Together with the London Chamber Orchestra he played his sonorous Stradivarius at the Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey and like everyone else he was struck by the solemnity and the intimacy of the service. “I suppose that performance will look good on my CV,” he adds with a laugh.
Jamie is the driving force and the leader of the Solstice String Quartet, but he also has a busy career as a chamber musician, soloist and orchestral leader, yet his heart and most of his time is spent with the quartet he founded just over seven years ago with his school mate Gregor Riddell. They both attended Dulwich College, where they played in a quartet and when they later met up again at Cambridge University, they started their own quartet.
Today the two are still members and Meghan Cassidy on viola joined them four years ago while she was still a student at the Royal Academy of Music. Last year on violin Helena Nicholls, also from Dulwich having been a pupil at Alleyns, became the fourth member.
They are young, the ages range from 23 to 28, yet the Quartet has still managed to collect an impressive number of awards, like the Ensemble Prize in the Royal Overseas League Competition 2009. The Solstice String Quartet was also lucky to win a scholarship from the Tillett Trust, which supports young musicians by arranging concerts and giving career advice. They organised forty concerts for the quartet during 18 months. “We have been very lucky,” Jamie admits, “and the awards and sponsorships have given us the chance to play in major concert halls here and abroad, which has given us real visibility in the concert world.”
The Quartet will play music by Beethoven, Debussy and Schumann at their upcoming concert at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. “Yes, it will be the classics, we try to adapt our programmes to fit in with the audience, but we also love to play contemporary music. Our cellist Gregor Riddell is a composer in his own right and we feel the need sometimes to go outside our comfort zone”. As a soloist with the London Sinfonietta Jamie has been lucky to premiere The Corridor,a chamber work by the famous composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle, both at the Aldeburgh Festival and London South Bank.
Jamie is playing a Stradivarius violin, insured for a million pounds. It’s on loan via the Royal Academy of Music and he knows that one day it must return to its private owner. “But what a learning experience it has been to be able to play on such a fantastic instrument as this one built by the master in 1727.” And it is with this magnificent instrument he will be playing at the Gallery concert. The other members are also playing very special and valuable instruments. “We have been very lucky as most young musicians have to struggle to get instruments of this quality.”
As most chamber musicians they love to play in Wigmore Hall, not only because of its outstanding acoustics but also because of its well-informed audience. They also enjoy playing at schools for youngsters who might not have had the opportunity to listen to classical music. “ It’s fascinating to see their reaction. I was lucky to grow up in a home filled with music,” says Jamie. His father is a clarinetist and his mother a singer, “and very often I can now play some Brahms with my father and that is a real treat.” Otherwise Jamie relaxes with all kinds of music, he loves the opera and has recently been to Cornwall to learn more about the solo piano repertoire with the world famous pianist Andras Schiff.
“Now, though, we shall start rehearsing for our concert at Dulwich Picture Gallery and because of our local connection it will feel very special to us and I hope we can convey that feeling to the audience”. No doubt they will. Evening Standard was full of praise after a recent concert and wrote that the Solstice String Quartet played” with an intensity that was hard to resist.”
The Solstice String Quartet will be playing at Dulwich Picture Gallery on Friday 13 May at 7.30pm
Tickets £20, £18 Friends, includes a glass of wine.
Phone 020 8299 8750 or email
Or buy tickets from Friends Desk at Dulwich Picture Gallery