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Becks and Elspeth Hanson (right)
Berkshire violinist adds string to her bow
By Eleanor Vale
Berkshire violinist Elspeth Hanson reveals what it's like playing at the Beijing Olympic handover ceremony alongside Jimmy Page, Leona Lewis and David Beckham...
There is no disputing that Beijing's Olympic closing ceremony was a grand and ostentatious affair, full of awe-inspiring choreography and spectacular fireworks.
Certainly London 2012 has some very big shoes to fill, and the Olympic handover ceremony gave the world-wide audience a taster of what Great Britain is capable of.
Among the likes of Jimmy Page, David Beckham and Leona Lewis representing British culture, Berkshire virtuoso violinist Elspeth Hanson shone in the spotlight for a breath-taking performance inside the Bird's Nest stadium.
So how did the 2005 Berkshire Young Musician of the Year finalist get such a chance in a life-time?
"The musical director Philip Sheppard, who is a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, was looking for a Celtic and classical violinist and he got hold of my number," the former Theale Green pupil explains.
A chance to meet Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.
"I did a couple of jobs for him, and he was satisfied by the way I handled them and how I performed.
"He phoned me up back in April and asked if I would be happy to play solo throughout the whole eight minutes and I obviously jumped at the chance."
And how did it feel to be chosen for such a prestigious event?
"It was an honour," says the 22-year-old. "I didn't expect to get it at all and I'm still trying to get my head around it! It was a great opportunity."
She adds that performing with Page, Lewis and Beckham was like a dream come true.
"I'm such a fan of all three of them. It was just incredible."
Knowing that millions of viewers are watching you perform is enough to make anyone blanche with the jitters, but she did get help from an unexpected camp...
"I couldn't ever really comprehend the scale of the event. I just had to do a job and be as professional as I could be.
"Before the performance all of us were shaking with nerves," she reveals, "but David Beckham helped calm me down a little bit and we stepped out for a little bit of fresh air."
It obviously did the trick, for she adds: "When we actually got out and performed I didn't worry about all the cameras.
"It was only when I stopped playing and turned around and saw the athletes and looked at the whole stadium that I realised the enormity of it."
Afterwards Elspeth was invited to a reception at London House in Beijing where she met and chatted with a number of gold medallists, including Chris Hoy.
"Meeting the Olympians was an honour," says the Reading FC fan. "To meet one of these people in a lifetime is very exciting but getting to work with all of them in one show was just the best thing ever."
Elspeth with her traditional Irish band Cluas.
Elspeth started playing violin aged 12, and soon became very involved within the local music scene.
In 2000 she played solo in the Millenium Dome during a Theale Green School production of Our Town, and a year later she earned a scholarship with the Berkshire Young Musicians Trust.
In 2002 she joined the Berkshire Youth Orchestra and became leader of the Berkshire String Ensemble. In 2004 she landed the role of leader in the Berkshire Youth Chamber Orchestra.
"I have always been studying music and focusing on it every single day," she says.
Having just graduated from Manchester University with a Bachelor's degree in music, Elspeth has now won a place to do a masters at the Royal Academy of Music.
With one Olympic ceremony under her belt, will Elspeth be invited back in 2012?
"Nothing at all has been decided yet," she says.
"I've left them my number and gave a wink so we'll have to wait and see!"
last updated: 27/08/2008 at 19:21