Rachael Lander is a cellist and blogger.
Rachael is the progeny of two classical musicians who divorced and remarried two more classical musicians. She has tried her hand at several other professions (the real low point being in the parking permit department at a South London borough council) but her heart wasn’t in it. Her destiny was to play the cello for a living.
Rachael began to play the cello at the age of 8 and immediately fell in love with the instrument and the repertoire. She became a junior at the Royal Northern College of Music at the age of fourteen and started playing regular recitals in and around the North West of England. It was her four year stint in the National Youth Orchestra which included yearly performances at the BBC Proms, big wig conductors and a cello section of 18 players that cemented her ambition to play professionally and Rachael always assumed that like her parents, she would become an orchestral musician. However, while Rachael was completing her studies at the RNCM, Manchester, she was assailed with debilitating performance anxiety, which deteriorated over the course of five years. Eventually, Rachael stopped performing and celebrated her graduation by putting the cello in its case indefinitely and getting a job as a waitress. She’d also developed a destructive habit of medicating her anxiety with prescription drugs and alcohol, which almost led to her demise. At twenty three, her CV read “inebriated waitress”, which is not what she envisaged as a bright eyed fifteen year old in the Royal Albert Hall.
Following a somewhat traumatic “sabbatical”, a newly sober Rachael found herself dispensing parking permits to the good people of South West London and bursting into tears at London Underground stations that played classical music over the tannoy. The cello remained untouched in its case. Things were bleak. One day, a chance phone call from her childhood best friend and violinist, Kirsty, changed everything. Within weeks, Raven String Quartet was formed in the Dean St branch of Pizza Express. Three months later, Raven were performing their own arrangements of Vivaldi, Bartok and Piazzolla at a NonClassical night in Hoxton. Short of repertoire, Rachael performed Britten Cello Suite no.1 as a “filler”, despite the fact she had recently sworn off solo performance, not to mention mind altering substances, forever. She played chemical free to a packed house, and her confidence began to grow. Shortly afterwards, Raven landed a regular spot on the BBC show “Maestro”, and in the years since, the quartet played the London Palladium, the Albert Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Barbican, to name a few. They have travelled from South America to Asia, played live on Radio 2 several times, opened up for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and performed with the English Chamber Orchestra as soloists. Raven performed with Madness at the closing ceremony of London 2012 Olympics.
After a couple of years in Raven, Rachael began to arrange the music she listened to during her "traumatical", when classical music still invoked a flight or fight response, for the quartet. Tracks by Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age became part of the Raven show. Shortly afterwards she watched KT Tunstall’s ground-breaking performance on Later...with Jools Holland featuring the seamless use of a loop pedal. Ten minutes later she parted with a months rent on a Boss loopstation and since then she has whiled away many an hour reworking the music she loves for the solo cello. She now performs her looped cello repertoire regularly, most recently at Ronnie Scotts' and the Slaughtered Lamb, Holborn. Rachael is now a busy performer in her own right, spending much of her time in recording studios with TV, film and theatre composers. She played on Alt J's Mercury winning album, An Awesome Wave. She is regular player with the London Chamber Orchestra and part of their thriving education project team. She performs frequently with both established rock bands and up and coming singer songwriters and is currently on a European arena tour with London Grammar.
In 2014 Rachael took part in a documentary made by Channel 4 called "Addicts Symphony", which explored the relationship between performance anxiety and addiction. In the run up to the transmission date Rachael gave a number of interviews on the subject of alcoholism and performance anxiety and even wrote a piece in the Guardian newspaper. Since then she has been inundated with messages from hundreds of performers who have struggled with performance anxiety, addiction or both. As a result Rachael has made it her mission to help in whatever way she can to reduce the stigma attached to alcoholism and addiction by talking about it to anyone who will listen.
Rachael lives in South East London with her husband Rob and their son, Archie.