Family in harmony with musical careers

00:44, May 09 2014
Alex McFarlane
MUSICAL FAMILY: Laurence, Norman, Alex and Anne McFarlane have music running through their veins.

Musical members of the McFarlane family are hitting all the right notes in their respective careers - but they admit it can get pretty rowdy at home during practice times.

Parents Anne and Norman are in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra while their sons Laurence and Alex play for the Auckland Youth Orchestra.

"We all practise whenever we can fit it in," Anne McFarlane says. "Sometimes it's quite noisy if we're all doing it at the same time.

Alex McFarlane
VIOLA VIRTUOSO: Alex McFarlane has a promising career ahead of him as a viola player.

"Fortunately our house is a bit far away from the neighbours."

Anne and Norman met through the Auckland Youth Orchestra while they were at university. She was in her late teens and he in his early 20s.

They have been with the philharmonia orchestra "since it began", with Anne as the sub-principal viola player and Norman the associate principal trumpet.


"We met in the youth orchestra and things developed from there," Anne says.

"The music world in New Zealand is quite small so when you're in the orchestra you get to meet people from all around the country.

"It's like a large family, you know everybody, so we knew each other."

Their oldest son Laurence, 22, plays the timpani [kettle drum] and many other percussion instruments.

He finished a conjoint music and science degree at Auckland University last year.

He is now doing an honours degree in computer science and has been a member of the youth orchestra for the last seven years.

Alex, 19, is gearing up to play in an Auckland Youth Orchestra free public concert at the Auckland Town Hall on May 17 from 7.30pm

The Folklore concert features Hungarian orchestral music by composers Brahms, Bartok, Ligeti and Kodaly.

Alex McFarlane was selected by the orchestra's musical director Antun Poljanich after hearing him play a Bartok concerto previously.

"It's always special to be asked to play a concerto," Anne says.

"Bartok is probably the most important viola concerto. It was the last piece that Bartok wrote."

Alex McFarlane is in his second year of a music degree at Auckland University. He is also a member of the National Youth Orchestra and has performed as a soloist with the Nelson Symphony Orchestra and the Grammar Virtuosi for Auckland Grammar.

His chamber music group reached the final of the Auckland Chamber Music Society competition and received the Carl and Alberta Rosenfeldt Prize.

Alex McFarlane started playing violin age 5 and switched to the viola 3 1/2 years ago because of its "deeper richer tone".

He joined the youth orchestra aged 16.

Alex McFarlane says he aims to make a career out of his passion and is hoping to pursue post graduate music studies in Europe.

He has been nominated - and is 99 per cent sure - he'll get into an Auckland University student exchange programme to spend next semester studying at Kings College in London.

Auckland City Harbour News