ARCO is  project led by Birmingham Conservatoire. This is a major outreach and distance learning project  in collaboration with MIAGI (Music is a Great Investment), Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music based in Soweto, South Africa.

There is more information and a video about the project on the Birmingham Conservatoire website page HERE


Over the next year, twenty-four selected students (six string quartets) from the Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music will participate in weekly instrumental Skype lessons given by teachers at Birmingham Conservatoire in addition to their music lessons in SA. They will also benefit from 1-2-1 mentoring and string quartet coaching, not currently offered at the centre. These lessons will be delivered by students and alumni of the Birmingham Conservatoire in a specially designated distance-learning suite.

The project needs to raise £30,000 so that this exciting project see its full potential.

• £5,400 – 24 instruments (12 violins, 6 violas and 6 cellos)
• £4,600 – Equipment for distance learning and live streaming
• £20,000 – For the delivery of the project’s Festival at Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music.

To find out how you can help see:


‘News from the String Babies’ World’ from Kay Tucker

In the eight months since Stringbabies for Viola was published,such a lot has happened and being asked to write an update for the BVS provides a wonderful opportunity to take stock and reflect.

Regarding the viola book; sales were quite enthusiastic to begin with and I was particularly encouraged by a modest order from the USA. Needless to say, we don’t sit on our laurels and there is always the need to keep working on spreading the word about Stringbabies and especially the version for Viola!

So to turn to events since publication; one of my long term aims has been to recruit the most experienced Stringbabies teaching colleagues as Stringbabies teacher trainers. This process started last year with one colleague setting up a workshop day in Somerset last year, which was repeated this year. I led a training day in Poynton, near Manchester and in July and October, two colleagues will be leading days in Kent and London.

Teacher training by SKYPE has proved quite successful and a few weeks ago we were thrilled to gain our first partner school in the USA, following SKYPE training. I have more SKYPE training to the USA coming up over summer. There has been a marked up turn in interest in Stringbabies from individual teachers, schools and music services in recent months, so Jenny (my assistant) and I have our hands full!

If any BVA members are attending the ESTA summer school in Cheltenham (9-14th August), I will be talking about Stringbabies as well as leading the daily sessions on lower strings basics. Do come and  introduce yourself to me!

One very important development has been establishing a relationship with the Soundpost Ltd. Stringbabies is endorsing their range of student instruments (the Primavera range) and we had our first date together at the Music Expo in the Barbican in March. Their instruments are absolutely beautiful  and they have a super range of violas in all sizes! Do take a look on their website

When time has allowed, I am pulling together a collection of additional repertoire pieces called Stringbabies Zoo…all the songs are about animals of one description or another (of course) and some of the lyrics are quite zany.

My 83 year old father (who has grown old disgracefully and still enjoys the odd ride on supermarket trolleys) has provided some lyrics. Others have come from myself, my pupils and a dear distant cousin who wrote the 60th anniversary Noddy book. The frustrating thing is that everything is all nearly there and it is the last 5% which takes up the time!

In addition, there are trials of a version for recorder going on and we have just started trying out some ideas for classroom application to KS1 pupils. A piano version has been under development for some time and a few Stringbabies colleagues are trying out the ideas. Stringbabies for Double bass was completed  about 18 months  ago, and is awaiting some serious road testing before publication.

One very important lesson has been brought home afresh this year and that is that word of mouth counts for a great deal. I firmly believe that the viola can be started at an early age and the Stringbabies approach exists to help make that process easier and immense fun for beginners of all ages,(but particularly the very young). Please do spread the word amongst your teaching colleagues about it and I hope we will see some of you at the training days or may be the ESTA summer school.

Stringbabies teacher training day in Kent is on Saturday July 18th.

Please visit for the latest information and details.

Kay Tucker

11 June 2015


‘On being a violist with the Lindsays’ – Robin Ireland pays tribute to Peter Cropper

Peter Cropper, first violinist of the Lindsay Quartet, died on May 28th,   just short of the tenth anniversary of the quartet’s final concert, which I remember as if it were yesterday. During the last couple of years, Peter increasingly enjoyed playing the viola, and had recently bought a brand new instrument from Stefano Gibertoni, the Sheffield-based luthier.

