The Orchestra

About Devon Baroque

In 1999 a group of professional string players invited Margaret Faultless to Devon to direct a workshop devoted to Baroque performance style. Devon Baroque was formed as the result and is now a highly respected chamber orchestra, performing on period instruments, with a reputation for exuberant and polished performances of Baroque repertoire. It matches scholarship with a strong musical personality, bringing music alive to contemporary audiences.

Devon Baroque, now an important addition to the artistic landscape of the South West, has given over 120 concerts in cathedrals, churches, concert halls and private venues. It has worked with international soloists such as Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance and Sebastian Comberti and helps to promote young musicians at the start of their careers. Devon Baroque also collaborates with vocal ensembles and choirs.

In addition to performing the more well-known repertoire, Devon Baroque aims to introduce less familiar and rarely heard music to our audiences.

Persephone Gibbs

Persephone Gibbs

When Persephone first burst onto the baroque music scene Time Out hailed her as ‘a rising star of the baroque violin.’ Today we see her star shining brilliantly in a glittering musical career. But baroque music wasn’t her starting point. En route she gained an English degree at Yale and a law degree at Columbia. She improvised with a rock band and learnt to dance the tango. She studied violin at the Juilliard with Dorothy DeLay before leaving the USA and coming to London to study with David Takeno and Rachel Podger at the Guildhall School of Music, where she won prizes for chamber music and solo Bach performance.

Persephone joined Devon Baroque as Artistic Director in 2016 and leads the orchestra with style and panache, to critical acclaim. She is a member of The Academy of Ancient Music where she is a guest leader, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Brandenburg Baroque Soloists, Instruments of Time and Truth and the Gabrielli Consort. She co-founded the baroque chamber group, Gut Instinct, which explores music for two or three violins and continuo and is a frequent player with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.

Regular Devon Baroque concert goers will recognise her talent as a communicator when she introduces a piece of music. And journalist Catherine Flutsch of Quaere Living magazine described her as ‘a great public speaker – warm, funny and knowledgeable, a true renaissance woman.’

In her spare time she augments her dedication to historically informed music by plying her friends with historically informed cocktails.

Andrew Wilson-Dickson

Andrew Wilson-Dickson

Andrew Wilson-Dickson is a composer, keyboard-player and conductor (as well as author, tuba player and teacher). During his four years at Cambridge University he gained his music degree with first-class honours, followed by a high-level MA. He then went on to gain a D.Phil. in Composition at the University of York. During this time (late 60s) he studied piano with John Lill and organ with Nicholas Danby and Francis Jackson, at the same time holding the post of organ scholar at York Minster.

After some years as Lecturer at Leicester University, he moved to Wales and the Welsh College of Music and Drama (1984). Through this period he composed music, from chamber pieces through operas and orchestral scores. He has written for many performers and groups (see Wikipedia for more detail).

At the same time Andrew developed a passion for period music and its differences in technique and musical taste, then and now. This has not only informed his teaching but made him a valued continuo player on early keyboards. Alongside this, his composing has broadened into writing for period instruments, from chamber music (for viols and early strings) to more substantial pieces: Concerto Grosso (Greenhouse Effect) (2005) and concertos for recorder (2011), harpsichord (2012) and baroque flute (2008).

Andrew writes liturgical music for the Christian Church in a style vocally accessible to congregations while attempting to avoid adherence to a particular tradition. He has created responsorial settings to nearly 40 psalms, alongside hymns, cantatas and musicals. He has written ‘The Story of Christian Music’ (Oxford, 1992) which has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Gabriel Amherst

Gabriel Amherst, Devon Baroque’s Principal Cellist

Given that she was born and bred in Dartington, you might say that Gabriel Amherst was destined to play for Devon Baroque. She has a top-notch musical pedigree too, her father, Nigel Amherst being a leading member of the teaching faculty at Dartington College of Arts during its golden age in the 1960’s and 70’s. Both her parents and her brother were double bass players.

Gabriel learned the cello from the age of seven with Dulce Haigh Marshall and plays the modern cello as well as her baroque instrument. She was a leading light in her school orchestra and played with the Cornwall Youth Orchestra before reading music at Somerville College, Oxford and then to a post graduate degree at the Royal College of Music. Her two tutors there read from the top line of Who’s Who in classical cello training. Anna Shuttleworth (also taught by Dulce Haigh Marshall and who Vaughan Williams referred to as ‘The Swellist Cellist’) and Amaryllis Fleming, a pioneer of performing with the baroque cello and teaching its specialist techniques.

Having moved to Oxford Gabriel was a co-founder of the Oxford based ensemble, Instruments of Time & Truth and as well as her concert commitments she also teaches at New College School.

Gabriel is described by colleagues as someone who is totally committed to the music – a musician’s musician. She retains her ties with Dartington and has been a leading member of Devon Baroque since 2014.

When we spoke on the phone she sounded cautious. “There’s nothing interesting about me she said, “so I don’t know what you’re going to write about”. I think I’ve written about a highly talented musician, greatly admired by her friends and colleagues in the orchestra and who, when it comes to a musical life, is more than just a bit interesting.

