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Washing Our Hands with Lucinda Chiu

Posted on: March 26, 2020

It's no secret that hygiene is of the utmost importance right now, but that doesn't mean we can't try to have a little fun with it.

LA Opera's first violinist, Lucinda Chiu, and her Houston Symphony colleagues came across a viral Vietnamese hand-washing cartoon, and thought to themselves, "Why don't we try to play our own version?" Thus, the classical version of "Ghen Cô Vy," or "Washing Hand Song," was born. Check out their gorgeously lush cover below (and keep an eye out for some comedic moments in there, too).*

*Don't worry, they've been safe! They're the only people they've been in contact with for the last two weeks.

LA Opera chatted with Lucinda (virtually, don't worry!) about her time at LAO, how the video came together, and what she's been up to at home.

Tell us about yourself – how long have you been playing violin? Did someone or something inspire you to pursue music as a career?
I am very fortunate to have been introduced to music at a young age - I started violin at age 5, piano at age 9, and was in a children's choir for 7 years. By the time I was a high school student, I could not see myself pursuing anything else. In particular, Itzhak Perlman inspired me to become a professional violinist, and I still strive to become a musician like him. Not only does he constantly give back to his community through music, he is humble, genuine, positive, and never loses his sense of humor!

How long have you been a violinist with LA Opera?
I joined in 2018 upon graduating from Rice University with my Master's degree, so I am one of the newest members of the orchestra.

What has been your favorite LAO production so far? Why?
As a hopeless romantic, La Boheme was undoubtedly my favorite LAO production so far, and was also my first Pucinni opera. I loved everything about it: the beautiful but tragic love story, the lush orchestration, and of course the special experience of working alongside such fantastic colleagues under Maestro James Conlon. There is not a single dull moment in three hours of music. I got goosebumps every time we played "Musetta's Waltz"!

How did the “Washing Hands” video come together? Where did you find the original cartoon version of the song?
We first came across the song on John Oliver's show Last Week Tonight. It's so catchy, it was looping in my head for days. My colleagues and I were stuck at home anyway, so we decided to spend our downtime creating a fun music video. We felt we could all use a good laugh and some extra positivity at this time.

How did you and your Houston Symphony colleagues learn the song? How long did it take to write and rehearse before you released the video?
We wanted to get to the project as soon as possible, so Maki, our cellist, arranged the music in just two days. The quartet got together and spent maybe two hours reading and editing it, testing out different voicings, techniques, and styles.

There are also some funny moments throughout the video – whose ideas were those? How long did it take to shoot the video itself?
We all contributed ideas, most of them being spontaneous. We initially only intended to record a simple "read through," but as the project went on, we kept having new ideas and it got more and more elaborate. It was our first time doing anything like this for all of us, so it took us about two hours to set up, two hours to record everything, and at least nine hours to edit. What's funny is, we actually only spent about 15 minutes recording the music itself.

What are you listening to while you’re at home? Are you using this time to master any pieces you’ve been wanting to learn?
I enjoy listening to a lot of non-classical music at home. Most of the time I listen to jazz and pop - lately I've been really into Billie Eilish. I've also been using this time to brush up on some orchestral excerpts and brainstorm more ideas for videos.

What’s your favorite 20-second song to wash your hands to?
The first 16 measures of Richard Strauss' Don Juan. It's an excerpt we practice so often that we can recall the tempo quite precisely.

What's your favorite opera of all-time to play and/or watch?
My favorite opera is Puccini's Turandot, which I had sung in the children's chorus for, but never played as a violinist. It would be a dream come true to perform it with LAO! 

Anything else you'd like to share with LAO fans?
I would like to use this opportunity to tell everybody how great it is to be with this organization. A first job is quite intimidating for anyone, but I was welcomed with such warmth and sincerity that I immediately felt supported and comfortable. I cannot wait to make more music with these amazing people. In the meantime, I hope you get a laugh out of the video!