I joined the Lindsays in 1985, exactly halfway through their career. One of Peter’s great qualities was an intuition for the long term, which somehow told him that my lack of experience and general unreadiness as a player for life on the international quartet trail was worth putting up with in the short term. It was a baptism of fire, as we performed over one hundred works during my first year, including all the Bartok Quartets. Apart from learning the notes, my first challenge was to be audible!  For the first ten years, I think it probable that I was asked, politely or otherwise, to play nearer the bridge at some point during every single rehearsal. Admittedly, I had some seriously classy instruments to match up to, played to the full. I tended to feel like a Fiat 500 (maybe a Ford Escort….) straining at high revs to keep up with three Rolls Royces in the next lanes.  I never had much extra power in reserve.  (When I heard Lawrence Power in the Leopold String Trio, I thought his situation was the reverse; he purred away effortlessly, and equally effortlessly had reservoirs of extra power when needed).

Peter, as those who heard the Lindsays will know, played like a man possessed, and even in rehearsals was always searching to bring the music fully to life, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. This required great energy on all levels, and the development of the technical means to realize his musical vision, through colours and sheer tonal power. In fact, it was in the pianissimos that the quartet was often at its most magical.

Pete was a commanding musical leader, needless to say. In the early years that I played with the quartet, I so often wanted to be told what to do, and how to do it. In fact, even though this might have made things easier, for the others as well as for me, Pete wanted me to find my own voice, and bring my own qualities to the quartet, rather than slot in to what it already was. It was Bernard, the cellist, in fact, who expressed their sense of what this might be about; he said that the character of the quartet had been Dionysian, and that I had a more Apollonian nature. I think they quite consciously embraced the idea that this might bring a new dimension to the quartet. Pete used to say that a quartet was the greater for having different musical personalities, if the differences could be harnessed to work together, rather than fly off centrifugally and break the whole thing apart. For me, of course, what I discovered within myself and gradually learnt to give voice to, was the wilder, Dionysian side.  I remember Pete’s frustration at times with my tameness in the earlier days   :  “why can’t you get your vibrato going  here?!”  Needless to say, I could never match Pete’s extraordinary intensity of sound and passion, but there I am not alone!

The musical world will never be quite the same without Peter. He was a unique man and musician, something of a rebel to the status quo, and with a huge heart. In the end it was a heart attack that killed him. Something of his spirit will live on in those who worked and studied with him, and in the vision for communicative music making that he gave form to through Music in the Round, which is rooted in Sheffield but which he spread to so many new venues  in England.

Robin Ireland

13 June 2015

‘Exploring British Viola Repertoire’ by Valerie Dart

As a perennial student of the viola and viola repertoire, I have been fascinated by the fact that our repertoire is not widely known, even by violists, whilst the musical public generally is familiar with much of the violin’s vast repertoire. There are many reasons for this and, having realised that there was a treasure trove of music hidden away, I decided to make this the subject of a research degree and look at the reasons that initially hindered the viola’s progress, and the factors which helped to develop the viola as a solo instrument during the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in Britain. During the research process I kept a record of the works that I discovered, mainly for my own benefit, then realised that this list would be interesting to other viola players. There are some details that I, either have not had time to research in depth yet or may be out of date. For example, when I have come across old editions of music and listed the publisher, it may be the case that another publisher now has the rights. I would welcome the readers’ input if you notice any such discrepancies.

The list became surprisingly large and was the result of information gathered from books about viola history and viola players, old tutor books with repertoire lists, concert programs, correspondence from the early twentieth century and publisher’s catalogues. It includes

  • works that have become well known, for example Walton’s Viola Concerto.
  • works that are published but not as well known, for example Bantock’s Viola Sonata.
  • works that were once published but are now only available as archive copies on request and therefore not distributed, for example Frank Bridge’s Lament for two violas.
  • works that were never published and are in libraries or with societies as manuscripts, for example Sir John Blackwood McEwen’s viola concerto and W.H. Bell’s Rosa Mystica, concerto for viola and orchestra.

I have listed the works, dates, dedications, first performances, publishers and recordings as accurately as I could. It is still a work in progress, but I realised that if I waited for it to seem finished before sharing it with other viola players it could mean wasted opportunities for performance and research for other violists. It was also evident that part of the dilemma facing violists is that if our repertoire is not published and distributed we have to know about it to be able to order it. This puts the onus on teachers and performers to also be researchers and to be willing to perform new repertoire. I am delighted that I can share this information with you. The list can be accessed below and I would welcome any comments or further information to add to the list, which will be revised as needed.

