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INTERVIEW: Lara St. John

Hi Lara, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Good, thanks! Been a crazy summer in nine countries…

Can you talk to us more about your song “Variaiuni”?

This is a version of a typical Romanian accelerando tune. Some of it comes from a hammer dulcimer traditional tune, and some is totally made up by us. When I put it together with Matt – and he started doing the honky-tonk opening bit under the main melody, I suddenly visualized a saloon and a crazy fight happening – thus our interpretive ‘Bar Fight’ video…..

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I love Romanian Roma (gypsy) music and how bonkerzoidally fast the quick tunes are – in this arrangement the challenge is to eventually get to the utmost possible speed without crashing. Sometimes it works out.

What’s been like to work with Matt Herskowitz and how did that relationship develop?

We learn a lot from each other. We have different backgrounds – me, classical, folk, Roma and he – jazz and Jewish/Arab. Of course, most of these are quite close to each other geographically and stylistically, so, we make it work.

How much did he get to influence the album?

Well, a lot! All of his free jazz solos, the huge (and sort of bonkers) Nagilara is his composition, and I would not have been able to do this album with anyone else.

What role does Montreal play in your music?

Matt is a Montrealer since the 90’s, I am half Québecoise, and both of us have Montreal in our hearts and souls. Also, we both like Montreal bagels better than New York ones.  (I also prefer smoked meat to pastrami big time). (Matt is sort of a vegetarian).

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than in your own?

Well, as a violinist, it’s unusual to be on your own. Because mostly it’s playing Bach solo violin pieces, and those are the greatest works of all time, so I love it!

But normally I am with Matt as pianist, or with various orchestras. I’m pretty good at giving conductors very readable cues. And, Matt and I have our ways of communicating –not overt but perfect time-wise.

Any plans to hit the road?

Well, always. I spend half my life on the road. The season starts in September.

What else is happening next in Lara St. John’s world?

Interestingly, I have a tour with the Kazakh State orchestra this October.  Kazakhstan, then England and Ireland. It’s very odd but very intriguing!

Catch her live

Monday September 3 , 5:00pm – 6:15pm

Harbourfront Centre Theatre

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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