String Programme

Study Leader: James Craig

The CAT offers tuition in all string instruments from a team of tutors that includes members of Royal Northern Sinfonia.

In addition to their individual instrumental lesson and music language tuition, all string students rehearse weekly in small ensembles, working closely with the keyboard team. Current groups include quartets and trios, often working with the first study piano students. Most students enter for Associated Board music exams up to diploma level.

I enjoyed meeting the four talented and serious students. They were all very focused and responded quickly to new ideas and concepts, and there was a lovely supportive atmosphere in the class, which was wonderful to see.
Tamsin Waley Cohen, ECHO Rising Star Violinist

Our string students are often invited to form larger ensembles for special projects. In December 2016 they performed with renowned artist Lake Poets in a sold out gig in Sage 2. We also have occasionally formed large cello ensembles, and in early 2017 performed movements from Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras.

More advanced students normally join Young Sinfonia, which is project based. More information is available on Young Sinfonia here. String players who enjoy folk music may also be interested in Folkestra and can find more information here.

Many string players also take a second study instrument (usually piano) and we strongly recommend this.

Workshops over recent years have included sessions with Simon Walllfisch (cello); Ruth Killius (violist with the Zehetmair Quartet); Robert Cohen (international cello soloist and member of the Fine Arts Quartet), together with his quartet violinist colleague Ralph Evans (a former prize winner in the Moscow Tchaikovsky competition). Violinist Alexandra Soumm, violist Lise Berthaud and cellist Jakob Koranyi combined a visit to Sage that included BBC broadcast solo performances with Royal Northern Sinfonia with classes for CAT string students. In January 2016 our students worked with Harriet Krijh, a cellist from the ECHO Rising Stars programme, and in early 2017 we saw masterclasses with Tamsin Waley Cohen (violin), Jack Liebeck (violin) and Natalie Clein (cello).

Other workshops have ranged from chances to play electronic string instruments exploring the worlds of rock and contemporary music, through to folk, improvisation and recording techniques.

For further information on the Centre for Advanced Training, including on dates and content of auditions, please click on Information for Students

String Team
Study Leader: James Craig joined the cello section of Royal Northern Sinfonia on completing post-graduate studies with Michael Evans, Anna Shuttleworth and Christopher Bunting at the Royal College of Music. In 1995 a Northern Arts scholarship enabled him to study in Israel, Finland, France, Italy and England with Marcel Bergman (principal cello Israel Philharmonic), Johannes Goritzki, Philippe Muller, Karine Georgian and Amaryllis Fleming. Since returning, James has also taught extensively. Many students have gained membership of the National Youth Orchestra, and have become professional musicians themselves. For many years, he wrote and presented workshops in schools, including string quartet and composition coaching to ‘A’ level standard. Master-classes have included ‘Awards for Young Musicians’ and James is involved with Middlesbrough Council’s mentoring scheme.

Tony Abell (Double Bass) studied at Guildhall; Double-Bass with Kevin Rundell and Jazz Piano with Lionel Grigson. He played in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from 1985-2006 as both tutti and sub principal bass. In 2007 Tony moved to Newcastle. He works regularly with RNS and teaches and plays Double/electric-bass, jazz piano. He is also a tutor with In Harmony.

Iona Brown (Violin) joined Royal Northern Sinfonia first violin section in 1995 and is currently Principal First Violin. She has appeared with the Sinfonia as soloist, leader, and performs regularly in the Chamber ensemble. In 1993 Iona joined the Manchester Camerata as principal first violin, also playing in the Camerata Chamber Ensemble and as soloist in Bach’s double violin concerto. Iona was also a member of the contemporary music ensemble Psappha, with whom she performed live on Radio 3.

Nick Byrne (Cello)

Helen Critten (Violin) is a founding member of the Foundation Strings team at Sage Gateshead. She trained at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and The Royal Academy of Music in London. Her teachers included Sam Bor, leader of the Scottish National Orchestra and Howard Davis, leader of the Alberni String Quartet. As a performer, Helen enjoyed posts as sub-principal second violin with Scottish Ballet, and as a 1st violinist with Royal Northern Sinfonia. As a teacher, Helen has had the opportunity to train with Geza Szilvay, founder of the Coloustrings Academy in Finland; Katie Wearing from RNCM and Helga Dietrich, an early years Kodaly specialist from the Liszt Academy. As well as leading the Foundation Strings team at Sage Gateshead, Helen enjoys teaching violin in many schools in North Tyneside, South Tyneside and County Durham.

Ed Cross (Violin) completed his undergraduate degree at Birmingham University before returning to his home city of Newcastle. He was awarded a distinction for his MMus degree in performance at Newcastle University, where he recently completed a doctorate in 20th century violin performance practice. He plays regularly with a variety of ensembles around the North East, along with concerto and recital performances.

Tegwen Jones (Viola)

Benjamin Lee has recently moved to the North East having lived and worked in London for 15 years. Since graduating from the Royal College of Music with a first class degree, he has so far enjoyed a rich and varied career as a violinist, composer, string arranger and educator. As a violinist Benjamin has appeared as soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, is former leader of the Heritage Orchestra and has performed with the London Philharmonic and Royal Northern Sinfonia orchestras. He has also recorded, performed and toured with many pop artists including Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, McFly, Arctic Monkeys and Damon Albarn to name a few. He was violin professor at Broomwood Hall in London for 7 years with many students gaining scholarships for onward study, as well as directing the Chichester String Orchestra.

Alexandra Raikhlina (Violin) was born in Moscow in 1983 and moved to Belgium in 1990. Alexandra has enjoyed extensive solo performance experience in the Wigmore, Queen Elizabeth and Barbican halls. In addition to being a member of Northern Sinfonia, Alexandra has played with the London Symphony Orchestra and regularly plays as a guest with The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Alana Tonetti-Tieppo

Amy Cardigan