BRITISH VIOLA REPERTOIRE. Revised July 22nd 2015

Bibliography and sources for Repertoire list

I grew up in Britain and studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, studying violin with Yossi Zivoni and viola with Cecil Aronowitz, before moving to Australia where I have continued to be active as a musician, performing in orchestras, chamber music and recitals. I have pursued my research as an ‘MPhil’ research student through Newcastle University NSW, Australia, where I have performed some of the repertoire that I am researching.

 Valerie Dart (nee Tate) ARMCM (violin) GRNCM (viola)

Proposed amendments to BVS Constitution

Changes are recommended to reflect the current practices of the Society, as indicated below

British Viola Society


Adopted 2012


The name of the organisation shall be the British Viola  Society (the Society or BVS).

ARTICLE II. Structure

SECTION I: The Society shall function independently, but as a section of the International Viola Society (IVS). Membership in the IVS  maybe terminated by a majority vote of the Society’s membership or by the IVS.

SECTION II: The Society can create branches. Members of the Society in any one locality may apply to the Society’s secretary for recognition as a branch of the Society. The Society’s committee will decide whether to recognise the branch. No branch shall accept or retain as a member who is not a member of the Society. All rules, regulations, by-laws and guidelines of the branch must be approved by the committee of the Society. Each branch shall report to the Society’s secretary annually about its activities and financial operations. Branch membership in the Society maybe terminated by the Society’s committee.

SECTION MI: The seat of the Society will be the address of the current president for his or her term of office.

SECTION IV: The committee (officers and advisors) of the Society shall receive no private pecuniary gain, but may be paid reasonable costs incurred. This clause may not be altered.

ARTICLE III: Aims and Purpose

The British Viola Society like its parent organisation the IVS, is an association for the promotion of viola performance and research, and is a nonprofit organisation.

Specifically, its goals are:

 DELETE: Research, publications and activities relating to the viola and/or violists. These include: The collection of, registration of, and research in the literature for and about the viola, its history, luthiers, composers, players and its playing technique, forming social and professional contacts, giving advice in all areas concerning the viola.

Recommend simplifying and replacing italics above with

To promote and encourage research, publications and activities relating to the viola and violists.

To act as Host or Co-Host and assist with arrangements for INTERNATIONAL VIOLA CONGRESSES, (when awarded to the Society by the IVS) and to assist with  the Society events (e.g. concerts, conventions, workshops, informal gatherings).

To create and maintain any present or future BVS archive (for historical records and audit purposes).

To inform members of recent and forthcoming events, publications and general items “violistic”.

ARTICLE IV: Membership

Membership in the Society shall be open to any individual or institution interested in furthering the purposes of the Society.


Regular members shall be any persons who join the Society and are interested in promoting the objectives of the Society. They shall be eligible to hold offices in the Society and shall pay full dues.

       Recommend to DELETE category: Student members shall be full-time students at any accredited educational institution, who join the Society.  Their rights and responsibilities shall be the same as those of regular members except that (1.) they shall pay annual dues as set forth in ARTICLE IV, Section II; (2.) they shall be ineligible to hold offices in the Society. 

Recommend to DELETE category Emeritus members shall be persons who have been regular members for at least four years and who have passed their 65th birthday provided they choose to be classified as emeritus members.  Emeritus members shall pay dues as set forth in ARTICLE IV, Section II, and shall retain all rights and privileges of regular members.

Honorary members shall be long-standing members of the Society who have made outstanding contributions to furthering the stated objectives of the Society and whom the Society wishes to honour.  They shall be exempt from paying dues but shall continue to have the privileges of regular members.  They shall be elected by two thirds majority of the Officers.   

       Recommend to DELETE category Institutional members shall be considered for membership into the Society with the majority approval of the Officers. They are not eligible to hold a BVS office, but are entitled to one vote and must pay dues as set by the Officers.

Other memberships may be created and offered INSERT at the discretion of the President with reduced dues DELETE by the Society’s Officers at certain times.  They shall all have the same rights as regular members, unless specified by the Officers.


Members (except ‘Honorary members’) pay annual dues as set by the Society’s officers. DELETE Annual dues for student and emeritus members shall be approximately 50% to 66% of those of regular members. Dates of dues payments will be set by the Officers.

Membership in the Society may be terminated by:

Resignation in writing, duly accepted by the Officers.

