Meet Ryan Bancroft
What music do you listen to?
I get influences from everywhere. Classical music is the medium through which I express myself. But I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you I listen to Joni Mitchell every day. My husband works in musical theatre, so I listen to quite a lot of musical theatre as well. I grew up with pop music, jazz, rock, rap in the household.
And I don’t necessarily just go to music for inspiration. I enjoy reading, I enjoy going to museums, I enjoy going to shows and plays. It’s all inclusive for me.
What’s your first memory of discovering American orchestral music?
One of my earliest memories of American music is this fantastic piece by Ferde Grofé (a composer who also arranged for George Gershwin), called the Grand Canyon Suite. I remember thinking, if this is what classical music sounds like, then I want to be a part of it. To hear a piece that really described a place and a feeling, that was really cool for nine-year-old Ryan.
What’s your relationship with the Philharmonia?
My meeting with the Philharmonia was definitely not a typical meeting with an orchestra. It was in the middle of the pandemic, which was, of course, a very tricky time for everyone. And I remember I was so nervous for the first rehearsal, unbelievably nervous. This is an orchestra that I’ve listened to since I was a child. To be able to work with an orchestra that I’ve admired for so long was a really special thing.
What was your first impression of the orchestra?
When I stepped on stage for the first time, met the leader of the orchestra, started conducting, I noticed how down to earth the music making was. Also, I really appreciated how no note was taken for granted. Now we were doing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, one of the most famous pieces of classical music. And it was amazing to see all the little things going on to make this music as exciting as possible. That’s incredibly infectious.
What do you think American music sounds like?
American music is Native American music. American music is Jewish music. American music is African American music. American music is immigrant music. American music is folk music. There are so many different aspects of American music.
It sounds like America, as I know it. It’s a place where so many different cultures, ways of thinking, ways of being, ways of making art all combine into this amazing fondue, if you will.
There is a sort of deep optimism that shows up in a lot of American music, this corny hope which I find quite attractive and charming and genuine.
A lot of the American music that I perform has a specific quality of sound to it that you need to achieve, just as you want a particular sound for Brahms, or Mozart, or Strauss. There’s an openness to the harmony, there’s a simplicity to it. The challenge is to achieve that with 90 musicians on stage.
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Watch the full Q&A on the Philharmonia YouTube channel here.