Meet the Orchestra

John Thompson, Concert Master NSOM

John Thomson

Concert Master

John Thomson began playing with the Nelson Symphony Orchestra in February 2009, having returned to New Zealand after 25 years in the USA, where he gained his doctoral degree in violin performance and taught violin at universities. He has performed with numerous orchestras in the USA, and appeared as soloist and recitalist throughout North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe and before dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth II and former President George Bush.

Critics have praised him as a “stellar soloist” with “brilliant technique and appealing cantabile” and have called his playing a “rare treat.” Other press reviews state: “The audience was in awe of Thomson’s performance”, “Thomson’s performance of Wieniawski was a highlight of the season”, and mentioned “the highest classical style.” Italian violinist Franco Gulli wrote to John after a performance “I have admired your remarkable facility in performing the music of Paganini.” After a recent recital in Seoul, Korea, a reviewer wrote: “his playing was full of great sonority combined with a tender sweetness that tugged at the audience’s heart.” John has published his arrangement of some music of the romantic Norwegian violin virtuoso, Ole Bull and has written articles on the music of Tartini, Viotti and Joachim. John is also considered to be an expert on Gypsy violin music.

John has enjoyed a variety of musical experiences, including the standard classical repertoire, but also frequently accompanying many celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and Bernadette Peters, and acting the part of musical characters in Hollywood movies. In addition to his performances on violin, he plays baroque violin, viola d'amore, and viola. In 2005, he became the first to record on the violotta, an unusual German instrument developed around 1880. He is featured on four compact disc recordings available through Albany Records and AK Coburg and may be seen in a clip playing violotta in the Andromeda-Saal, Schloss Ehrenburg, Coburg, Germany.

Lissa Cowie principal cellist NSO

Lissa Cowie

Principal Cellist

Lissa was born in Scotland and emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 12. She has a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours from Auckland University, a Postgraduate Performance Diploma from The Royal Academy of Music in London and a LRAM Teaching Diploma.

She has worked with various orchestras including the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, National Symphony Orchestra of Scotland, Scottish Festival Orchestra and Opera della Luna. She was a member of the Elgin Piano Trio, formed at the Royal Academy in 1997. They gave many concerts in the UK at venues including St-Martin-in-the-Fields and St John’s Smith Square as well as performing the Beethoven Triple concerto in 2002. They were awarded a full scholarship to attend the Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada, as trio in residence for one month. Lissa also performed in string quartets, giving concerts in England, the Isle of Mann, Belgium and castles in Scotland. They also provided background music at Clarence House (then the Queen Mother’s residence), at various events such as London Fashion Week and many weddings. Lissa taught cello and chamber music at the Junior Department of Royal Scottish Conservatoire and Jordanhill School.

Lissa now enjoys being part of the Top of the South’s vibrant music scene, including playing with the Nelson Symphony Orchestra, Goya Ensemble and duo partnerships with Mark Secker and Blenheim pianist Marsha Stringer. She teaches cello privately, at various schools in Nelson and through NCMA.