Non-payment of dues.

Any cause deemed by the Officers to be detrimental to the well-being of the Society.

ARTICLE V: Committee (Officers and Advisors) of the Society

The officers of the Society shall be a minimum of three — President, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer. As the Society consists of several regions — e.g. England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man it is important that as many regions as possible are represented in the Society’s committee (see SECTION V). The Advisors of the Society shall consist of the Immediate Past President, regional representatives who are not BVS officers, and any Society members appointed by the officers.

SECTION I: The President, shall be the chief executive officer of the Society. He/She shall preside over all meeting of the committee and/or the members. He/She shall have the general management of the affairs of the Society. He/She shall perform all duties incidental to his/her office and such other duties as may from time to time be delegated by the committee, including representing the BVS at International Viola Congresses and maintaining a liaison between the IVS and other viola societies. He/She may be a signing officer.

SECTION II: The Vice President, during the absence, incapacity, or disability of the president, shall exercise all the functions of the president and, when so acting, shall have the powers of and be subject to all the duties and restrictions upon the president. In the event that the office of the president becomes vacant before the conclusion of his/her term, the vice president shall succeed to that office. The vice president shall also have such other powers and discharge such duties as may be assigned to him/her by the president or by the committee.

SECTION III: The Secretary, shall attend to such correspondence as may be assigned to him/her, perform all other duties incidental to the office and shall keep the minutes of the meetings of members and the committee. He/She shall be responsible, along with the president, maintaining a liaison between the IVS, the committee and other viola societies. He/She shall also administer by mail election and balloting. Note: The Secretary’s position maybe combined as Secretary-Treasurer.

SECTION IV: The Treasurer, shall have the care and custody of all the funds and securities of the Society and shall deposit them in the name of the Society in such bank or trust as the committee may select. He/She shall sign all cheques, drafts, notes and orders for payment of money and shall pay out and dispose of the same when, as and if authorised to do so by the committee, and shall keep full and accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements in the books of the Society. The treasurer shall render to the president and other committee members whenever they require an account of all transactions and of the financial condition of the Society. He/She shall prepare an annual budget of the Society for approval by the committee, and shall dispose of funds only as provided by the budget or as otherwise authorised by the committee. The treasurer shall be a signing officer. Note: The Treasurer’s position maybe combined as Secretary-Treasurer.

DELETE SECTION V: One or more Regional Representative(s) will be elected or appointed by the elected officers in addition to the above officers, if all the above officers reside in the same region.

These officers will need to reside in a region other than that of the other officers. These officers will carry out the duties assigned to them as directed by the president or the committee. If two or more officers reside in different regions during a term of office, no appointment or election for these Regional Representatives is required, however the officers may still wish to appoint or hold an election for members to these positions for a term of office.  The officers may decide that members in these positions will be Advisors rather than Officers (see below).

SECTION VI: Advisors

Advisors of the Society include: the Immediate Past President and any other members appointed by the officers (such as Regional Representatives or past officers/advisors).  The advisors are part of the Society’s committee and must be invited to participate in all meetings of the Society’s officers and all other BVS meetings. Advisors may be invited to vote at committee meetings by a unanimous vote of the officers present.

The Immediate Past President, shall be an advisor at all meetings of the committee, if possible.

The BVS Journal Production Editor, shall act as an advisor at all meetings while he or she holds this position.

Other Advisors may be appointed by the officers as required. They must be members of the Society.

SECTION VII: Terms and Conditions of Office


All the officers must be members of the Society and shall serve a term of four years or until their successors are elected. Nominations for officers shall be received in writing to the Secretary. Elections shall be by mail  INSERT or an electronic mail vote, with each financial member entitled to one vote. Announcements of elections and election results will be printed in the BIVS publication and/or web site.

Removal of officers may be by:

1.   Election.

Resignation in writing, duly accepted by the committee.

Any cause deemed by the committee to be detrimental to the well-being of the Society.

Any office vacated in the course of a term, aside from the president’s, may be filled by a member in good standing. The Society’s remaining officers will decide whether a by-election should be held; leave the position vacant; or appoint one of the advisors, or one

of the remaining officers or  another Society member to fill the position until the next election.

If the position of president becomes vacant, the vice president will succeed to that office. If the vice president is unable to do so, the committee shall appoint an ‘acting president’ and an election shall be held, as soon as possible for the office of president.

