From recording projects at Abbey Road Studios to performing on stages around the globe, WASO violinist Samantha Wickramasinghe already had an extensive career before returning home to Perth earlier this year.

Samantha has played with every major orchestra in London, including the London Symphony Orchestra where she recorded the original soundtrack for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 at Abbey Road Studios in London. We caught up with Sam to find out more about her exciting experiences abroad, ahead of our final Harry Potter concert in Perth.

You have played on many original soundtracks and albums – how did you get into this and what were your favourite recording projects?

My session work evolved over a series of opportunities. I first auditioned for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in 2008, and was delighted to become a regular guest with this orchestra I had idolised as a child. The LSO has a very active presence in the session world, which gave me my Harry Potter film experience. This led onto other, external invites to work within the film/TV/pop session scene in London. It's hard to say which was my favourite experience. Harry Potter is up there, but working at Abbey Road with George Clooney in the recording box was quite something. I'm a big fan.

Samantha at the O2 Arena in London when performing at the Brit Awards 2020.

Abbey Road Studios was the world’s first purpose-built recording studio and has since become one of the premier destinations for film scoring, can you tell us about your experience recording there?

Well, getting there in one piece is the first challenge as you have to negotiate the famous zebra crossing. London drivers rarely stop at this crossing because its perimeters are usually rammed with tourists trying to mimic a Beatles-esque photo opportunity. Once safely over, you pass the outer walls to the studio which get covered with so much 'fan graffiti', they have to be repainted once a month to maintain enough writing space. Onward into a beautiful reception area, past security (I have kept my Abbey Road security pass as a treasured souvenir!) and then down the long corridors leading to the studios. These walls are adorned with a fascinating who's who of countless greats from all genres of music who have recorded there over the decades. After all that, once you're in the studio with your cans (headphones carrying a click track) on your head, it becomes like any other day at work, which is the best bit about it. You're just there to record great music with great engineers in a great venue.

You have played with some incredibly popular artists and on stages internationally, including Ibiza and Las Vegas - can you share some of your most pinch-me moments?

Ibiza was memorable. I went out there with DJ Pete Tong and The Heritage Orchestra. We performed to a massive crowd at a stunningly beautiful club. It was outdoors, poolside, with magnificently costumed models serving drinks, in a cove overlooking the Mediterranean Sea under the moonlight. One of my more surreal performance experiences, and there have been a few!

Whilst I cherish the diversity of the music worlds I have experienced, my most pinch me moments always come back to playing with my classical music heroes. There are literally too many to name, but I will treasure those memories and the lessons they taught me, forever.

Samantha with Sir Bryn Terfel on a rehearsal break from the Peter Grimes 2022 production at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

What is it about composer Alexandre Desplat’s score that makes it so impactful for film and what should the audience listen out for in the Harry Potter films?

Desplatt's talent lies in creating a vast palette of mood and colour through his unique sound world. He can change the narrative with such dextrous ease, and there is a lot of emotive weight to his content. Listen out for old themes from the previous films (and previous composers) returning in various guises, in this great finale of an epic 10 years of film magic.

Samantha performing with WASO in Sibelius’ First Symphony in September 2023. Photo credit: Bradbury Photography.

Which of the WASO at the Movies concerts next year are you looking forward to playing?

Definitely Frozen. I'll finally be a rock star in the eyes of my little niece and nephew!

Samantha performs with WASO in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™: Part 2 in Concert 1 & 2 December, 7.30pm, Riverside Theatre. 

Samantha's Chair is supported by The Baker Family through the Duet program.

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