A few thoughts from Samantha Cohen, Genesis Baroque’s theorbo, lute, and baroque guitarist
How did you get into playing music?
My Mum was a beautiful amateur singer and was always on stage when I was a child. I grew up with a love of music and a love of performing, and jumped at any chance to learn an instrument, settling on the guitar at about age nine. I spent my school years playing popular music, and became interested in Classical music near the end of high school when I decided I wanted to study music seriously.
What do you love about early music in particular?
The field of Early Music involves both research and imagination. There’s a strong desire to honour the composer’s intentions while having the freedom that comes from historical practices such as improvisation and ornamentation. Creating my own part from the basso continuo is my passion, and gives me the opportunity to play repertoire that most guitarists can only dream of. The colourful sound world of period instruments is very appealing to me.
What is being on stage like for you?
Performing is an integral part of music-making for me. Creating something in real time with other musicians is a unique and often profound experience, and I feel privileged to share a moment in time with an audience whenever I perform.
What are the challenges of your instrument?
Usually the biggest challenge is being heard! I’m often asked to play louder, and am always looking for ways to cut through and add texture. Transport can be an issue too – especially when travelling by air!
Do you have a favourite performance that you’ve been part of?
I have performed several of Monteverdi’s madrigals and his mini opera, Il Combattimento, several times with Ludovico’s Band – which has led me to say that if I could play only Monteverdi for the rest of my life I’d be happy! Another highlight was performing with harpist Andrew Lawrence King in 2014 as part of a small group of only five players. We played some of the repertoire he had researched and recorded with a much-loved teacher of mine, Pat O’Brien many years earlier. Pat passed away on the day of our performance, so we dedicated it to him and this made an already memorable experience intensely emotional as well.
What else do you love doing when you’re not busy being a musician?
I balance performing with teaching guitar, and enjoy fostering a passion for music in kids. I have a great love of animals, and am in danger of becoming a crazy cat lady one day.
What is a weird and/or wonderful thing that people wouldn’t know about you?
I travel with a photo of my theorbo strapped into an aeroplane seat when I fly, as the airline staff just don’t believe it fits!