Date: 2023 October 25 19:51
Posted by Joe
With the City String Ensemble due to play a special 2 hour Best of Anime performance this December, we thought it would be a good idea to find out some more details. We got in touch with Sophie Poteratchi, the founder and violinist of City String Ensemble to find out more. Sophie tells us she loves performing music from numerous genres despite her classical training. "It is my vision to find more immersive and innovative ways to perform music from modern culture and in turn inspire audiences to come and watch a "classical concert" which is usually associated with instruments like the violin etc."
It's not every day you get string quartet performing anime tunes in London, why not read our interview with Sophie to find out more!
Anime music doesn't seem like the immediate choice for a string quartet to play. How did you originally decide to do anime music?
From 2021, we started performing anime music concerts through the "candlelight concerts" series across London. We didn't know any of this music before, aside from some particularly famous anime like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball or Studio Ghibli soundtracks and through performing all this music to highly enthusiastic audiences, we fell in love with the genre and took it upon ourselves to get to know more of the music associated with anime shows and of course all of the Studio Ghibli repertoire.
The City String Ensemble has performed anime music at candlelight concerts performances before. Can you tell us more about this?
Since 2021, we started performing for Fever's candlelight concerts which introduced us to music we did not know before, like anime! Along with multiple other programmes and genres of music, the candlelight concerts have been a really valuable and rewarding experience for us as an ensemble. So much so, with the anime music, we decided to release our very own "Best of Anime" EP of some of our favourite anime opening theme songs. This was a great success and we are now putting on our very own concert, "Best of Anime" at London's EartH Theatre which will be one huge anime openings and Studio Ghibli music extravaganza. This is the largest self-organised performance we have ever created and we cannot wait to perform to a full house of the anime community. These concerts have always been so special to us and as this is not a "candlelight concert" with a set format, we have much more creative license in the way we perform and interact with the audience. We are particularly excited about the part of our concert which will give audience members the opportunity to vote for which songs are performed on the night. This is really unique and should be a really fun interactive way for the audience to feel like they are a part of the creation of the performances on the night.
In previous performances were you able to gauge the mix of attendees? Where they mainly anime fans? Fans of classical music? Or a mix of both?
I would say that for almost all of our performances, it is mostly fans of the genre or artist come to watch us perform. It is such a special thing because a string quartet or anything "string-related" is so closely associated with the classical genre and the fact that we have such large audiences coming to watch a string quartet performance, is something that might not necessarily happen if we were performing an all-classical programme. The fact that audiences are watching what is essentially a "classical performance" of their favourite music is something that we do not take for granted and really gives people an opportunity to experience what a classical concert might be like. One of our visions as an ensemble is to demonstrate how "classical music" or "classical performance" can be relevant to contemporary culture. Something else we do not underestimate and hold dear to our hearts is that performing music from modern culture on string instruments might inspire younger generations to learn these instruments like the violin. They can believe that violin music can be relevant to modern society and that it is accessible to them by seeing role models performing music they love in fun ways and not solely just in traditional ways which is of course also a wonderful thing. We are focusing on the modern/contemporary side of sting playing!
Are any of the anime tunes particularly hard to perform as a string quartet? Were some more difficult to adapt for a string quartet?
Most of the anime songs are quite difficult to play. If you think about the genre of music that these songs are from, they are more often than not - rock, metal or J-pop etc. For us as classically trained musicians, it means that we try and find ways of replicating the sound of the original tracks as much as possible. Sometimes it means trying new things and utilising techniques that are not heard in the classical genre. This is really fun! One of the hardest to pull off and technically most difficult to perform is Tank! From Cowboy Bebop. As you can imagine there are A LOT of notes to play and on top of it, we have to pull it off in an effortless and cool style for that "Space Cowboy" vibe!
Is there a favourite tune with the quartet?
Each of us in the quartet will have our own favourites but one of the more obscure songs we absolutely LOVE is Catch Me, Catch You from Cardcaptor Sakura. When we first came across this song, we had no idea about the anime or the song itself. We soon became obsessed and it is such a fun and good vibes song to perform. But, our ultimate favourite has to be A Cruel Angel's Thesis from Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's an absolute classic and we definitely will be performing this at our concert. If we had it our way, we'd perform it at every concert we ever perform!
With two hours worth of music to perform was it tricky picking any anime tunes? What was the process in picking the tunes you'll perform?
There will be an interval during the concert and as this isn't a traditional classical concert, the venue bar will actually be open throughout the performance. We're looking forward to a more relaxed and inviting style of performance and there will be moments of audience interaction for what we hope to be an overall quite immersive experience for the audience. The music performed on the night will be a combination of both anime opening themes and Studio Ghibli soundtracks, so there is quite a lot of music available for us to perform.
Are you anime fans yourselves? What anime do you enjoy?
Each of us have different experiences with anime. I, personally, grew up watching Pokémon and Dragonball Z and did not even realise that these were "anime" at the time. I was a huge fan of both and still am to this day. More recently, and since performing so much anime music, I have watched the entirety of series like Demon Slayer, Cowboy Bebop, One Piece (only live action so far!) and of course ALL of the Studio Ghibli movies. I love them all. I can't speak on behalf of the rest of the quartet but we all love performing this music to audiences that have so much contagious enthusiasm. It's just a joy all round!
Can you tell us more about what the audience can expect at the live performance in December?
There are many people that enjoy "classical renditions" of their favourite music. We would say that this concert covers that but we expect the anime community to come out in full force! It could be that we open up the concert to welcome Cosplay artists. That would be so much fun but we haven't quite decided on that yet. Otherwise, of course fans of anime as a whole, who love the music associated, are people we expect to come and watch, as well as fans of City String Ensemble that enjoy our style of performing. Ideally, we would love to attract people who are curious either way and hope to offer everyone a really memorable and enjoyable night.