ARTICLE VI: Meetings

In the event of a general meeting being held, there must be a quorum consisting of at least four members, including two officers. Committee business may be conducted by telephone or electronic mail.


The Society shall be run as a non-profit making society, and the fees set accordingly.

The necessary money shall be raised through:

Subscription fees from members and BVS advertisers

Gifts and bequests

Subsidies and grants from public and private institutions

Other receipts (e.g. loan fee for items)

Money raised is to be used for:

 DELETE ( all now done electronically) The production of the BVS publication, newsletters, correspondance, postage and packaging to members.

A proportion to be sent to the International Viola Society. The percentage is set by the IVS.

Maintaining the BVS archives

Organisation costs of any viola events (e.g. Congresses, conventions, concerts, workshops, socials) or awards (e.g. certificates, plaques)

BVS representation at international viola events

Should a profit occur, it can only be used for the purposes above.

Financial Records:

All funds of the Society shall be paid to the treasurer, who shall keep proper records of the financial transactions of the Society, and shall pay into such bank or trust company as the committee may from time to time decide, all monies that he or she receives.

All accounts for payment shall be passed by the officers.

All cheques or withdrawal warrants shall be signed by the treasurer or president.

Personal Pecuniary Benefit:

No member of the Society or any person associated with a member shall participate in or materially influence any decision made by the Society in respect of the payment to or on behalf of that member or associated person of any income, benefit, or advantage whatsoever.

Any such income paid shall be reasonable and relative to that which would be paid in arms-length transaction (being the open market value).  The provisions and effect of the clause shall not be removed from this document, and shall be included and implied into any document replacing it.

ARTICLE VIII: Dissolution of the BVS

If the Society is dissolved of its own accord or by an outside authority, the committee will determine the distribution of the Society’s assets to appropriate non-profit organisations (e.g. the IVS). This clause may not be altered.

ARTICLE IX: Alteration of the Constitution

This Constitution may at any time be repealed or altered, or other clauses added, provided that any member desiring an alteration shall give notice in writing to the secretary. Such proposed alteration shall be circulated by the secretary via the BVS publication or by mail to all financial members for comment and vote before being added to the Constitution. A simple majority vote is required for any changes to the Constitution. In the case of a tie vote, the officers will decide to hold another vote for all financial members or give the president a deciding vote.

No addition or alteration or recession of the rules shall be approved if it affects the personal benefit clause in in ARTICLE VII or the rule relating to dissolution contained in ARTICLE VIII.

Financial Report 2014-2015

AGM: Birmingham Conservatoire, 18th June 2015

Our recruitment continues to grow steadily. Our numbers were much boosted by the requirement that all competitors in the 2014 Cecil Aronowitz Viola Competition, whether from Britain or abroad, become members of the Society for the year. Extracting subscriptions from around the world was an interesting challenge, and Sue wrote many delightful, at times cajoling, at times threatening, letters before our goal was in essence achieved!  In future years we will simplify the process by including the BVS subscription in the entry fee for the competition.

Our income for the year 1st April 2014 – 31st March 2015 was £1772.43 and our expenditure £1028.65, leaving a net gain of £743.78. This sum and our credit from previous years gave us total assets on 31st March 2015 of £1150.15. Our main expenditure of the year was on technical matters in connection with the website (£319.18), sundries such as pencils and mugs to sell at the Cecil Aronowitz Competition as well as travel expenses for lecturers at this event and for Committee members coming to Birmingham to attend meetings.

There has been much discussion about the Society’s intention to aim for charitable status, enabling us to reclaim Gift Aid from the subscriptions of those taxpaying members willing and eligible to fill up the appropriate forms. Charitable status is normally granted by the Charity Commission to societies with a minimum balance of £5,000. HMRC are, however, able to use their discretion to grant Gift Aid status to smaller charities. We could apply, but the complexity of filing Tax Returns for a charity may require professional help, wiping out any gains we may achieve. Moreover the Revenue, having sunk their teeth into us, are unlikely ever to leave us in peace in the future! It seems risky to embark on this course while we remain a small, though dedicated, charitable Society with an income currently of little significance to HMRC. Discussions are, however, ongoing within the Committee.

