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In Tune With Fate


Life is short and should be lived to the full: that's the credo of the glamorous phenomenal violinist Vanessa-Mae.
Dangerous slalom slopes are as welcome to Vanessa-Mae as concert halls. That is clear from the passion with which she talks of skiing, especially in challenging places like mountain peaks and glaciers. "I love skiing. I love high risk sports like that." she says, matter-of-factly.
She has been skiing since she was five. Her hands are heavily insured, although that would not be much of a consolation if anything actually happened to them. "Obviously you can't be crazy," she says. "When I ski, I ski, and do not think about the dangers, but I always go with one instructor. I think you can't be too paranoid in life, because I could be walking down the street and something could happen, whereas I could be skiing for twenty years and nothing could happen. I think it is just fate and you should enjoy life. Life is short you know."
Those same words could sum up Vanessa's own life, because she is not yet twenty (her birthday is in October). She shares her birthday with the great Paganini and says: "It is a bit spooky, really, a fun fact, something that happened by accident." She does not believe in astrology. [NOTE: Interesting admission, seeing as she had a Scorpio tattoo!]
Born in Singapore, she moved to London when her mother married Graham Nicholson, a solicitor. When she speaks of her parents, she means her mother and stepfather, who is obviously very dear to her. Her biological father is a Thai and she meets him several times a year. "He is in the hotel business in Thailand."
Her mother is so musical that she sometimes accompanies her daughter on the piano at concerts. There are no other musicians in her family. "A lot of people are surprised that I don't have a history of violinists in my family," Vanessa smiles. "My parents never pushed me into music, but they always encouraged me, which is something different." Her parents wanted to give her the opportunity to develop into a musician if that was what she really wanted. Obviously, it was. The young star already has an impressive list of achievements to her name. She began taking piano lessons at 3 but soon switched to the violin, practising every day. She was only 10 when she recorded her first classical pieces and achieved world fame. Nowadays, her classical and pop albums appear at a regular pace.
Although Vanessa has been touring the concert halls of the world since she was a child, she regards her life as normal, no matter how it differs from that of the average young person. "This is the life that I have always known," she says, adding as an afterthought: "Maybe for someone else, all this is out of this world, though."
She knows how to count her blessings: "I am incredibly grateful. To God, first of all, not just for my career, but for having been born healthy into a loving family and knowing good things in life. I have to be grateful to God for that. Every week, when I get to church, I thank Him."
"I am also grateful to people around me, people who work with me. I'm in a very fortunate position: I work hard to get where I am, but at the same time, I have been very lucky." she explains. [NOTE: pity the fans like us who pay her wages are not mentioned ]
She has an oriental calmness about her, but also confidence, wisdom and courage rarely found in one so young. She speaks with an air of authority, accustomed to having her views listened to.
She is also looked at. Especially when she began recording pop as well as classical music, her looks became the focus of attention. Especially in classical music circles, people found it hard to accept a young beauty in quite revealing costumes and striking poses more often associated with pop stars. Vanessa herself has learned to shrug off talk of her appearance and how it affects her popularity.
"If looks sold an album...all the supermodels would have number one hits. Why would they sell 100 000 copies of my single instead of a poster of me ?" While claiming not to care too much about her appearance [NOTE: I think this is being somewhat economical with the truth], she devotes most of her time to polishing her music.
"My producer and myself are perfectionists: we just go on and on. The key to music is that you should never ultimately feel completely satisfied, because there are so many different possibilities," she explains.
The Storm tour now rolling through Europe will give fans a chance to hear the new material live. The tour arrives in Helsinki on May 2 for a concert at the new Hartwall Arena. The date follows her successful Finnish shows in 1997 at Finlandia Hall and in Turku.
She showed yet a new side of herself when she made her vocal debut at the Ms Scandinavia contest. She says the idea was not her own, but her producer persuaded her to have a go. The first song she recorded was one that had been a hit for Donna Summer some years earlier: "I Feel Love". "As soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted to do a cover version of it," she says.
She recently published her China Girl album of classical music in the kind of cover usually reserved for pop. As the name suggests, part of the inspiration for the album came from her own Chinese ethnic origin. "Until recently I had never thought of myself as Chinese," she explains. "I have grown up, been educated and lived in London since I was four or five, so I've lived as a Westerner, but there is a part of me which is Chinese. The older I've got, the more fascinated I've become with China."
She had only visited China once before when she was invited to perform at the ceremonies marking the return of Hong Kong to China last year.
"I was the only non-Chinese, which made it an even bigger honour. It was a very emotional time."
A very stirring memory is the death of her maternal grandfather a few years ago. "I felt then that I had really lost one part of my Chinese roots," she says. Born in China, her grandfather lived in Singapore. Although they had hardly any language in common, he was very important to Vanessa.
"We had a very strong relationship," she recalls. "It was like an instant bond that we had between a grandfather and a grandchild. But he was always a little disappointed that I didn't speak that much Chinese. This album is dedicated to him."
Despite her busy schedule, the young beauty who was propelled to stardom so rapidly finds time to brood over the effect it has had on her family. Her mother often travels with her, but her stepfather's work keeps him in London. "I think I've made life more difficult for them," she says regretfully. "If I'd just opted to go to University and read law, it would have been much easier for them. But they are very supportive of what I do. And there's still time for University in the future."
On the whole, she is happy with the choices she had made and the way her life has turned out.
"I feel very fortunate to be able to do the things I want to do. There are a lot of people who are not as lucky as I am. I don't think I've ever missed out on anything or that I'll ever say I wish it would have been different."


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