Jane Norman

Jane Norman, Violinist, Viola Player and then some.

Sometimes when you ask someone a question they’re not expecting you can get a surprising answer. When I asked Jane what was in her record collection when she was a teenager she said Genesis, Bach and Fleetwood Mac (in that order) before thinking about it and adding Brahms, Shostakovich, Dvorak and Led Zeppelin. So, a well-rounded musical background from a young age. And that’s hardly surprising. Her Dad was a jazz bass player, her mother a singer and both parents encouraged her natural love of music.

When she was eight Jane took her first steps with the violin at the March Music Centre on the Isle of Ely, an oasis in the otherwise musical desert of the Fens. She quickly grew to love Purcell and Bach and later wanted to be an architect, applying to Durham to read maths and music. But music got the upper hand and she was accepted by the Guildhall to study violin and piano but later switched from piano to baroque viola under the guidance of Annette Isserlis, one of the founders of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Today Jane plays with several ensembles besides Devon Baroque, including the St James’s Baroque Players, the King’s Consort and the Feinstein Ensemble, spreading her time equally between violin and viola.

But there’s much more to Jane than music. She’s an accomplished watercolourist, she volunteers in her local community Arts Café and she grows wonderful vegetables. She has been known to go paragliding and is something of a biker chick, albeit clinging on behind her husband on his Kawasaki. Oh, and her smile can light up the darkest corner of Dartington Hall on a wet Sunday.

Musician, painter, volunteer and more. When Bob Dylan wrote, ‘She’s got everything she needs, she’s an artist, she don’t look back,’ could he have been writing about Jane?

Catherine Field

Catherine Field

“My Dad took me to his school’s production of Dido & Aeneas. He was Head of Music. I fell asleep and when I woke up I knew this was the music I wanted to play. I was only four years old.”

Thus the beginning of Catherine Field’s musical life, a life and career that has encompassed orchestras large and small, ensembles, youth groups and gigs in night clubs and festivals.

Although she dreamed of being a violinist at that very early age it was another four years before she began to take lessons. She was lucky. She had great support from her family and her grandparents ran a B&B where musicians were particularly welcome. Soon her world began to fill with music and musicians. She played in the school orchestra and began to gig with a folk band. She started composing and sent in a Christmas Carol for a BBC competition.

Next stop the Royal Academy of Music where she studied under Derek Collier, leader of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. At that time there was no baroque department at the Royal Academy but one day Roger Norrington arrived, known for his authority on historic performance of baroque music, and introduced her to the work of Rameau and she found herself thrown into a performance of some of the trickiest works in the baroque canon.

And today Catherine is immersing herself in a new direction. She has always been active in promoting the importance of music as part of the life of local communities and now she is taking that a step further, reading for a Master’s in Arts & Place where students develop a practical and theoretical understanding of their role as an artist in relation to place, be it urban, nature or landscape. You may have seen her work in the recent Arts & Place exhibition at Dartington in January.

It started with the dream of a four-year old and, for Catherine today, the dream of music as part of community and society endures.

Sharon Lindo

Sharon Lindo, Multi-Instrumentalist Extraordinaire

We know her as Devon Baroque’s principal of the second violins. The Globe Theatre knows her as a player of multiple instruments that Shakespeare would recognise. The Devizes Town Band knows her as their musical director. Be it baroque, dance music, folk, jazz, film or theatre, Sharon Lindo is a musical tour de force.

When I talked to Sharon about her musical life I little expected that it would be difficult to keep track of the instruments she plays. There’s a clutch of medieval wind and strings including the medieval fiddle, rebec, recorders, shawms, crumhorns and bagpipes. There’s renaissance violins and viols and of course, the baroque violin. She sings too and oh, I nearly forgot, she plays the trombone.

Sharon comes from a musical family and growing up there were lots of family concerts. She studied at the Royal College of Music and, like her parents, she went to The Guildhall School of Music & Drama and began to specialise in the baroque violin which she studied under Catherine Mackintosh. She admits to being frightened of the baroque violin at first but that clearly didn’t last long and she began to be in demand for a wide variety of music.

She loves playing dance music, be it for ceilidhs, a Jane Austin period ball or a Shakespeare play and it is her versatility that led her to be in demand for the Globe Theatre and its sister stage, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. She’s been involved in at least 21 productions, some as musical director. With the Globe she has toured in the USA, Italy and Japan. Sharon’s no stranger to radio and TV either. It’s a delight that her performance playing Jimi Hendrix’ ‘Purple Haze’ on the rebec for BBC4’s ‘The Medieval Mind’ can still be found on YouTube. Click Here

As well as being in great demand as a player, Sharon teaches violin for pupils at her local school and in 2012 became Musical Director of the Devizes Town Band. She plays Big Band music with The Swing Birds, something a little more romantic with the Tivoli Café Band and lots of folk and traditional music.

In the very early days of Devon Baroque, Maggie Faultless asked her to meet and take a workshop with the newly-formed orchestra and the rest is history. When I asked her to let me write this profile she wrote back, “I’m not sure how interesting they’ll find me.” Very, Sharon. Very.

Devon Baroque

Rehearsals

Header & Middle Photograph by Johnny Fenn