The new system of paying the annual subscription via a PayPal button on our website seems to be bedding down nicely. We are hopeful that the inevitable teething problems have now been ironed out. This method replaces our old subscription year running from September to August, with those joining mid-year paying pro rata in accordance with the remaining months. We have also abandoned the old student concession rate of £10 and, instead, reduced the annual subscription for all from £15 down to £12. It is important to set the subscription at a price everyone can afford, and the Society’s modest income is not a problem as long as the magnificent, voluntary support of Committee members and others, which is such a strong feature of our organisation, is maintained. I am confident the BVS will continue to prosper.


April 1st 2014 to March 31st 2015

INCOME                                 £

156 PayPal subs                    £1564

14 HSBC subs                        £154

Miscellaneous                       £140.97

TOTAL                                    £1858.97

LESS PayPal fees                                           £86.54


TOTAL INCOME                       £1772.43



PayPal payments                       £477.18

HSBC cheques paid                   £551.47


TOTAL EXPENDITURE          £1028.65


INCOME LESS EXPENDITURE                 £743.78

ADD PayPal balance at 31/3/14                  £406.37


BVS ASSETS at 31/3/15      £1150.15

(comprising PayPal £738.58, HSBC cheque a/c £109.56 and HSBC savings a/c £302.01)


Michael Freyhan

Treasurer, BVS

25th May 2015

Annual Report 2014 – 2015

British Viola Society Annual General Meeting: 18 June 2015


The British Viola Society was established in October 2012 and replaced the English Viola Society, founded by John White and Dr Louise Lansdown in 2007.  John White, who sadly died in December 2013, at the age of 75, enthusiastically supported the Society in its transition to the British Viola Society in 2012 and remained our Honorary President up to his death.  The loss of John has left an unbridgeable chasm in the world of viola playing, teaching and research.

Our Constitution

The British Viola Society (BVS) was formally constituted in 2012, superseding the English Viola Society.  It is affiliated to the International Viola Society but operates as an independent Society with its own rules and regulations.  The Constitution states that the primary aim of the BVS, as a nonprofit organisation, is the promotion of viola performance and research.

During 2014-15 we considered the possibility of changing the Constitution, to become a formal Charity. This would  open up new opportunities, in particular to apply to HMRC for ‘Gift Aid’ and reclaim the tax back on UK membership subscriptions.  After looking into this in more detail, it was agreed that it would create a considerable amount of extra work for the volunteer Committee, for limited gain. When the Society’s membership increases, this will be reviewed.

Some minor changes to the Constitution are recommended to meet the Society’s current operation.

Review of Activities during 2014-2015

Viola Excellence

It was a great pleasure in 2014 for the Society to collaborate with Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham City University in the very first Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition.

The semi-finals and final rounds took place at Birmingham Conservatoire from 24-26 October 2014. Dedicated to Cecil Aronowitz, the South African violist and long-term collaborator with Benjamin Britten, the three-day event was open to players under the age of 21 and saw 13 semi-finalists competing from countries including Switzerland, South Korea, Lithuania, China and Germany. Timothy Ridout, a 19-year-old violist and student from the Royal Academy of Music was the winner of the Competition and an element of his prize covered his expenses to come to Porto and give a recital as part of the 42nd International Viola Congress.

It was a requirement of entry to the competition that the 57 initial entrants had to be members of the British Viola Society.  This helped raise the profile of the Society and also provided funds to support extra events over the weekend, including an evening of reminiscences in celebration of the life of Cecil Aronowitz.

The second Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition will take place in 2017.

Viola Repertoire

The Society recognises the importance of continuing the great legacy left by celebrated British violists such as Lionel Tertis, William Primrose and Cecil Aronowitz both in terms of promoting and cherishing the current viola repertoire and also ensuring its continuing growth.

Responding to the 42nd International Viola Congress’ theme of “Performing for the Future of Music” members of the Society gave a concert featuring six works for viola/viola ensemble by British composers, including three works commissioned especially for the congress by BVS members Simon Rowland-Jones and Robin Ireland and a young UK composer, Leon Haxby.

This is the start of an exciting project to commission new Viola music.

Raising the profile of the Viola

The Society promotes master classes, recitals and open days, accessible to players at all levels.  We publish an annual BVS Journal featuring new research and innovations, such as the electric viola.

Viola Playing Days, for example those organised by the BVS in Huddersfield, and the annual ‘Violarama’ in Cardiff, offer opportunities for violists of all abilities to come together in ensembles.  It is a privilege to have the support of the Absolute Zero Quartet, which offers a vast range of repertoire arranged for viola ensembles and provides a wealth of resources for these events.

