Staff Spotlight: Rachel Meerloo

By Kath Hartley


Rachel Meerloo

Rachel Meerloo

Rachel Meerloo first encountered a double bass at the age of 11 after a music project in her school organised by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

After ‘falling in love with the sounds’ of the instrument, Rachel quickly began lessons and her passion for the double bass has continued to grow; with four-years of study at the RNCM followed by Postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Now a double bassist for the Hallé Orchestra based in Manchester, Rachel has joined the Classical faculty to teach double bass at Leeds College of Music (now Leeds Conservatoire).

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Orchestral playing was what I had wanted to do since I was 16 and I joined the National Youth Orchestra. It was an amazing experience and it gives young musicians an impression of what it’s like to work in a professional orchestra. It gave me a lot of inspiration and motivation.

In terms of teaching, I was inspired to pay double bass by a teacher in a workshop, so it’s great to be able to do that for someone else.

Teaching has been a great challenge for me, it’s pushed my playing. To be able to teach well you have to assess everything you’re doing as a musician put it into words. It is an incredible buzz when you can see someone’s development and you’ve been a part of it.

Why do you think young musicians should pursue a career in playing double bass?

I’ve always found double bass very rewarding; it’s different, you stand out. It’s quite rare so you get more opportunities, it’s incredibly versatile as it’s used in so much music, from Pop and Jazz to Classical and Chamber music.

Getting applause for doing your job is a good feeling! There are other perks like touring, (albeit less glamourous than people think!), but to be able to travel with work is great. You get to visit new places, discover new cultures and meet new people.

What is it like working with the Hallé orchestra?

Hallé is like a big family, it’s a wonderful place to work. There’s obviously a focus on high quality and a strong work ethic, but there’s also an element of play amongst the orchestra and genuine friendships. It is a full-time job - we’re rehearsing five or six days a week, for most weeks of the year.

Teaching and freelance work has to fit around rehearsals but Hallé are very supportive. They realise that teaching is very beneficial for players’ development and for teaching the next generation too!

Rachel Meerloo

You’ve played all over the world and with some incredible musicians, what have been the highlights of your career so far?

At Hallé, I love playing Opera. We’ve performed Wagner’s epic The Ring of the Niebelung over the last six years, which are always pretty spectacular events.

Recently we did the ‘We Stand Together’ concert for the Manchester Relief Fund, with members of the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Camerata, in response to the bombing in Manchester. There were people there who’d never been to an orchestral performance before, and the reaction was phenomenal. They were totally with us and what we were performing, it was a special atmosphere.

You’ve worked with Elbow and Muse, how was the experience of working with rock musicians?

They were cool! We played with Muse at the Brit Awards – there were forty of us on stage and we had to memorise the music in advance and learn their style.

Halle Orchestra have had a longer relationship with Elbow, having worked on their last two albums. They are wonderful guys who are really down to earth, and they respect and love what we do. The band used to come to the Hallé as kids, and they have fond memories of the orchestra because of that. The Halle is a really a local orchestra - it’s Manchester’s orchestra.

How vital do you think it is for musicians to be adaptable, whether that’s across different styles or having different elements to a portfolio career?

It’s incredibly important, there isn’t a single person I know who gets their income from one avenue in music - it’s just not possible in this day and age. Plus I think it would be incredibly boring to do the same thing every day for your entire career.

It’s key that you channel your creativity into several different things, but without forcing yourself into music that you don’t feel inspired by. Adapt to different opportunities so you can say ‘Yes’ instead of having to turn things down, it will be a much more fulfilling career and it’s an economic decision too in this climate.

What would your advice be to aspiring orchestral musicians?

The biggest thing is to go out there and play the rep. Play in every orchestra you get asked to, or approach orchestras to perform with them. Listen to music, play along, and go to concerts.

You should try to think about what the composer would like, as well as what the conductor and the orchestra.

Being well prepared helps, so you don’t have to have your eyes glued to the part and you can see what’s going on around you. Playing in an orchestra is all about teamwork, it’s not about the individual. Watch everyone else in your section and the wider orchestra, and make sure you’re playing as part of that team!

The Hallé Orchestra will continue to tour UK venues throughout 2017 before performances in France Germany and Belgium towards the end of November. Find out more information here.

Rachel Meerloo tutors as part of the Royal Northern College of Music’s ‘Young Basses’ scheme, a series of free workshops to anyone of school age playing the double bass. Find out more information here.

By Kath Hartley

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