Immersed in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2013

Round III of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition begins in Auckland tonight. Chamber Music New Zealand’s publicist Sally Woodfield has been immersed in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in Queenstown and we catch up with the action…

Three days of being immersed in the most incredible experience have come to an end and it was sad to say goodbye to Queenstown yesterday as we all flew to Auckland for Round III.

Composer Jack Body toasts with Kerry Stevens (Auckland Town Hall Organ Trust)

Composer Jack Body toasts with Radio New Zealand’s Kerry Stevens (Queenstown contest host)

The weekend was filled with wonderful music – hearing Jack Body’s Caravan played 18 times made me so aware of how each individual performer interprets a score differently. It was fascinating and a favourite part of the Competition for me. Talking to Jack after the Competition, he commented on the challenge he set for the competitors with a new intonation system.

Nikki Chooi of Canada won the award for Best Performance of the NZ Commissioned Work and said “all the research was worth it. It was a long journey for me from when I first received the music on April 1 to performing it on Sunday. I listened to a variety of Persian music to gain a feel for the musical language, but the intonation was very tricky and I really had to adjust my ears to be able to play it.”

Nikki Chooi

Nikki Chooi

Nikki is one of the six semi-finalists to progress to Round III and will be the first to perform tonight with Ashley Brown and Michael Houstoun.

Also performing tonight will be Romania’s Ioana Cristina Goicea who is incredibly excited to be one of the top six: “Amazing,” was how she described it.

Ioana Cristina Goicea

Ioana Cristina Goicea

And last to perform tonight will be our very own Natalie Lin.

Natalie Lin

Natalie Lin

It’s hard to be impartial when there’s a New Zealander among the 18 semi-finalists in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition … and 24-year-old Christchurch-born/Auckland-raised Natalie Lin admits she did feel a bit of pressure going into the first round of the Competition.

It’s only the fourth time in the Competition’s history that a New Zealander has been selected as a semi-finalist  and then on Monday night Natalie became only the second New Zealander to be named one of the top six semi-finalists and progress to Round III – the first was Natalia Lomeiko in 2003, who went on to win the Competition.

The six semi-finalists with Sir Michael Hill

The six semi-finalists with Sir Michael Hill

Natalie admits she was totally overwhelmed when she was announced as one of the top six and both of us were soon wiping away tears as we celebrated her success. Her grandparents had come to Queenstown at the last minute and were so proud.

And Natalie’s mother Wanju Chang was at Auckland Airport to meet her yesterday afternoon. Wanju told me that she was experiencing many emotions – “it’s been a very demanding life with Natalie and her sister Christabel,” she laughed.

Natalie and Christabel, who is a professional musician in Vienna, both performed in ensembles in the New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest and Wanju credits the contest with developing their music and introducing them to other musicians.

“The Chamber Music New Zealand contest is just wonderful and started me off on my path to becoming a professional musician,” Natalie says. Natalie was a member of the winning ensemble in 2005.

Natalie Lin and her mum

Natalie Lin and her mum Wanju Chang

“I told my daughters that a life as a professional musician would never be easy and they have to love it more than anything else to make it work and both of them have chosen to do that.”

Nikki, Ioana Cristina and Natalie all perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No 1, Op 49 tonight from 7.30pm. The entire Competition is live streamed over the internet and you can replay performances from the Queenstown rounds. Visit


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