We have been delighted to have two new pieces specially composed for the BVS and premiered at the BVS’s Viola Days, in Huddersfield.  In June 2014 composer, Nick Williams, from the University of Huddersfield, directed the premiere performance of ‘Cropper Rounds’ his new work for viola ensemble. Composed specially for the day this four-part viola ensemble piece is ‘a series of canons based on a West Yorkshire luddite song’.

A viola ensemble piece in four parts, ‘Violas!‘ was specially composed for the Viola Day on 16th November 2014 by Honorary BVS Member, Duncan Druce, composer and Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield. Duncan conducted this premiere, which was inspired by Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.

BVS professionals provide development days, and courses for keen amateurs and Conservatoire level students run throughout the year.  For example Martin Outram (BVS Vice-President) directs an annual Viola Summer School at Benslow Music for Diploma level students; the music charity ‘Pro Corda’ hosts an annual Viola week for Conservatoire level students; Robin Ireland and Martin Outram both direct regular Viola Workshop Days to develop the skills of amateur players.


Through the BVS website, FaceBook and Twitter we engage with a wide audience. Our BVS FaceBook group currently has over 750 members and our Twitter feeds are read widely.  It is a pleasure to find so many interested violists from across the country keen to get involved and help us with our viola mission.

As a benefit of BVS membership our members receive a monthly e-newsletter, in which we promote and advertise violistic events and news of interest to our members. Our newsletter was launched in October 2013 and has reached its 20th issue (March 2015). We are delighted to feature articles from students, professional players and luthiers as well as reviews of viola events, concert news and member adverts.

Membership at 31st March 2015

  1. Full members: 121
  2. Honorary Members: 11

Our Committee 2014-2015

Louise Lansdown – President

Martin Outram – Vice-President

Sue Douglas – Secretary

Michael Freyhan – Treasurer

Janet Pazio (Executive Secretary – Membership)

Ben Lawrence (Executive Secretary – Facebook)

Laura Sinnerton (Executive Secretary )

Dr Louise Lansdown

BVS President

May 2015






Viola Day with Martin Outram. Sunday 26th April 2015

Dorchester-on-Thames is a picture-postcard village in Oxfordshire and on Sunday 26 April its lovely village hall was the venue for a viola playing day coached by Martin Outram, whom many of us know as the superb violist in the Maggini quartet. Seventeen players of varying standards and experience had a splendid day with a mixture of group sessions and masterclasses for which there were a good number of brave volunteers. Pieces included movements from the Telemann concerto in G, sonatas by Brahms and Rebecca Clarke (a work that was a revelation to those of us who didn’t know it), a Kalliwoda Nocturne and the Schubert Arpeggione sonata.

Unaccompanied works included Bach and a selection of quartet ‘naughty bits’. An unorthodox fingering involving the thumb provoked some giggling in the audience.

Martin covered many technical points including stance and ‘choreography’ of playing in general, left hand preparation for shifts, finger exercises for the right hand and remembering to use the lower half of the bow! As noted by a ‘late beginner,’ much of the coaching related to aspects fundamental to good playing, but which we need to be reminded of.

The group sessions included some ‘musical chairs’ swapping parts so we all got the chance to play in the treble clef. The works included a very clever piece for 4 violas by Sally Beamish in which we are invited to spot the quotes from famous viola works!

We ended the day with a flourish, playing Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite No 1. After a huge vote of thanks to Martin, we left with the only unsolved question of the day being ‘what do you call a group of viola players?’

The workshop is part of a series organised by including in 2015 cello with Nick Roberts and string orchestra with Robert Max.

Jennifer Hay

5 May 2015

Viola Workshop with Robin Ireland: 25th April 2015

Spring sunshine brought an extra warm welcome to the twelve viola players who gathered at Ravenfield near Rotherham in South Yorkshire for a full day of viola playing, performance and technical help, tutored by Robin Ireland and hosted by Natalie Wing.

