Claire Willoughby

Claire Willoughby

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your life. Not necessarily music-related!

I am a Glasgow based theatre maker and performer. After graduating from Glasgow University in joint Music and Theatre Studies, I trained as a clown at Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris, and in cabaret performance with Marisa Carnesky. My day to day life is incredibly unpredictable, but always exciting – I have lived in a plastics warehouse in St Petersburg whist working with an experimental Russian theatre company; toured to Melbourne Comedy Festival with a musical about Assisted Suicide; and directed a theatre-gig show about growing up in Belfast for Celtic Connections. The things that drive me are play, creativity, collaboration and audience interaction – I am always interested in how we can push the boundaries of how a performance includes or invites in its audience.

In my spare time I love board games, video games, going out dancing and doing a bit of make-shift DIY around the house. I also have a wee cat called Totoro, and love devising different things to build to keep her entertained.

How did you first get into music?

I first joined a choir in my primary school, and then went on to learn violin and saxophone which I played in school bands. My Dad played the violin and I was fortunate enough to grow up in quite a musical house, where there was always music playing on the radio. I have always listened to pop and contemporary music, but enjoy playing classical music more than anything else (especially on my saxophone!) I then went on to do A Level Music and a degree in joint Music and Theatre at Glasgow University.

What made you decide that music would be an important part of your life?

I always struggled to find a happy medium between my love for music and theatre, and how I could incorporate both into my career. For a long time, I put a lot of energy into working in theatre, and let the musical side of my personality slide. It has only been more recently that I have discovered there are many orchestras who are experimenting with how they interact with their audiences, and similarly, theatre companies who are using live music in exciting and challenging ways. Now I know I don’t have to pick between a career in music or a career in theatre, but instead merge the two, I feel like I am falling in love with the more technical, theoretical side of musicianship again. This type of music performance nurtures a different part of my brain that I think had been lying dormant for some time, and I cant imagine going back to letting that not be a key part of my life.

What has been your musical highlight so far?

I am currently working on a show called Puffin, which I have co-made with a team of incredibly exciting theatre makers, for an audience of ages 7+. Daniel Padden has composed the music – which comprises of a number of different songs, slapstick music, chase music etc… basically a lot of fun! There is a section at the beginning of the show, where I am in the audience interacting with the kids, pretending to be a puffin. The only form of communication I have is through my saxophone, so I try to challenge myself every show to try and hold a conversation with an audience member where they talk and I play. I have had some really great conversations – with kids who ask me questions, and when I reply by playing the saxophone, they try to translate what I am saying, and continue an exchange. One boy told me he didn’t speak saxophone, but he understood clarinet, so he would do his best to translate for his school friends!

Who are your favourite composers/artists/musicians?

I love listening to a real mix of stuff – Patti Smith, Robyn, Teleman, Sondheim, Kurt Weil, Ari Lennox, Anohni… I enjoy playing John Coltrane, Faure, St Vincent, Debussy, Bernstein, Bat for Lashes…

What do you anticipate for the Nevis Ensemble?

I am hoping to meet new people and forge lasting friendships, as well as potentially ongoing creative relationships. I am excited to challenge myself musically and to find new ways of presenting live music in different spaces, and to very different audiences.