Meet the Musicians | YeYe Xu

Nevis Ensemble Marketing and PR Assistant, Isaac Boothman chats with Nevis violinist, YeYe Xu.

How did you end up in Nevis Ensemble?

In the summer of 2017, Jamie Munn (CEO) and I toured Scotland and The Netherlands with our Dutch friends The Ricciotti Ensemble, which was the first street orchestra founded in 1970. Neither of us had ever performed to the scale of this group, in respect of concert terrain (including under the rain!), demographic and musical repertoire.

It was joyous. Unthinkable. My love for orchestra was refreshed by seeing countless communities sharing our music wherever we went. Soon after, Jamie and Judith set their minds on creating something similar for Scotland and they asked whether I’d be interested to help build it up – to which of course I said yes! A year later, Nevis Ensemble was born.

Do you have a particular favourite Nevis memory?

The heartfelt stories we weaved into the music for our Hebrides Tour in 2019 and the sights of islands Soay, Hirta, Dùn, Boreray, with clouds and clouds of seabirds floating high above us, as we approached the archipelago by little jetty boat: a cluster of jagged rocks thrown into the middle of the ocean.

How has your involvement in music changed your life or career?

I think, and hope, that music has made me into a good listener – of humans and of the world around me. Playing, singing or simply talking about music has helped me build relationships with people from all cultures and backgrounds. Hearing music arrests me in whatever I may be doing, and I hum and sing to myself without a moment’s thought.

What would your ideal vision for music and the arts be?

My friend runs a musical café in Central London that produces concerts and events. Imagine if every neighbourhood had a space like this!

What are you looking forward to doing with Nevis in the future?

New music. Nevis Ensemble has collaborated with many a talented young composer and it’s always a delight to translate their ideas into sound.

Describe a typical day for you.

At the moment I’m studying for a PGCE in European Language with Mandarin at the University of Oxford. If I have a day at university it’ll go something along the lines of: early morning Mass, class, library, food, coffee, meet friends from my course or College, organising things for various academic or social activities, study, squeeze in some music practice, sleep…

If I’m teaching at school then it’s a wake up at 5am, take the train to school – teach, teach, teach – prepare the next day’s lessons then go home to finish my class readings!

What are your top three bucket list items?

Journal, fountain pen, bicycle.

What is your favourite dessert and why?

Dark chocolate, 100% cacao, for its taste and nutrients.

What is your favourite word and why?

An impossible question to ask a linguist! Recently I fell upon concatenation. It means the linking of things together, in a chain or series. Things interconnected and interdependent.

What are your plans for the festive season?

I’m heading back to Edinburgh to see my mother and old sweet friends.  

If you could swim in any liquid what would it be and why?

Honey or milk, or the two mixed together. I know for a fact that honey makes an excellent face mask and would recommend everyone to try. And isn’t milk what Cleopatra used to bathe in? I seem to remember learning this in a Horrible Histories book when I was a child.