Aylwin String Quartet
The Aylwin String Quartet is a distillation of the “Aylwin Ensemble” which was founded in 1996. These four founder members of the group, Richard Aylwin, Ruth Hudson, Amanda Denley and Graham Bradshaw, who are all either current or past members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, were keen to establish an outlet for their own creative ideas within this more intimate framework. With a desire to complement the mainstream classical quartet repertoire with the more unusual, they have always had a strong interest in contemporary music and still occasionally enlarge the group with guest artists in order to achieve a more flexible programming. Their repertoire ranges from Purcell to Stravinsky and beyond.
In 2000 The Aylwin String Quartet gave a concert supported by the Wurzburger Society, performing his 2nd and 5th Quartets, and in 2004 they appeared at the Bellapais Music Festival in North Cyprus. The Quartet have performed the Bliss Oboe Quintet several times with Richard Simpson, principal oboe of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and in the summer of 2006 they were invited to play a rarely heard Mozart Piano Concerto with the pianist Huw Watkins, as arranged in quintet form by Mozart himself, at Castle Howard as part of the Ryedale Festival. The Quartet has performed on a yearly basis for the “Music at St James” season in Manchester since 1994. Richard Aylwin, having directed the inaugural concert of the series in 1988, was commissioned, with help from the “RVW Trust”, to compose “Journey to Mars” a work for string quartet, oboe and synthesizer to celebrate “Music at St James” 20th anniversary concert in March 2008.
The Quartet members have had an association with the orchestra at the University of Hertfordshire, “de Havilland Philharmonic”, for several years, acting as soloists, leader and principals, and have also participated as a quartet in various workshops involving student composers within the Music Department of the University of Hertfordshire. The quartet was honoured to have the 5th String Quartet by Prof. Howard Burrell written for them and the first performance was on 14th May 2008. The quartet has another CD release on UH Recordings (UHR020011004) , performing the 2nd, 4th and 5th Quartets by Walter Wurzburger.
Shortly after arriving at The Hatfield Polytechnic in 1972, Howard Burrell was asking to put forward a proposition for the post of a resident string quartet At that time this was a very adventurous and exciting prospect and gave an added creative impetus to Howard’s output. Amongst other compositions and the two string quartets (Nos. 3 & 4) there is also a 30 minute cantata, “Death the Leveller” dating from this period.
During a fulfilling career as a full-time academic he found time not only to compose but to also to pursue a hectic conducting schedule, often directing 60-70 performances per year in a variety of venues throughout the UK.
His compositional output has though has been catholic ranging from a rock musical to two symphonies and has included many works for children and numerous pieces and arrangements for big band. Having been brought up as a brass player within the Salvation Army (a breeding ground for many musicians!) he has written much music for brass and in particular the trumpet which include the quintet “Festive Occasion”(1974) which was published as part of the first series of “Just Brass”, the iconic Jones/Howarth publication.
He has written many brass band compositions including “Occasion” (1975) a large scale work written for Besses o’ th’ Barn and broadcast on Radio 3, “Jubilee” (1983) commissioned by Welwyn Garden City Band to celebrate their diamond jubilee and the “Fantasia: Shining”(2000) commissioned for the wedding of a friend and originally written for 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba and timpani but rescored later for band.
In 2003 he wrote a Concertino for violin and orchestra for his daughter, Sarah and a large scale wind orchestra piece “Contraband” commissioned by the National Childrens’ Wind Orchestra of Great Britain. He has also written a great deal of choral and vocal music including a setting of the Te Deum (1996) and a festive piece for chorus brass and organ “and music shall untune the sky” (1997) and “Wedding Song and Chorus” for mezzo-soprano and tape (1995) again commissioned for a friend’s son’s wedding which included congregational participation!
His “Hatfield Procession” (1986) is played at every degree ceremony and festive occasion of the University of Hertfordshire and recently he has written a civic fanfare for Stevenage Borough Council. He recently completed a setting of “Resonet in laudibus” for the Plaxtol Scholars which is recorded on UHR020011011
He has just completed a Concerto for trumpet and brass band to be premiered in May 2009.
Nicholas Barton was born in 1950, educated at Norwich City College and subsequently at Colchester and Reading Universities. His early musical career was as a classical guitarist and held a solo contract with the BBC performing regularly on Look East. His first appearance was at the age of 14.
In 1976 he became a music teacher at Matthew Arnold School Oxford. Three years later becoming Head of Department a post he held until taking early retirement in 2006.
While in Oxfordshire he divided his time between teaching composing and conducting. He conducted the Isis Chamber Orchestra for many years. He composed widely for students at school and young people and amateurs generally. Major commissions, with funds from Oxfordshire County Council included three pieces for The Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra, two for The Oxfordshire Concerto Orchestra, The Youth Big Band and The County Youth Choir. He has had performances abroad and at major London venues. His music is published by Spartan Press and Bardic Editions.
He now lives and works in North Norfolk.
Elfyn Jones graduated from University of Wales College Cardiff with a BMus 1st Class Hons in 1993 then gained his MMus in Composition at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1995. While at Guildhall he was on attachment to London Sinfonietta Education Department, which led the way to his subsequent career as a composer and music animateur working on projects for ENO Baylis, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, WNO, National Youth Music Theatre, English Touring Opera, Opera Circus, Hackney Music Development Trust, Spare Tyre Theatre Company and others, picking up numerous commissions on the way including work for ENO, Opera North, Shakespeare’s Globe and Tête a Tête. His work has been performed at ENO Studio (1998), Battersea Arts Centre (1999), Bridewell Theatre (2001) and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (2001).
He has written four pieces in connection with University of Hertfordshire Music Department: Si Hei Lwli for brass band (St Albans Brass band, 2003), Sad Serenade for symphonic wind (Hatfield Philharmonic Orchestra Wind 2004), The Journey Part I for orchestra (Hatfield Philharmonic Orchestra, 2007), and the String Quartet. He now works as a Music Development Leader for Devon Music Service. In 2009 his chamber opera Jacko’s Hour will receive its premiere at Dartington International Summer School.
“…and the birds sang too.”
Having done a reccé on St John’s Church at the Hilltop, Hatfield in March, the problem of birdsong was not one of our priorities. Indeed, we were rather taken by the venue and it was felt that it would suit our purposes well.
So our surprise and apprehension when on the 27th May we were all set up and ready to go to hear happy chirping serenading us was, to say the least, concerning.
But why not go ahead? After all at this stage we did not have too many alternatives and to disturb or disrupt this young family would not have been one of them. So we did, “...and the birds sang too.” And they provided us with a fitting title!