Hi I’m Caroline! I hold the Co-Leader position at Manchester Camerata and I’m the Leader of chamber orchestra Sinfonia Cymru. I’m the first violinist of the award-winning Zelkova Quartet and I enjoy a regular duo partnership with Camerata’s esteemed principal cellist (and my good friend) Hannah Roberts. I studied at Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music with Professor Wen Zhou Li and I’m now developing my own pedagogical career as a violin tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
As an avid chamber musician I’m passionate about my involvement with the Zelkova Quartet, winners of the 2017 St Martin’s Chamber Music Competition and the 2014 Royal Overseas League Elias Fawcett Award for Outstanding Chamber Ensemble. In 2018 we were Hattori Foundation Senior Award winners and were chosen by the Concordia Foundation to become selected artists.
The quartet has featured numerous times on BBC Radio 3 and we will record our debut CD this summer with Stone Records. The other members include my two brothers Ed and Jonathan, and Alex Mitchell as an honorary Pether on viola!
I have a particular fondness for the Australian comedy violin duo TwoSetViolin and I love playing the violin at my church on Sundays.
I’ve been inspired by the bravery of Camerata colleagues when sharing in this space so I’ve challenged myself to dig a little deeper and embrace vulnerability. It’s what we strive for in our art so why not here.?
When I first starting working and trialling with Camerata I was a closeted gay Christian. It’s hard to explain to a mostly liberal arts world how hard it is to accept such a thing when you are part a church family that tells you these two things cannot co-exist. It’s very lonely. I know my wonderfully accepting and loving atheist parents were deeply saddened when I finally shared with them the struggle I’d imposed upon myself. Church friends encouraged me to ‘pray the gay away’. Musician friends encouraged me to give up on Christianity. But these two things were the very core of my being. It felt like a puzzle that was impossible to solve. My one saving grace was that playing my violin was a wonderful distraction and gave me much-needed periods of respite. Sometimes my inability to multitask is not a blessing, my wife can certainly testify to that. Whilst driving I often don’t hear a word she says. But during that time my one-track mind meant that when I was playing the violin all I was thinking about was the music. For brief moments I was happy and enjoying myself. But there was always a lid on that joy.
A Bible verse that carried me through that time and is still so important to me now is when Jesus says in John 10 ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ This is God’s loving wish for me, for everyone. My nearest and dearest have all said that when I did finally come out that something special happened to my violin playing. Somehow freeing myself to embrace the true fullness of love enabled me to reach a new fullness of expression in my music-making. My work with Manchester Camerata has been a constant throughout that journey and with each new project I see my cup getting fuller and fuller. No lids in sight!
I loved the violin when I was struggling. I love it even more now that my soul is light. Is that too cheesy? I”m afraid I won’t apologise! I’ll finish with some words from the film director Patty Jenkins who articulates this so beautifully:
‘Did you say cheesy? Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world. I’m tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It’s been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that’s what the kids like. We have to do the real stories now. The world is in crisis. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind. I believe in it. It’s terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department. Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world.’