I was born in Sydney in 1951; my mother, Jose, was New Zealand-born, my father Michael was an English naval officer
on secondment to the Royal Australian Navy.
We sailed on the "Ceramic" to England in 1953 and lived near Portsmouth until 1958, when we emigrated to New Zealand
on the "Southern Cross", a great adventure for a 6 year-old, not such fun for my parents, having to endure six weeks
in a poky cabin down on C-deck.
I attended Porirua School briefly, then Brentwood School near Upper Hutt, Wellesley College, Wellington College and Victoria and Auckland Universities, graduating B Mus in 1972. I started learning the violin at the age of 8, later gaining LTCL and LRSM. I have strong memories of musical activities in New Zealand. Wellington and National Youth Orchestras were a fantastic experience; discovering such composers as Arnold, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Debussy, and even a real live one, Douglas Lilburn, was simply awesome. In 1965 I had the honour, along with Christopher Beckett (piano) and Mark Jackson (cello), all pupils at Wellington College, of being awarded 1st place in the first ever NZ Schools Chamber Music Competition. As I matured, the first professional experiences arose - the Alex Lindsay String Orchestra, the NZBC Symphony Orchestra (as it was then called) and the odd free-lance gig, such as Giselle and Swan Lake for the Novosibirsk Ballet Company. I am deeply indebted to those numerous Wellington-based established professionals who so warmly and generously supported and inspired me, such as Vincent Aspey, Alex Lindsay, Valerie Rigg, Loretto Cunningham, May Hannan.
I was lucky to be awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council grant to study with Ladislav Jasek in Auckland, and in 1972 spent my final year of B Mus study in Auckland, where I met some wonderful musicians and made some wonderful new friends. The Music Department at Auckland University was very different from that at VUW, and I was very fortunate to have the highly inspiring William Dart as a lecturer, a naturally-gifted teacher with wide interests and a very open mind. There was chance for much chamber music, Professor Douglas Mews wrote enlightening programme notes, Professor Nalden persuaded me to play in his JSO, Germaine Greer was prosecuted for saying "bullshit" in public, and, through Derek Sanders, a crazy young teacher, I met Brian, Phil and the two Mikes to make the beginnings of the Enz.
In 1973 I headed for London with a few dollars in my pocket for further violin study, and was lucky to encounter two wonderful teachers - Eli Goren, of the Allegri Quartet and co-leader of the BBCSO, and Sascha Lasserson, pupil of Leopold Auer. After a short time supporting myself by bowing parts for the LSO and working in a deli in Sloane Square I took a few successful auditions, was placed on the BBCSO extra list by dear Eli, and embarked on a free-lance career which I have followed ever since. I have played in many London-based orchestras: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia (and its earlier incarnation, the Richard Hiccox Orchestra), Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Philomusica, the London Sinfonietta, Kent Opera, and the Orchestra of St John's Smith Square (where I was principal second violin for a number of years).
I played for a while in two established chamber music groups. Capricorn, run by the inspiring and indefatigable Timothy Mason, performed a wide range of repertoire ranging from Mozart, through Rimsky-Korsakov and Hans Gal to contemporary composers. The Meridian Ensemble performed music spanning a similar range of styles - 18th century Crusell and Krommer to 20th century classics such as Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time and Bartok's Contrasts, and young contemporary composers.
In the late 70s I became interested in period performance, and began performing and recording with many of the specialist ensembles that were then springing up - the Academy of Ancient Music, English Baroque Soloists, London Classical Players, English Bach Festival, and, as period performance proliferated, with newer groups such as the London Handel Orchestra, St James Baroque Players, the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Collegium Musicum 90, and the Orchestra of the Sixteen, playing with many of these as leader, guest-leader or principal second violin. In 1977 Trevor Pinnock invited me to join the English Concert, a fine ensemble with which I had the pleasure to be associated until my resignation in April 2010. They kindly laid on a farewell party and presented me with a return flight to New Zealand. Christian Curnyn of the Early Opera Company invited me to guest lead his production of Haendel's Flavio in the summer of 2005 at the QEH, Lichfield, Basingstoke and Iford. I lead the Armonico Consort's orchestra in their varied programmes of mainly baroque repertoire, and in their popular and highly entertaining theatrical productions such as Too Hot to Handel.
