Caroline is Worlds away from her first steps in music in Hitchin as she steps onto 02 stage
- Credit: Archant
Hitchin violinist with many strings to her bow joins spectacular sci-fi show as it heads off on final tour
As members of Hitchin Light Orchestra tuned up for their Christmas party concert on Tuesday night, one former member was getting set to show off her skills on a much bigger stage.
Violinist Caroline Owen has had a rollercoaster career which has included cruising the world as an on-board musical entertainer and a spell as a knife-throwing, violin-playing assistant with Billy Smart’s Circus, and tonight she’ll be playing in the farewell tour of spectacular arena musical The War of The Worlds.
It’s the third time that Caroline has been involved in a stage version of Jeff Wayne’s concept space invaders album, and the tour which began two weeks ago in Sheffield is docking in Bournemouth tonight.
It moves on to London’s 02 arena this weekend before further dates in Brighton and a finale in Amsterdam.
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She said: “Exploring new cities and playing to audiences of 20,000 is a great buzz – and it’s thrilling to watch the people on the front rows as the bombs come straight at them.”
It’s all a far cry from her young days as a pupil at William Ransom Primary School, then Hitchin Girls’ School.
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Caroline, whose late father ran taxi firm Telecabs in the town, was set on a career in music from an early age.
She said: “My passion for music began when I joined Hitchin Light Orchestra – a fantastic group with the motto any age, any instrument, any ability.
“At my first violin lesson I told my teacher that it was what I wanted to do.
“I was very fortunate to have free violin lessons, if it wasn’t for that I might not have my career today.
“It’s of great concern to me that lessons now have to be paid for, which means some children may not have the opportunity I did.”
She was also awarded a Hitchin Youth Trust bursary to help fund her studies at the prestigious Leeds College of Music.
“This was a great financial help, £1,000 per year for the full three years,” she said. “I really would like to thank them.”
Caroline, now living in Hitchin again and planning to take on private students in the new year, began playing when she was just eight and bought her first violin at the age of 16 – with money saved up from her part-time job delivering the Comet every week.
“A very kind man thought I was talented and gave me a good price,” she recalled.
Today she plays a high-tech hand-made electric instrument called The Hades created by Lincoln-based Ted Brewer, who fashions violins out of fantastic acrylic shapes and counts superstar Vanessa-Mae among his customers.
But she also has a classical Pagani 1900 instrument. “You cannot beat the beautiful sound of the acoustic violin,” she said. “I wouldn’t say no to a Stradivarius or an Amati, but it’s not the instrument – it’s the player.”
Caroline’s first public performances were to Hitchin audiences – including a spot on the bill at the first-ever Rhythms of the World festival, in the days when stages were dotted around the town centre.
As organisers start putting together next June’s festival in the grounds of Hitchin Priory, she said: “I’m delighted to see how it has grown over the years, it has definitely put Hitchin on the musical map.
“It’s great to be living again in my home town, and I am looking forward to being a part of this fabulous musical community once more.”
Once The War of The Worlds tour wraps up, Caroline’s next big project is a new album.
Fearless is scheduled for release at the end of January, and it includes original material and covers, as well as bonus tracks from her hip-hop band Urban Strings.
For more about the album, and Caroline’s career, visit www.carolineviolinist.com.
To learn more about Hitchin Light Orchestra, go to www.hitchinlightorchestra.org.