For nine sax quartets attending the 2005 Saxophone Congress on the 13th February, there was serious business to be done before they could fully relax and enjoy the excitement and bustle of the occasion – the battle for senior and junior winner titles in the two Saxtet Publications Sax Quartet Competitions.
The four quartets in the final of the senior competition had already come through a semi-final on the 5th December, and on the 13th February, were judged on their performances of Trains, steam whistles and radiator pipes by Jay Anthony Gach, winner of the Saxtet Publications Composition Competition, plus a piece of their own choice.
Winners were the impressive and engaging French quartet, Contraste. The group was formed in 1999 by four friends, all prize-winners at French music academies: Cécile Petit (sop) first-prize winner of the Paris CNSM, plays in the Musique de l'Air orchestra in Paris, Frédéric Vasseur (alto) is a soloist in the Flotte de Brest Band, and Denis Kowandy (tenor) and Salvatore Pace (bari) are state-qualified teachers in the north of France and Paris areas. They perform throughout France both as individuals and as a quartet and in the latter capacity, take part in chamber music competitions at home and abroad, recently winning the Belgium-based Jmusiciens competition, which was broadcast nationally.
Contraste's prize was a cheque for £500 and an appearance in the Congress Gala Concert, where their exciting and appealing performance of Jay Anthony Gach's Trains... vividly captured the qualities that made the piece a competition winner. They also joined the National Sax Choir in its performance of Under the Veil and Smutty Saxes, while their friendliness and interest in the UK sax scene made them popular backstage too.
SXP would like to thank Contraste for their committed and good-humoured approach to the competition and for the quality of their playing, which was an inspiration to us all. Check out the quartet at the Contraste website.
The three other senior quartet finalists may not have had to travel quite as far as Contraste to reach Birmingham on 13th February, but all were equally impressive in terms of the effort spent in mastering challenging programmes, and the keenness of their competitive spirit.
Members of Fusion (now known as Quadrophonia) are to be especially congratulated for reaching the final after only three months of playing together.
Debbie Sargent (sop), Catherine Evison (alto), Faye-Louise Aldrich (tenor) and Michael Brogan (bari) are all students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where they are coached by Christian Forshaw and John Harle. All four players will be joining the National Sax Choir at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival between the 9th –13th August, where Quadrophonia will also be performing as a quartet. Future plans also include the provision of educational workshops at Middlesex Hospital and schools in London and Glasgow, plus performances at this year’s North London Festival and the Overseas League in 2006. SXP wish Quadrophonia every success with all their future appearances. Check out Quadrophonia's new website.
Sax-Ecosse is Andrew Somerville (sop), Michelle Melvin (alto), Karen Dufour (tenor) and Lynsey Payne (bari), all fourth year or post-graduate students at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where they study with Josef Pacewicz.
Sax-Ecosse performs in a variety of settings and musical genres from classical and French music to jazz and lighter musical styles. The ensemble has taken part in masterclasses with the renowned Rascher Saxophone Quartet and plans to undertake further study as a quartet in France and Germany this summer. Like Quadrophonia, members of Sax-Ecosse will join the National Sax Choir for its evening shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and will also appear as a quartet during the choir's lunchtime concerts.
Members of the Veya Quartet, named after the ancient god of wind, are all graduates of the Royal Northern College of Music and participants in the Live Music Now scheme. The Veya members are: Mark White (sop), Fiona Ashbury (alto), Jenny Lyons (alto) and Simon Murray (bari). They have an impressive list of gigs to their credit, including a performance in the BBC 2004 Proms, and a versatile repertoire, including several premieres. More information on the quartet is available at the Veya website.