About

Quatrapuntal is a flexible music group based on the Isle of Wight, UK. They play original songs and instrumentals with a unique sound which fuses elements from a wide range of influences. The primary element is the various eras of the classical tradition, in particular the baroque style. This is combined with various other elements, notably Portuguese and Neapolitan traditional music, but also influences from film music, musicals, British folk, Brazilian music, some popular songs and even thrash metal!

The core of the group is composer and mandora/Portuguese guitar player Chris Hirst and soprano Polly Green. They sometimes perform as a duo, and sometimes with the full group which includes renowned musicians James Halsey on cello and Andrew Knights on cor anglais. The name of the group is a play on the musical term 'contrapuntal' (meaning parts that weave around each other, which is a strong feature of all of the pieces) and the fact that there are 4 different lines / players in all of the songs.

The unique blend of styles and instruments has been very well received by live audiences, the online community and the press since the group's initial launch in 2019, and continues to go from strength to strength. Click here to read some audience testimonials.

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Chris & Polly on the beautiful Isle of Wight

'I was really glad to see a group of local musicians creating such a unique and inspired sound, bringing together such diverse elements and making them work in such interesting ways' (press review of a concert, August 2019)

'Undoubtedly a virtuoso, Chris played with a natural grace and charisma that allowed plenty of space for Polly’s voice to flourish. And indeed, with a naturally light and versatile voice, Polly took the audience through several different stylistic moods with ease. The pair were naturally communicative with the audience and told several stories of the making of some of their music' (press review of a concert, August 2021)

Background

The Quatrapuntal songs and instrumentals were composed by Chris Hirst over many years, with the earliest dating back to 2001. At the time he was discovering Portuguese music and was inspired by the group Madredeus to write something for similar instruments, which also influenced the original line up of female voice, cello, accordion and classical guitar. He decided to use existing poems rather than write lyrics to combine those art forms, some of the earlier songs are to Portuguese poems, and a trio of songs to poems by Siegfried Sassoon. It wasn't a deliberate intention to incorporate so many different influences into the music, but rather a natural result of Chris's diverse musical background. He was trained as a lutenist so has much experience of baroque music, but has also been involved in many other styles in his performing and teaching career.

Although a couple of these songs had been performed before, it wasn't until 2018 that Chris decided to put a group together to perform and record this material, which by then had amounted to a whole concert or album's worth. The classical guitar didn't work well with the other instruments and Chris wanted to use a lute of some kind, so he had a mandora made in 2018 primarily for this music. Polly Green was a natural choice for the singer as they had previously done concerts of baroque music together, and Chris then looked for instrumentalists. After working with a few people, he came across professional cellist James Halsey who also lives on the Isle of Wight. Chris also decided to change the instrumentation from accordion to cor anglais (a few songs were recorded with melodica as they could not be adapted to the cor anglais). After a few live performances in the summer of 2018 which were very well received, Chris has been concentrating on recording the 15 songs and pieces that will make up the Quatrapuntal album. Professional cor anglais player Andrew Knights was recruited in 2019 to complete the current line up.

Biographies

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Chris Hirst - mandora / Portuguese guitar / melodica

Chris studied the lute with William Carter and later also Nigel North and David Miller, first at Birmingham Conservatoire then at the Guildhall in London. During this time he set up his own chamber group, the Farinelli Ensemble, with whom he toured and did many concerts. Following this Chris was a freelance lutenist for several years, highlights include 2 opera seasons with Musica nel Chiostro in Italy, a series of concerts in Brazil as a soloist, touring with the Uccellino Ensemble in France and many concerts and theatrical productions with groups such as the Parley of Instruments, Fiori Musicali, Barber Opera and Ex Cathedra. Chris also did various TV, radio and other recordings, including a CD of baroque lute duets with David Parsons. Since leaving London, Chris has been very involved in music teaching and composing.

Polly Green - soprano

Polly began her vocal training with Isle of Wight based singing teacher Linda Filby-Borrett from an early age, and went on to be a part of National Youth Choir GB. Aged 17, she earned herself a Scholarship to study at Chetham's School of Music. She has sung at a variety of prestigious venues such as Bridgewater Hall and Stoller Hall, as well as under renowned conductors such as John Rutter and Paul McCreesh, as well as featuring on BBC Radio 3, and on BBC TV. She has also performed alongside Blake and King’s Singers, amongst numerous others. Polly is now on the second year of her study at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance in London, studying with Jon Christos.

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James Halsey - cello

Whilst still a senior student at the R.C.M. in the early 1980’s, James joined the Auriol String Quartet and was straightaway involved in more than 40 recitals each season. This love of chamber music stayed and developed through his career and he is now cellist of the Bingham String Quartet, the Tagore String Trio and the Dartington Piano Trio. With these ensembles he has played all over the world, broadcast frequently, and made numerous recordings. At present he coaches on ten annual chamber music courses. As a solo cellist James has performed widely in the British Isles, and has played Beethoven sonatas and unaccompanied Bach in Japan and Australia. He is much in demand as a teacher and is Professor of Cello at the North East of Scotland Music School and the Royal College of Music Junior Department, as well as being director of the Aboyne Cello Festival.

Andrew Knights - cor anglais

Andrew began his career as an orchestral oboist by playing in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra during the two years that he spent studying at the Karajan Academy. Subsequently he has played with the English Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Opera de Lyon, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Concert Orchestra. He was appointed principal oboist with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 1983,  and as a member of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta he was soloist in many of the major oboe concertos, and recorded Mozart’s Concerto. As a soloist he has played many times in France and also in Germany, Italy and Turkey, as well as in many South American countries. Andrew was particularly honoured to be invited to play a solo for the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday concert that was broadcast to an audience of 50 million. In recent years he has enjoyed working with the London Sinfonietta and the Hilliard Ensemble.

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