Leon String Quartet Kent – About Us
The Leon Quartet is based in Kent and London, UK. Since forming in 2010, the quartet has performed across Britain, including Canterbury Cathedral, Deal Festival, Leicester Guildhall, Edinburgh Fringe, Trinity Arts Centre and the Marlowe Theatre. They enjoy playing a diverse and colourful repertoire, with recent performances ranging from quartets by Prokofiev, Schubert, Bridge, Arnold and Webern. The quartet also regularly engage in session work for film and TV including for the BBC.
All four members share a passion for contemporary music, and the quartet has given world premieres by local and international composers. The quartet regularly appear at the Free Range experimental concert series, which has included interpretative projects such as playing original compositions in reaction to visual art. In 2015 they worked with Italian compoer Dimitri Scarlato, performing his work ‘Time and Eternity’ for String Quartet, Soprano and Percussion. More recently in 2018, the quartet performed Golijov’s haunting quartet ‘Tenebrae’. The quartet regularly collaborates with composer Samuel Messer on World Premieres of beautiful and fragile explorations of contemporary soundworlds.
Recitals aside, the quartet also devote their time to educational outreach projects, and in 2013 performed Noyes Fludde with the Sacconi quartet as part of the Sacconi Music Festival. In 2014 they held an open rehearsal of Mozart’s clarinet quintet with Professor Grenville Hancox at the Beaney Institute in Canterbury City Centre. Also taking to the stage in 2013 for a sold out production of ‘The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe’ at the Gulbenkian Theatre. The quartet often venture into schools with the mission of sparking an interest in ‘all things strings’ to the future generation. In 2016 the quartet workshopped GCSE students’ compositions with Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music.
The Leon quartet enjoys an ongoing collaborations with local bands and folk musicians. Past performances have included the Smugglers’ Festival, the Free Range concert series and Coco and the Butterfield’s tours in London and Margate. The quartet feature on Arlet’s 2016 album ‘Big Red Sun’ and Coco and the Butterfield’s 2019 album ‘Monsters Unplugged’.
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Karen’s performance repertoire is very diverse, with past concert programmes including works by Janáček, Ravel and Silvestrov. In recent years, Karen has also specialised in championing a huge range of contemporary music, and has performed and recorded a number of world premieres by local and international composers.
As a session violinist, Karen has also recorded for television and radio including the BBC, and features on several bands’ albums, including doom metal band Famyne, and indie-pop band Coco and the Butterfields.
Karen founded the Leon Quartet in 2012, which is a professional ensemble that has performed at hundreds of events across the UK. Find more about the Leon Quartet at www.leonquartet.co.uk
For the past eight years, Karen has enjoyed her role as a violin teacher in Canterbury, and also further afield in Kent schools. She feels privileged to be teaching and inspiring the next generation of string players!
Karen is also a keen orchestrator and arranger, and regularly arranges music for the Leon Quartet.
Karen plays on two violins: One from 1907 by the German luthier Henreich Heberlein Jr., kindly donated by Eric Richards in 2010, and the other a 2015 Guarneri model by Canterbury Luthier Philippe Briand.
After leaving school she was unsure whether she wanted to continue her violin studies and took a year out to work at restaurants in Canterbury. Whilst working she met Faith Whitely of the Yehudi Menuhin School, with whom she proceeded to undertake four intense years of technical study. While studying with Ms Whitely Kammy undertook a music degree at the local university, Canterbury Christchurch. It was here she met violinist Karen Jolliffe, composer Matthew Brown and cellist Mike Bacon. Together they formed the Leon String Quartet and undertook chamber music instruction from Martin Outram of the Maggini Quartet.
For four years after gaining her degree Kammy worked as a free lancing violinist playing with the Kent Concert Orchestra, the Marlowe Theatre, Deal and Sandwich Arts Festivals, Canterbury Music Society, Leon Quartet functions and weddings and small recitals in local churches. She supplemented her work with part-time administration roles at the London Sinfonietta and Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival.
Now, still based in London, she keeps up with the quartet’s busy schedule, whilst also working as a Registered Nurse. She plays on a French Mirecourt violin made by Leon Mougenout in the same year as the Wall Street Crash. The quartet takes its name from Leon himself.
In 2013 he completed a Master of Music in Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied with Adam Gorb and Paul Patterson, with a scholarship kindly supported by the Richard Newitt and Radcliffe trusts. Since entering the RNCM, Matthew’s song ‘There Came a Wind Like a Bugle’ was premièred by Rhona McKail and Yshani Perinpanayagam at Canterbury’s Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival, and given a second performance by Kathryn West and Aaron Parker at RNCM.
October 2012 saw the première of his new work for soprano and orchestra, ‘Caelestialis’, with Jessica Gillingwater and the RNCM symphony orchestra conducted by Carlos del Cueto. In October 2013, Matthew’s striking work for solo viola and orchestra, ‘Three Illusions of Peganum Harmala’, was performed by Paul Beckett with the RNCM symphony orchestra. Most recently he wrote a piece for an ensemble that combined the Leon String Quartet and the chamber/folk band, Arlet, as part of the Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival 2014. He frequently writes arrangements for the quartet, and has recently completed a new work written for the quartet to be played in the Deal Festival 2014. In February 2014, Matthew’s duo for violin and viola, was influenced by Martinu’s ‘Three Madrigals’, which he regularly performs with Karen Jolliffe. Matthew frequently combines his interest in composition and viola playing, and contributes towards the composition of new music for the viola as part of Canterbury Christ Church University’s annual Viola Day, lead by Martin Outram.