Tune In Backstage: Meet Andrew Chenery & Rachel Masters

Tune In is the London Philharmonic Orchestra's bi-seasonal magazine keeping you up-to-date with news and reflects on highlights of the year so far. In our latest issue, we caught up with married couple, Andrew Chenery and Rachel Masters – the LPO’s Orchestra Personnel Manager and Principal Harpist respectively, to learn more about them, and how they have made music a major part in their married lives.

 

How did you meet?

Andrew: I started working as the LPO Assistant Librarian in 1992. It was quite hard work persuading Rachel to go out with me.
Rachel: This young whippersnapper of a librarian turned up at the LPO who I totally ignored but I didn’t think anything of it until I was invited to Venice. It was very romantic – I got picked up from a water taxi in St Mark’s Square. That was March 1993 and we got married in the following December.

So it was the LPO that brought you together! Apart from sorting out your love-life, what are the other pros and are there any cons of both working in the same organisation?

Rachel: Well, we do get to see a lot of each other and both work the same silly hours! Childcare, especially when the kids were little, was a headache but we are a close extended family and managed to cobble things together with a combination of grandparents, au pairs and friends. In an unconventional way, we possibly see more of our family than some ‘normal’ families because we try to guard our free time very jealously.

Do you have musical backgrounds and how did you get to join the LPO?

Andrew: I studied music at York University and did a postgrad at Guildhall on bassoon. I did some freelance playing, then started training as an accountant but didn’t enjoy that so I started working as a stage manager with Roger Norrington’s London Classical Players before joining the LPO in 1992. Apart from a stint at the London Symphony Orchestra, I’ve been here ever since.
Rachel: I studied piano and harp at the Royal College of Music. I knew the LPO Principal Harp job was available (I’d been in touch about extra work) and I was really interested. At College I’d been pushed towards a solo career and had been performing as a chamber musician, some orchestral work and as a soloist, including playing in hotels which, in those days, had harp residencies. I was pretty miserable, though. It was September 1989, around my 31st birthday, when I heard I’d got the job, I was ecstatic! It was a dream come true! In my opinion, all the best harp repertoire is in the orchestral and operatic field. The LPO is unique in that it gives players an opportunity to perform both at the highest level. That’s immense. [The LPO is one of Glyndebourne’s resident orchestras].

Rachel, do you get lonely playing the harp?

Rachel: I don’t get lonely but sometimes feel alone. I love my colleagues but I’m also very happy to be on my own; being a harpist you have to be able to stand on your own two feet. But I do love playing fabulous music with fabulous musicians and having a laugh. Everyone has a humorous approach to life.

Do you have any favourite LPO memories?

Rachel: Not so much individual moments but working at the LPO has given us fabulous opportunities to travel together to places we wouldn’t have got to otherwise. Particularly memorable was Australia when we cycled round Rotnest Island off the Perth coast. We also went to China where we were treated royally, away from tourist crowds.
[Rachel and Andrew are pictured on the Great Wall of China.]

What do you admire most about each other’s capabilities to do their job?

Rachel: I could never do Andrew’s job! It requires diplomacy, patience and organisational skills. I say what I think and can be impatient. Andrew makes it look easy and it’s not. People don’t realise what is involved. Once the orchestra is on stage he’s still working, and works very long hours doing a very hard job.  Andrew’s attitude is that he is there to serve, be that the conductors, the musicians, the soloist, or the staff in the office and at Southbank Centre. He thinks about how he can make this machine work and make it work smoothly. It’s a very non-egocentric point of view and commendable.
Andrew: I can’t imagine playing the harp. To me, that’s bonkers! But as a trained musician I know what it takes to perform at a very high level in an orchestra so I know where Rachel’s coming from. I know how hard orchestral musicians work and have a certain understanding of their job. I have actually played bassoon in the LPO on one or two occasions, although I don’t play anymore.

What are your extra-curricular activities?

Andrew: I love classic cars and am the lucky owner of a 1967 MGB GT and a Lotus Elise.
Rachel: Children, the house and garden, food, fresh air, holidays ... Walking the dogs – Maisy an Irish Setter and Libby a Gordon Setter – keeps me sane. Our daughter is living in Cornwall at the moment and I might do the South West coast walk when I’m retired. But we are very homely people at heart.

Look out for your Autumn/Winter 2015 Tune In copy in the post or read it online now.