• Quartet in Residence
  • Philip Gallaway's reflections

Coull string quartet

We have been the Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Warwick since 1977 and have a
wide-ranging role that includes:

  • giving an annual series of concerts at Warwick Arts Centre;

  • acting as ambassadors for the University both here and abroad;

  • generally encouraging musical activity around the campus alongside the University’s Music Centre.

Campus activities encompass chamber music coaching, instrumental lessons, conducting the University’s String Orchestra and collaborating with faculties such as English, Mathematics and Philosophy, an example being a recital and discussion as part of Professor Lydia Goehr’s Visiting Fellowship in January 2011 on the ‘Figure of Four’ in music, painting, literature and poetry. Our ‘Beer and Beethoven’ late night concerts for students are proving popular and we have initiated two scholarships to support talented string players who wish to develop their musical skills whilst studying at the University.

The University has generously supported our commissioning and recording work for many years and our latest project, ‘Beyond the Lyric’, featuring new music by the composer Sally Beamish written in response to the work of the poet Fiona Sampson, is a collaboration that seeks to explore the common language of music and poetry.

Our New Music 20x12 award for the Cultural Olympiad involved working with the University’s Sports Centre for the first time, and assisting them in welcoming teams from across the world as they visited Warwick to take part in the 2012 Olympic Games football tournament.

Philip Gallaway reflects on 30 rewarding years in the post

Coull QuartetThe Coull Quartet was appointed Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Warwick in September 1977. What exactly does being Quartet-in-Residence involve? - A question we are frequently asked, and one to which we are able to provide a well-rehearsed answer, but it is more difficult to explain the concept behind this rare relationship between a leading academic institution and a self-contained musical ensemble.
Whilst the Quartet’s role at the University has changed slightly since our appointment in 1977, we continue to give an annual series of concerts at Warwick Arts Centre (that’s around 170 concerts in all!). We also teach many promising string players and chamber ensembles and coach, direct and often play in the various University orchestras.

But one of the most rewarding aspects of being ‘Quartet-in-Residence’ comes from being truly involved in the life of the University - we enjoy giving other performances around the campus, ranging from informal ‘play-throughs’ for staff and students, to private performances for VIPs and invited guests. One advantage of a string quartet is that it is able to perform in almost any space, and these more intimate occasions can be especially memorable.

We also take our ambassadorial role very seriously and have developed links with a number of educational institutions ranging from primary schools to music colleges both locally and further afield. We enjoy coaching talented schoolchildren at home and abroad and always encourage them to make the University of Warwick their first choice. Warwick has an enviable reputation for recreational music-making and, although there is no academic music department, the standard of performance is often very high. Some of the most exceptional musicians move on to music college after obtaining their degrees at Warwick.

Why are we still at Warwick after over thirty years? I think we feel very much at home in such a positive environment and certainly our enthusiasm for providing encouragement and inspiration to the students remains undiminished, as does our love of performing the unsurpassable (in our view!) string quartet repertoire. We are, of course, extremely indebted to the University of Warwick for their loyal support, which has enabled us to pursue and achieve many of our goals.

We have seen enormous changes over the years, and when we arrived to take over the post from the Fitzwilliam Quartet (in residence from 1974-1977), the Arts Centre’s professional concert series was fairly modest, mainly due to the lack of a suitable concert hall. (The Butterworth Hall opened in 1981). Today, Warwick Arts Centre is an important and successful concert venue, and the Coull Quartet’s series remains the main chamber music ingredient of an exciting and varied programme. We have seen a few changes in the Quartet too: Rose Redgrave (viola) is our newest member, whilst Nicholas Roberts has been with the group for twelve years. Roger Coull and I are founder members of the Quartet, which had been together for three years before being chosen to take up the residency.