Diversity and the British String Quartet

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Primary Investigator:

Dr Joanna Bullivant

Departmental Lecturer in Historical Musicology

 

Co-Investigator:

Prof Samantha Dieckmann

Associate Professor, Faculty of Music

Fellow of Somerville College

 

 

 

Researchers:

Lauren Braithwaite and Aaliyah Booker (Faculty of Music)

 

Partner organisations:

Villiers Quartet

Faculty of Music

Text reads: Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

 

 

 

Collaborators:

Villiers String Quartet

St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford

St Marylebone School, London 

Graveney School, London 

Framingham Earl High School, Norfolk 

Trinity Catholic School, Nottingham

 

About the project:

Diversity and the British String Quartet brings together composers, performers, students, and academics to explore issues of diversity in British classical music through the case study of the string quartet. The string quartet - and British classical music in general - are associated with elitism and exclusivity, yet historically the genre has attracted composers who defy this stereotype: women, BAME musicians, communists, and others from traditionally marginalised groups such as Ethel Smyth, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Elizabeth Maconchy. In this project, the Villiers Quartet and Oxford researchers will: commission and release as digital concerts new string quartets from British composers with varied connections to national identity; coach remotely 14-18 year old students from schools with low access to music education or diverse student bodies to compose their own string quartets with mentoring from Oxford students; and produce a live-streamed symposium with lectures, round-table discussion with composers, student workshops, and performances of historic British quartets.

 



 


Symposium Day 1

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the
future  Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities

 

Diversity and the British String Quartet Symposium Programme:

DAY 1: Monday 14th June, 10am-9pm

On the opening day of the symposium, we begin by exploring with international experts the contributions of women, politically-engaged composers, and émigrés to the history of the British string quartet. We will then hear from Beethoven and string quartet expert Prof Laura Tunbridge on the history of performing quartets working in UK universities. In the evening, the Villiers Quartet present a varied programme of two world premieres and two little-heard historical quartets, by the pioneering British woman composer Ethel Smyth, and the communist Alan Bush. The day will conclude with the first of two concerts featuring string quartets composed by 14-18 year olds from schools around the UK, who have participated in a coaching programme run by the project.

10.30am-1.00pm: Case studies in the ‘British’ String Quartet: women, politics, émigrés

Chair: Associate Professor Paul Watt (University of Adelaide)

Speakers: Dr Leah Broad (University of Oxford, Dr Amanda Harris (University of Sydney), Dr Florian Scheding (University of Bristol).

On the opening day of the symposium, we begin by exploring with international experts the contributions of women, politically-engaged composers, and émigrés to the history of the British string quartet. 

Register via Eventbrite.

2.30pm-4pm: Keynote lecture: ‘The string quartet takes residence: class, community, curricula'

Chair: Dr Wiebke Thormählen (Royal College of Music)

Speaker: Professor Laura Tunbridge (University of Oxford)

5.30pm-6.00pm: Short Quartets concert 1

Watch the livestream here.

7.00pm-8.00pm: Concert I:  "Not Getting Out" | Villiers Quartet Concert

Livestreamed concert live from the JdP Music Building

Florence Anna Maunders - Not Getting Out  *From Home world premiere

Ethel Smyth, Quartet in E minor (1912)

Philip Herbert - Sollicitudo *From Home world premiere

Alan Bush - Dialectic (1929)

Villiers Quartet

Performing live at the JdP Music Building, the Villiers Quartet give the world premieres by Florence Anna Maunders and Philip Herbert from their From Home Commissions. They also play the only string quartet written by suffragette Dame Ethel Smyth, and Alan Bush’s dramatic Dialectic for String Quartet.

 

Symposium Day 2

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the
future  Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities

 

Diversity and the British String Quartet Symposium Programme:

DAY 2: Tuesday 15 June

On the second day of the symposium, we begin with a discussion among the From Home contemporary composers about the challenges and meaning of writing string quartets in Britain today. Our composers, in conversation with Professor Amanda Bayley, will explore issues of identity, musical style and influences, and exclusivity associated with classical music, in addition to the impact of recent events such as the global pandemic, and will talk about how they have explored these in their new compositions. In the afternoon, a quartet of Oxford University students will workshop Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Fantasiestücke Op. 5 with the Villiers Quartet. In our final evening event, the Villiers Quartet’s second concert will present works showcasing an array of musical and cultural questions and influences, from Elizabeth Maconchy’s Bartókian Third Quartet, to Alex Ho’s enquiring contemporary work, Our Common Wealth.

