Ros Hanson-Laurent from Brighton is a freelance viola player. She trained at the Royal Northern College of Music before working as a teacher and performer for the Menuhin Foundation of Bermuda. Ros returned to the UK in 2005 and now freelances along the south coast and London as both a modern and Baroque player, often playing as a soloist for local orchestras "In fact on March the 7th, just before lock down I was lucky enough to play Harold, in Harold in Italy by Berlioz with the Sussex Symphony orchestra."
Just over ten years ago Ros co-founded the Brighton Chamber Ensemble with some like minded friends and colleagues. "We now have quite a following and would have put on a Mozart and New music festival this summer if the pandemic hadn't stopped concerts. We were lucky enough to commission and programme several new pieces to partner with our Mozart choices, from the piano quartets to string quintets."
Teaching and performing are also in Ros's life in equal measure, "I find I need them both to feel complete. As well working as a performer I teach upper strings at several local schools, run workshops, coach youth orchestras and support local amateur orchestras. In recent years I've started delivering music in local primary schools for a wonderful non for profit company, the Sussex Music School. It's been a really inspiring and made me creative in new ways. I perform a lot in the classroom for the children I teach, some of whom have never seen a string instrument played live before. It's a real honour to know you are often a child's first introduction to live music."
Ros's kids are following in their parent's footsteps: "My children are often my inspiration, I have a 9 year old girl who is a budding trumpet player and a 4 year old who loves making rude noises on his pbuzz and dancing ( a source of constant amusement in a string and woodwind house hold). "
This year has been complicated for Ros's family, as for so many. Ros was very ill in the first lock down,
"I came down with covid symptoms the weekend we locked down and ended up in bed for 2 weeks: unheard of for a busy Mum. I didn't really feel anywhere near fit for at least 6 weeks and came very close to being admitted to hospital. Very scary, especially for my 9 year old who was awake when the ambulance came.
As I recovered we fell into a routine of homeschool, online teaching and then being creative in the afternoons. With my husband furloughed we did lots as a family and it was really special to be together, often with our jobs we hardly spend time as a foursome. I started playing again gently and recording music for the staff and residents in my Mums care home (some wonderful other musician mums joined in the project and it brought a lot of pleasure to all of us!).
I also recorded duets and projects for my students and little projects for the children at
my daughters school to work on. The response I got from the children made a huge difference to my mental health and recovery.
My family and children kept me grounded over lock down. We walked, discovered nature on our door step. We collected clay from a local river bed with some other children and made African bowls and houses for a school project, baked, did lino printing, built the great wall of china in our back ground, played and learnt new board games. I learnt to be creative in new ways and it made up in part for the loss of playing to others. I was also extremely fortunate to have two members of the Brighton Chamber Ensemble who had access to large spaces for us to rehearse in safely and we learnt some new repertoire. I think without our regular rehearsals I would have gone quite mad!"
Even now things aren't plain sailing: "My husband (previously a professional flautist) had been working as cabin crew but the aviation industry was devastated by covid too. After being furloughed for 6 months, he took the decision to take voluntary redundancy. He now has a temporary job as a postie over Christmas and is retraining in IT. I'm very proud of him."
Even with the uncertainty of their situation, Ros and her husband feel really grateful to have work where many friends in the music industry have nothing.
Ros playing Harold, in Harold in Italy by Berlioz with Sussex Symphony orchestra, March 7th "just a couple of weeks before the lock down, my last ‘big’ gig!"
Musician Mums Christmas Quiz!
Tell us what you'll miss most about performing this Christmas?
Oh goodness, everything, sharing playing with my friends and colleagues, watching faces in the audience light up. The buzz, playing carols, Messiah, Christmas Oratorio. I can't think about it too much or it makes me upset! That's why the musical advent calendar has really helped. It's brought some joy back!
What's your favourite carol/Christmas song?
Tough choice. Carol: Holst version of In the Bleak Midwinter. Song: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
And what are you hoping for this year for Christmas? Maybe we can put a word in with Santa's elves...
To be able to see my Mum face to face and hold her hand again. She is in a care home and I miss seeing her properly so much.
What's your favourite Christmas memory - musical or otherwise?
I grew up with musical parents so singing and playing as a family was a huge part of my life. My parents always used to put the Messiah on in the mornings whilst preparing the Christmas meal. My favourite year was one where we stayed at home and all chose something to add to the Christmas menu it was a really unconventional but brilliant meal and then we played games all afternoon. Just the five of us with no pressure to entertain anyone else. I'm going to do something similar this year with my own family as we can't see anyone else and am really looking forward to it!
What's your favourite thing about Christmas ?
Waking up to the sound of my children's squeals as they open their stockings and tell each other about all the brilliant things they've got!
Finally, got a hint towards what you're playing on the calendar?
The Brighton Chamber Ensemble is doing something sweet that you might be able to dance too! I'm also providing a little workshop for a Winter Dance.
Thanks so much Ros, you know we all wish you and your family well for a happy and healthy 2021.