Ray Chen’s quest to bring classical music to younger audiences is so successful, he has 1.6 million Soundcloud followers, and is sponsored by Armani. At 25, he is one of the most compelling young violinists in the world and will perform only one Adelaide concert for Musica Viva with Timothy Young (piano) as part of the Feast Festival.
You may not be surprised to learn the Taiwanese-Australian expat with movie star good looks is a fan of manga, has just read fantasy novel “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss, prefers dogs to cats, has one younger sister, and can cook a perfect Spaghetti Alio e Olio con Scampi.
It may not shock you that the prodigy prefers tea to coffee, but when he’s going out after dinner, it’s espresso that gets him there. Or that he’s shameless on the dance floor, likes a drink with good company to relax after a concert, and prefers the West for sunsets and the East for cities.
But we’d be willing to bet you can’t guess his underwear preference, or whether he’s ever played gay bingo…
Emily Morris chatted with Ray Chen via email to find out a bit more about the classical musician whose fame is beginning to parallel that of rock stars.
Mid year you changed loan violins from the Stradivarius 1702 ‘Lord Newlands’ to the Stradivarius 1715 ‘Joachim’. How do you feel about the change and how long does it take to get to know a new-to-you instrument?
Great Strads all have different personalities and, like people, it takes time to get comfortable with each other. Just like being in a relationship. Expectation can become disappointment, but dedication can lead to great rewards.
Musicianship and musicality is always evolving. What life experiences would you like to have that may add even more complexities to your performances?
Great music is fuelled by great imagination. Life experience can add to that, but we can all learn from empathizing through other people’s experiences. That’s why reading is so important.
You are sponsored by Armani. Who are your other style icons and why?
Armani looks great on stage and for high profile events, but when I’m just kicking back I like to wear threads by UNIQLO, Massimo Dutti, and Club Monaco.
Your off-stage comic antics are pretty funny. Is classical music too serious, or are you just a funny guy?
Haha, I think it might be a mixture of both! I always wanted to show people a lighter side to classical music and social media is the best place to do that. There’s such a stigma against classical music, especially with younger people, and I’m working hard to break that.
Are there any downsides to being a world famous violinist?
All my stalkers tend to be middle to late-aged women (and men).
Hahaha, the gym! And cutting back on those late night after-concert meals.
What are your three favourite films?
Inception. The Notebook. Inglourious Basterds.
Ray Chen is keeping quiet on whether he currently has any romantic strings to his bow, but the answer to the underwear preference? Boxer briefs. You heard it here first. And has he ever played gay bingo (part of the Feast Festival)? “Not yet! But I’m going to Google the rules now!” says Ray. You’ve been warned.
Only a few tickets remain for Ray Chen’s only Adelaide concert on Thursday 20 November 2014, 7.30pm at the Adelaide Town Hall. The program includes Mozart, Prokofiev, Bach and Sarasate.
If Ray Chen can’t make you appreciate classical music, no one can.
Interviewed by Emily Morris
Venue: Adelaide Town Hall, King William Street, Adelaide
Season: 20 November 2014
Tickets: $30 – $79
Bookings: Book online through the Musica Viva website