11.00am-1.00pm: Roundtable discussion: ‘Writing string quartets in contemporary Britain’

Chair: Professor Amanda Bayley, Bath Spa University

Speakers: Rob Fokkens, Alex Ho, Jasmin Kent-Rodgman, Florence Anna Maunders

Register via Eventbrite. 

2.00pm- 3.30pm: Performance workshop: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Fantasiestücke Op. 5

Watch the livestream of the Performance workshop here.

Villiers Quartet

Oxford University student quartet: Aaliyah Booker, Jacob Timmins, Rosa Bonnin, Hannah Macfarlane

7.00pm-9.30pm: Concert II: "Our Common Wealth"

Watch the livestreamed concert live from the JdP Music Building

Samuel Coleridge -Taylor - Five Fantasiestücke for string quartet (1895)

John Mayer - Quartet No.2 ‘Nava Rasa’ (selected movements) (ca 1970)

Alex Ho - Our Common Wealth *From Home world premiere

Elizabeth Maconchy - String Quartet No. 3 (1938)

Villiers Quartet

The Villiers Quartet explore themes of British identity and history, premiering new works by Robert Fokkens and Alex Ho alongside movements from Calcutta-born composer John Mayer’s String Quartet No. 2 ‘Nava Rasa’. Mixed-race British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s early Five Fantasiestücke Op. 5 explore the favoured late-nineteenth-century genre of the ‘phantasy’. The concert ends with the Third Quartet by Elizabeth Maconchy, who wrote 13 quartets overall and became the first female Chair of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Symposium Day 3

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the
future  Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities

 

Diversity and the British String Quartet Symposium Programme:

DAY 3: Wednesday 16 June

On our final day, we begin with a keynote lecture from composer Dr Des Oliver on his ‘Diasporic Quartets’ projects. In the afternoon, a special workshop featuring performers, composers, and experts in music education will showcase student works from our school coaching project and discuss wider issues of inclusivity in music education. At 7pm, the Villiers Quartet’s final concert features variously lyrical and ebullient quartets that move us from the allusive worlds of the earlier concerts into the pleasure of composers speaking through the medium of the string quartet. The symposium will finish with our final short concert of student works.

11.30am-1.00pm: Keynote Lecture: 'The Diasporic Quartets: Identity and Aesthetics'

Watch the livestream of the Keynote Lecture

Chair: Dr Nina Whiteman

Speaker: Dr Des Oliver

2.00pm - 4.00pm: Workshop and panel discussion: Music education, diversity, and inclusivity

Chairs: Dr Joanna Bullivant and Prof Samantha Dieckmann

Philip Herbert, composer

Roz DeVile, CEO, Music Masters

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, author of House of Music

Nate Holder, musician, author, and music education consultant

Register via Eventbrite.

5.30pm-6.00pm: Short Quartets Concert 2

Watch the livestream of the Short Quaret Concerts here.

7.00pm-8.00pm: Concert III: ‘where the conflict ends’

Livestreamed concert live from the JdP Music Building

Jasmin Kent Rodgman - where the conflict ends  *From Home world premiere

Matyas Seiber - String Quartet No. 3 ‘Quartetto Lirico’ (1948-1951)

Robert Fokkens - *From Home world premiere

Eleanor Alberga - String Quartet No. 2 (1994)

Villiers Quartet

Host: Professor Laura Tunbridge

The Villiers give the premiere of Jasmin Kent Rodgman’s “where the conflict ends” which expresses the difficulty of finding one’s voice. Matyas Seiber was a Hungarian-British emigre who studied with Kodály and was heavily influenced by Bartók; he also taught John Mayer London. Eleanor Alberga’s vibrant String Quartet No. 2 closes the programme.

 

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