About the Quartet

The Quartet playing at Bazouges-sur-le-Loir in 1999

Formed in 1990, the Quartet takes its name from Colin Grainger, the talented violin maker whose instrument is played by CPK Smithies. Its mission is to bring the experience of live quartet music to people who would be otherwise unlikely to experience it first-hand.

Its membership has changed only gradually over the years; and the stability and loyalty of our members is in large part the legacy of our founder 'cellist, Peter Darbyshire (pictured above in 1999). For further details, see our Past Members page.

One unusual early experiment was a series of concerts at the Air Balloon pub in Portsmouth, which attracted the interest of the local press. Although we mostly played selections of our lighter works, on one occasion a daring (query drunk) customer requested the Brahms c minor string quartet. In a moment of madness, we agreed to play the first movement and to our surprise it was an amazing success: the entire pub was spellbound and there was prolonged applause afterwards. It had perhaps the best reception of anything we played in that series.

We subsequently ventured into avant-garde territory for an extended work by a living composer – as detailed in the press article. This concluded our Portsmouth series. We have not recently visited Portsmouth, but believe the pub was demolished shortly afterwards.

The Quartet also gives more conventional recitals, both in the south of England and in the north of France, where it has toured regularly for over a decade. For example, in 1999 the quartet performed a concert of Haydn and Beethoven at Bazouges-sur-le-Loir and Baracé in Anjou, and in Brest, Bretagne. In 2009 it gave concerts in Valognes and Cerisy-la-Salle, Normandie.

Back in England, its performances of Haydn's Seven Last Words have become a regular feature at the priory of S. Dominic at Sway. In 2005 the Quartet became a Quintet in order to give a highly successful recital in Wimborne, featuring the Mozart Quintet in C and the second Brahms Quintet (in G, op. 111). In 2006, the Quartet grew into an even more prodigious Sextet in order to play works by Dvořák and Brahms.

Meanwhile, throughout the year, the Quartet performs at many dinner, wedding and other social functions in London and the south of England.