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Meaghan Williams -St. John's double bass player in midst of two-year orchestra contract in Japan

Double bass player Meaghan Williams flew home to St. John's from Japan for a visit, but she couldn't bring her performance instrument back with her. Tighter restrictions for airline luggage mean double basses - which stand over two metres high - are effectively too big to get on the plane.

"Where it was difficult before, it's next to impossible now to fly with your instrument," she says. Williams has a two-year contract with the new orchestra at the Hyogo Performing Arts Centre Orchestra in Japan. The group was conceived as an orchestra for performers under the age of 35, perfect for Williams, who finished her performance diploma - the equivalent of a master's degree - in Berlin in the fall of 2003.

She says she enjoys playing with the orchestra and its charismatic conductor, Yutaka Sado. The orchestra has members from 18 countries, including two of her friends from undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto."We have a very charming artistic director, and he sells a lot of tickets," she says. "That's something an orchestra always looks for because you need to put a face on the product."

Their repertoire of classic orchestra works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Takemitsu has proven very popular in Japan, and most of their concerts have sold out. For their opening nights, they preformed Beethoven's ninth symphony, which Williams says was a real crowd pleaser. She says the approach to classical music is slightly different in Japan than in North America and Europe. "They are very clean and very calculated as opposed to sort of on the edge and expressive," she says. "The culture is more about the form of something - the wrapping you give a gift in is probably more important that the gift itself - so the technical aspect of the music is really really emphasized in the conservatories in Japan, and the pursuit of perfection.

"As opposed to the western idea of art and emotion and that kind of stuff, perfection definitely comes first there. I've noticed that in the playing of my colleagues who are Japanese." Williams has plenty of feelings for her instrument of choice. She describes her bass as deep and melodic, although her choice means she often plays a supporting role in the orchestra. "It's like playing left defense on a soccer team," she says, laughing. "When you play it, you can feel the sound in your feet on the floor and in your arms in the air that is surrounding it - it's not just an ear thing," she says.

Although she's looking forward to another year in Japan, she is quick to say she hopes her travels will take her home to Canada and Newfoundland soon. She hopes some day there might be a teaching position in double bass at Memorial's school of music for her. "I like it here, one of the things I miss is the clean air and the space," she says. "I would love to live here, it's just there's not that many full time positions in music in Newfoundland. There's a lot of really talented musicians here, but if you ask them, they probably have about five jobs."

By: Nadia Bell