Actually, this is all a bit of a deception because I'm really a rock star. Look me up in the Guinness Book of Rock Stars and you'll see me listed as a former member of Split Ends. I met Tim Finn and Phil Judd whilst completing my BMus in Auckland. They enjoyed my classical influence, and I enjoyed their different sort of creativity. Sadly, though, after a few gigs, our paths diverged and I headed for London. Happily, we keep in touch and in February 2007 Tim invited me to join him on stage again to perform one of the old Judd songs, Time For a Change, at the Empire, Shepherd's Bush and at The Stables, Milton Keynes. Tim and I had a bit of fun at Roundhead Studios a few months later in Auckland recording a new song, along with Eddie Rayner and Brett Adams. Then in April 2008 we got together there again to record a complete new album, The Conversation, released last November in Australia and N.Z., with Ethan Allen at the desk.
There is much musical activity in Harpenden, my home town. Strong local amateur choirs abound, and all the local schools support music. While our boys were pupils at Roundwood JMI I started a school orchestra; this soon became incorporated into the home-grown annual music/drama productions that two of the staff members presented with the Year 5/6 children; with the pupils, my wife Catherine, and other parents we did the lot - music, script, songs, props, lighting and sets - and had enormous fun. In 2003, along with Peter Taylor of Harpenden in Bloom, Catherine and others, I inaugurated the Harpenden Youth Orchestra to raise funds for a local skatepark and Harpenden in Bloom. The result was Skates and Borders, a concert that filled the Public Hall and raised £3000. The orchestra is not regular, but reforms when time allows, and we have presented concerts for the mayors' charities. In February 2008, we created Summoned by Bells. Every item on the programme, devised by Catherine and incorporating poetry, prose, and vocal and instrumental music, had reference to bells in one way or another, and featured the tower bells of St Nicholas' Parish Church (Grandsire Triples and Stedman Triples), twelve handbells, the HYO and a small choir of about twenty local professional friends and amateurs, as well as many frogs and various species of birds that found their way into Ketèlbey's Monastery Garden. We raised about £1800!
In 2013, Benjamin Britten's centenary year, with the help of Bernadette Stewart, we mounted a local production of Noye's Fludde with generous financial support from the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Harpenden Music Foundation (whose subsequent invitation to become a trustee I was happy to accept.)
I have recently coached on the excellent courses at Benslow Music Trust, and, as a member of The English Concert, directed projects in a collaboration with Trinity College of Music designed to acquaint students with 17th and 18th century performance style.
I wish I could find time to play more bridge at lovely Karima Basse's Fleetville Bridge Club, sail more often in our Wayfarer at the Lymington Town Sailing Club, and wrestle more with the brilliant crosswords set by the incomparable Araucaria, the devious Paul and their colleagues in the Guardian.
Married to mezzo-soprano Catherine Denley for 30 years, we have three sons, Olly, Oscar and George, all of whom are fine musicians. Olly plays piano and percussion and is a school teacher (NQT) - here he is with Oscar, having a bit of fun on a marimba with a Hungarian folk song. Here's a link to a facebook video of Oscar (you'll have to join facebook to see it though) and an audio file - 2.7MB mp3 - of George playing his 2007 AS Music composition on his bass. Oscar plays in a great function band called The Fandangos who are guaranteed to get any event or party rocking! And in the funky/bluesy Juan Zelada Band All three lads spent unforgettable weeks backpacking in New Zealand during gap years after leaving school. Here's a fantastic video compilation created by Charles Le, one of the many young people from different parts of the world with whom George made friends during his travels in NZ.
I enjoy teaching a handful of private pupils, ranging from young beginners to mature adults, Grade 1 to diploma standard, and make arrangements for them from time to time. Here's a three-violin arrangement of Jingle Bells, first for just three violins (I play all three parts), then the same violin parts with Olly playing a sieve full of bottle-tops, George on bass guitar, and Oscar on electric guitar here; and finally Oscar and Chris Denley on violin 1, Olly on violin 2 and me on violin 3 recorded live. Oscar engineered and produced the recording during Christmas at home in 2012.