On the Couch with Chris Howlett

Chris Howlett AAR On the CouchWho is Chris Howlett?
In no particular order – I am a cellist, artistic director, producer, husband and friend. Life is varied and constantly fluid. I am currently spending 6 months a year on the road, performing and managing my company Australian International Productions, which now has built to being Australia’s largest exporter of classical music to China.

My first love will always be cello and performing on stage playing chamber music is one of my happiest places. I am, ever increasingly, loving to discover new repertoire and weaving these lesser known gems into festival programs such as Sanguine Estate Music Festival, Music in the Round, Convent Live and the 3MBS Marathon is exciting. I always try to give audiences a unique experience.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I am very fortunate to be where I am and I thank everyone that has supported me to this point. There are two elements that I am working on changing at the moment, although the contradict each other. I would like to focus more on markets outside China to build my company – both in Australia and Asia. The other element is time, I am time poor at the moment. I would love more time to spend with family, friends and consider strategically the bigger picture.

Who inspires you and why?
At the moment, it is the old recordings of Pablo Casals that inspire me. There is such honesty in the playing and the fact that they are all single takes (rather than the mass editing of today), recorded directly onto vinyl, is just awesome.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I want to continue to engage the minds and imaginations of those that listening to classical music, be that children, the occasional listener or the most devote classical music connoisseur. I want to push the boundaries of what is deemed “normal” or “safe”.

Favorite holiday destination and why?
There are two distinct ones for me. Boutique Hoi An Resort, Vietnam. We went there for our honeymoon and went back last year – it is very small with no more than 30 guests at one time and has no phone reception, a massive pool, delicious food, a beach that I can run for miles on and a bartender that makes a mean Negroni.

The second is Nicko’s Villas in Oia, Santorini. Sitting in the warm evening with Elle, my wife, sharing a chilled bottle of Mediterranean white wine, eating chargrilled octopus and looking out over that view, with the vivid blues and sparkling whites… well there isn’t many better places in the world. (It also has terrible phone reception…)

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
In true Melbourne style, it is normally based around brunch or cocktails and dinner. Brunch we normally head to Cam’s at the Abbotsford Convent for the iconic smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs and a great coffee. In the evenings, it is normally Hawker Hall with one of the many secret/hidden bars while we wait for a table.

What are you currently reading?
The Three Musketeers.

What are you currently listening to?
I am exploring piano works of Dvorak. When running it is currently Everything is Love by The Carters.

Happiness is?
Sharing the stage with talented friends and colleagues. Seeing audiences enjoying concerts that I have curated or performed in. Spending quality time with family. A Negroni.

What does the future hold for you?
In my line of work I am cautious of this question. I hope to continue to have a presence in the artistic fabric of Australia and China while having more quality time with family and friends.

Chris is the Artistic Director of Music in the Round – which takes place at the Abbotsford Convent on Sunday 9 September 2018. For more information, visit: www.abbotsfordconvent.com.au for details.

Image: Chris Howlett (supplied)