Our History / Past players

The Quartet at Corsley in 1991

At the Royal Oak, Corsley in (see report)


The nucleus of the quartet were members of the Chilworth Quartet, whose original members were Pearl Mace MBE, CPK Smithies, John Hamshare and Peter Darbyshire. In 1986, John Hamshare left the area, CPKS moved on to viola and John Watkins shared the leadership role with Pearl.

The Nineties

By 1990, the three upper strings were all playing instruments by Colin Grainger. After a period of rather rapid turnover among the violins, Roy Theaker (then working for his A levels!) joined in 1990 and in 1991 Nicholas Mettyear joined us as second violin for nearly a decade. At this time, the quartet was operating in the Portsmouth/Southampton area and for a while its rehearsals were kindly hosted by Colin Grainger at his home in Bedhampton. The quartet still had occasional engagements with Pearl Mace.

Further education was soon to rob us of Roy's talents and it was in 1992 that Gill Tolliday took the helm as leader, accompanying the quartet on two visits to France that year. For the remainder of the decade, membership was to remain stable.

The Quartet of the 1990s

In the late 1990s, change of address impelled Nick Mettyear to leave us; although by now our centre of gravity had moved to Bournemouth, our old friend Nuala Land joined us for a very jolly couple of years as regular second violin.

The 2000s

Toward the end of the 2000, Peter Darbyshire's health began to pose problems for his playing: a spinal condition robbed him of sensation in his hands and caused him pain when sitting for any length of time with his instrument. It was a great sadness for all of us when he was compelled to cede his chair to József, who had accompanied us to France on a couple of our visits.

Also, the sheer distances involved made it untenable for Nuala to continue regularly with us; and so it was that in 2000 we welcomed Pip James, and sadly bade Peter farewell in 2001.

Past Players

Roy Theaker

Roy's membership of the Grainger Quartet was brief but memorable. Roy now works in Australia, as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor with the Stonnington Symphony Orchestra.

Peter G Darbyshire (1940-08-15 - 2012-09-08 RIP)

Founder member Peter Darbyshire was the foundation of the quartet from the beginning, in terms both of musical and personal harmony. To play with Peter was an education in the kind of selfless diplomacy necessary to get a small number of determined, sometimes passionate individuals to work together and converge on a common goal without ever falling out with one another.

Peter learned the 'cello at Blackpool on an old Italian instrument given him during his childhood by the local parish priest, and which he played ever after. (He related that when he first received it, it had a fixed ivory peg in place of the modern spike that he had fitted.) Until his retirement, his main job was working in the Lord Chancellor's Department at Winchester Crown Court; but he found plenty of time for orchestral and especially chamber playing, and was a valued teacher of many pupils in the Winchester area.

Always a congenial companion, Peter was invaluable on our many French forays: not only did he have what the French call savoir-faire — he had savoir-vivre as well, and his prodigious practical knowledge of wine was always found to be of value.

Although it is now many years since Peter played with us, his spirit lives on in today's Grainger Quartet.

Christopher Smithies, Gill and Peter in post-concert daze

Post-concert in a garden at Pringé, near Saumur, 2000

Joseph Koos

József Koós

József moved to the UK from his native Hungary in 1957, and studied 'cello with William Pleeth at the Guildhall School of Music, and with Paul Tortelier in Paris. He played with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and, from 1969 to 1994, was principal 'cellist with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Joseph also plays with the Palm Court Theatre Orchestra, the Stromenti String Quartet and several other chamber groups. He frequently coaches for the National Children's Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra.