the stage; the Hamilton Spectator called the standing ovation she received after her debut last month “justly deserved.” So good and so natural was her first appearance, it’s unlikely anyone in the theatre, swept up by what the paper called “a compelling reading of Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Symphony,” pondered an underlying story.
In New they were also witnessing a rarity — a female conductor. (continued)