In their tenth anniversary year, the Villiers Quartet are pleased to announce the arrival of two new members – Katie Stillman and Leo Melvin.
Canadian violinist Katie Stillman has an extensive career as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral principal. Last season, she directed and performed as a soloist with Manchester Camerata and London Concertante as well as guest leading Opera North’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Katie was a founding member of the Barbirolli Quartet which performed extensively throughout Europe including at festivals in Aix-en-Provence, Verbier and Aldeburgh. She is Associate Leader of Manchester Camerata and a member of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Katie teaches violin and chamber music at Chetham’s School of Music, pedagogy at the Royal Northern College of Music and plays regularly in concerts for children in the acclaimed series Bach to Baby.
Katie comments “Joining a quartet during lockdown has been a completely new experience. It has all been about finding ways to work creatively without performances. We have become adept at online meetings, composition workshops with high school students online and intensive learning of string quartets through zoom! Not quite what I would have imagined for 2020, but it has been an unbelievable experience. I am looking forward to the New Year with the Villiers, full of newly commissioned music especially for us, Beethoven’s Op.135 quartet and a symposium on the Diversity in String Quartets. Bring on 2021!”
London-born cellist Leo Melvin graduated with honours from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he studied on full scholarship, with Richard Lester. Leo also studied in Hamburg, Germany with professors Kleif Carnarius, Claudio Bohorquez and Troels Svane. He has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra, given solo and chamber recitals across the UK, and he also teaches cello and piano in London.
Leo has performed several Concerti (including Dvorak, Schumann, Haydn D and Brahms Double) with various orchestras such as Sinfonia D’Amici and Kings Sinfonietta and recorded a solo cello track for Howard Goodall’s CD release ‘Enchanted Voices.’ In October 2013, Leo was invited to play with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe on their Academy Program and has performed with the orchestra in Dijon.
Leo comments “I am really honoured and hugely excited to join the Villiers Quartet. I have worked for some years now as an orchestral musician and a teacher, but all the while I was playing chamber music with friends and colleagues and it was always my favourite thing to do. I have dreamed of being in a professional chamber group for some ten years now, and despite finally achieving my goal at such a difficult time for professional music-making I am still extremely excited and feel so privileged to work on and perform such great music with such wonderful musicians as the members of the Villiers Quartet. In short, I’m ecstatic to be here and can’t wait to get to work!”
The Villiers Quartet bids farewell to their two founding members, James Dickenson and Nick Stringfellow, who have departed the VQ to pursue other projects. James and Nick helped to define the Villiers Quartet as a leading force for British chamber music, bringing many world premieres and recordings to light. The Villiers Quartet cherishes their outstanding and dedicated membership from the last nine years.
About the Villiers Quartet
Katie Stillman, violin I; Tamaki Higashi, violin II; Carmen Flores, viola; Leo Melvin, cello
With the past year causing unprecedented global change, the Villiers Quartet enter 2021 with new members to begin the next chapter of the VQ’s musical journey. Violinist Katie Stillman and cellist Leo Melvin joined during the pandemic, and the Villiers Quartet initiated new digitally based projects to reflect the ever-changing landscape of chamber music in the UK. These projects include VQ Discovery: Beethoven Edition, an online course on Beethoven’s quartets for students and amateur musicians in lockdown; VQ Create, an online mentorship programme for secondary pupils to compose new music for string quartet; and From Home: VQ Commissions, the VQ’s project to commission new works from 6 diverse British composers celebrating the VQ’s 10th Anniversary season after a life-changing year.
Named after Villiers Street in London, the Villiers Quartet encompasses the grand and iconic spirit of the extraordinary music tradition in Britain and has been praised for “exquisite ensemble playing” (Seen & Heard International), and their absolute “commitment and virtuosity” (The Sunday Times). The Villiers Quartet is the Quartet-in-Residence at the Jacqueline Du Pré Music Building at Oxford University.
Hailed as “Champions of British Music” (The Observer), the Villiers Quartet has become one of the most recognised quartets in the UK for the performance of British music. The VQ has released acclaimed recordings of works by Elgar, Delius, Peter Racine Fricker, William Sterndale Bennett, David Matthews, and most recently music by William Alwyn and Kuljit Bhamra, MBE. In 2020 they gave the world premiere of the complete 1888 Delius string quartet, featuring movements in their original versions uncovered by Professor Daniel Grimley from Oxford University.
The Villiers Quartet has been broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from the Leamington International Quartet Series, and on NPO Radio 4 live from the Concertgebouw. The VQ has been featured on BBC’s In Tune and also BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show with pianist Alexis Ffrench and double bassist Leon Bosch. The VQ was the featured quartet on the score to the BBC film Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
The Villiers Quartet has presented masterclasses in the UK and abroad at Oxford University, Duke University, Dartmouth College, University of Nottingham, Syracuse University, Cal State LA, Jacksonville University, and Indiana University South Bend. ambassadors for British chamber music, the VQ has given premieres and performances of music by British composers including Anthony Payne, Alexander Goehr, Martyn Harry, David Matthews, and Elizabeth Kelly.
The broad curiosity of the Villiers Quartet and its passion for teaching and performing have made the VQ a valuable resource for students and audiences alike. Inspiration comes from the heart of the Villiers Quartet’s philosophy: to believe in the art of string quartet.