Robin directed the group in a variety of ensemble music, which included viola arrangements of Telemann’s Concerto in G for two violas and Mendelssohn’s Song without Words, op. 102 no. 3. However, the main focus for the ensemble work was an exploration of two chaconnes arranged for viola ensemble, starting with a three-part Chaconne by Handel arranged by Ross Cohen. This was followed by a detailed study of the first section of J. S. Bach’s Chaconne in a transformation for four violas by Ichiro Nodaἳra.  The next section will be studied at the autumn workshop. To listen to a viola quartet performing this work click:

The masterclass featured Rita Everett playing Bruch’s Romance, with piano accompaniment by Roger Hoyle. Robin’s technical and performance advice was of interest to both performer and audience.
This was followed by an indulgent session: time to sit back and enjoy some of the most wonderful viola passages within the quartet repertoire, ranging from Mozart’s Quintet in C through Brahms’ 3rd Quartet, Smetana’s 1st Quartet, Janacek’s and Vaughan Williams’ 2nd Quartets, and concluding with Brahms’ 1st Sextet.  Details of the recordings are in the footnote below.

After lunch the chamber music theme was developed in a group session, where Robin, leading the players through a viola quartet version of Bach’s chorale BWV 60 ‘Es ist genug’, gave helpful tips on how to improve ensemble playing through leadership gestures and on ways to achieve better coordination with the others in the group.

To end the day, we were given a recital by Robin. Demonstrating the rich tone of his Amati, he played viola transcriptions of two movements from Bach’s Partita in E and two from the Sonata in C .  Pianist Jack Littlewood then joined Robin for Rebecca Clarke’s Passacaglia for viola and piano. This was followed by Robin performing his own composition for solo viola, Passacaglia ‘Stone Psalms’,  inspired by a soulful poem based on the rocks and stones of Portland by Sheffield-based poet Liz Barrett, and the recital concluded with the wonderful slow movement of Brahms’ Sonata in F minor for viola and piano.

Foot notes: references to featured recordings

Mozart Quintet in C K515

  • Orlando Quartet: John Harding (violin I); Heinz Oberdorfer (violin II); Ferdinand Erblich (viola); Stefan Metz (cello); with Nobuko Imai (viola). Rec. 11-13 December 1989, Oud Katholieke Kerk, Delft, The Netherlands.
  • Hausmusic, London. Period instrument recording from 2005 on the Verity label with Monica Huggett and Pavlo Beznosiuk (violins), Roger Chase and Simon Whistler (violas) and Richard Lester (cello).

Brahms Quartet No. 3 in Bb major Op. 67. Amadeus Quartet, viola – Peter Schidlof, 1960. Deutsche Grammophon.

Smetana Quartet No. 1 in E minor ‘From My Life’. The Lindsays on the ASV label, 1991. Viola – Robin Ireland

Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 2 ‘Intimate Letters’ (1928)  Stamitz Quartet (Bohuslav Matoušek (violin I), Josef Kekula (violin II), Jan Pěruška (viola); Vladimir Leixner (cello)
rec. Oct 1988-1990. Prague, DDD. BRILLIANT CLASSICS 6473

Vaughan Williams String Quartet No. 2.  Maggini Quartet, released May 15, 2001 on the Naxos label.

Brahms String Sextet in B flat Op. 18. The Lindsays (viola, Robin Ireland) joined by Paul Watkins (cello) and Louise Williams (viola). ASV label 2004.


Natalie Wing and Sue Douglas

29th April 2015

New Technologies and Software Apps for String Instruments’ Performance Research

This new research is led by Dr Tobias Grosshauser of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH).
Below is his abstract summarizing the project.

‘In a new research project “New Technologies and Software Apps for String Instruments’ Performance Research – from Lab to Classroom” a consortium of Birmingham Conservatoire and ETH Zurich use several new and further developed sensor setups for capturing specific parameters in stringed instrument playing.
The setups consist beside others of several sensor modules like 10 DOF IMUs*, force sensors, sensor matrix foils and a data recording and visualization app with server connectivity. The main foci in this setup are on measuring chin pressure with a matrix foil on the chin rest, head ori- entation, bow position, bow rotation and string level, further string-to-bow angle, overall bow hair tension and right hand force applied on the bow while playing. The sensors are small and lightweight to allow simple fixation and unhindered playing. In the evaluation process we investigated measurement accuracy, different visualizations and usability of the setup in laboratory situations and in classroom teaching. The body posture and chin experiments proved the daily usability of the setup in a long term, still ongoing project.
The results of the first experiments show, that the setup is precise enough for most applications in teaching and practicing scenarios.’
*DOF IMU = Degrees of Freedom inertial-measurement-unit