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Music is our first love and that's why this room is so special to us.

Byline: KIRSTIE MCCRUM

PENARTH is alive with the sound of music - or at least the little corner of South Wales that's home to Nick Whiting and his family is.

The 48-year-old violinist is the associate leader of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and, living in his 1930s home with musician partner Rebecca Selley and the couple's four children, it's imperative that there's a space for musical practise.

"The music room is one of the reasons we bought the house, because it was so obviously a music room, and it's only used as such. It's a sort of secret room - there are no toys allowed in it," Nick smiles.

The couple moved to the house 11 years ago after a spell in London, where Nick studied at the Royal College of Music and then worked in the Philarmonia Orchestra.

"I was principle second violin there for about 10 years and then I escaped here. It's a much better life, it's a different way of living, and it's just been a great lifestyle choice.

"My dad was born in Newport and I have family in Wales - my brother lives in Caerphilly and I've got aunts and uncles living in Rwibhina in Cardiff.

"My grandparents - my dad's parents - were born in the Valleys and my grandad spent his last days in a nursing home in Penarth, so there is a Welsh background," he adds.

As a musician, Nick squeezes in practise when he can, often alongside Rebecca, who works as the string department accompanist at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, where Nick also teaches some classes.

He says that the music room is the perfect spot because of its acoustics. "With our music room, it's a '30s house, so the ceilings aren't very high, which is OK, but you can bang your bow on the ceiling if you're not careful.

"It's got lots of music in it and carpet on the floor, so the acoustic is really dead, which is good because you can hear lots of things.

"Ff you go into a really echoey room you sound wonderful, but can't hear anything.

"Practising in our music room, it's the detail you can hear when you play, so in that respect, a really dry unforgiving acoustic is quite good, but it can be dispiriting sometimes."

The house, which has been extended to five bedrooms, is semi-detached, but the music room is on the unattached side, much, Nick says, to their neighbours' delight.

"We like our neighbours, they're really nice and they're quite quiet, so they deserve that from us.

"If you go outside and Rebecca's really pounding the piano you can hardly hear it. That's how it should be," Nick says.

Of the four children, two currently play and one may just pick it up shortly.

"Isaac is 18, and he doesn't play anything. Tabitha's 15, she's a cellist. Matilda is eight, she's a little fiddle player and doing her grade one very soon and Oscar is seven, and he'll probably play something in the future," he says.

Although Mum and Dad are both wage earners, Nick admits that at home they do sometimes have to jockey for rehearsal position.

"Tabitha practises a lot and I have to kick her out sometimes if I need to work. It's about distinguishing between her practise and earning mortgage money. To her, she's the more important one, of course, but in the grand scheme of things, she doesn't quite have a higher priority," he laughs.

Nick and Rebecca are currently getting ready for something a bit different next year, so practise is helping make them just about perfect.

"We're doing a trio concert with a friend of ours, Rosie Biss, on cello, in January. It's to do with a pre-concert talk I'm doing, so we're actually going to play the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio Op. 50 in A minor, which is a fairly monumental work. "I don't work with Rebecca very much, but it's great fun when we do.

"We talk about music all the time and she's got an amazing pair of ears.

"I recently got out all this old music out and we spent time in the music room together just bashing through it, it was great fun."

BBC National Orchestra of Wales is performing a concert of Mozart and Bruckner on Friday November 25 at 7.30pm, in St David's Hall, Cardiff. For more information and tickets, call 0800 052 1812. The talk and performance on the works of Tchaikovsky takes place on Sunday, January 15, 7pm. Tickets are free to those who book for the St David's Hall concert on Friday January 20, featuring Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony.

Favourite object Nick and Rebecca take their musical motivation from a pictorial place.

"We collect photos of old fiddle players, and I gave Rebecca one last Christmas. It's of an old Russian American fiddle player called Nathan Milstein who I saw play in London in the '80s. We have a little collection of important players on our wall. I really like it, because it's almost as if they're looking down on you and you want to try and do your best.

"There are three photos together, Nathan Milstein is alongside another fiddle player Jascha Heifetz who is my complete hero in every way and another fiddle player called Hugh Bean, who used to lead the Philharmonia Orchestra when I was in it," Nick says.

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* Nick and Rebecca's 1930s home in Penarth has a music room - a place where toys are definitely not allowed
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 19, 2011
Words:925
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