Sally Minchin - Violin, Viola, Vocals
Sally has enjoyed a very busy and varied freelance career since graduating with a first class honours degree from Birmingham Conservatoire in 2001, where she studied with Michael Seal and Peter Thomas.
Encouraged by teachers and peers, Sally embarked on studying the viola along-side her violin studies during her A level years and was very soon playing inspirational symphonic works in Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra and joining many professional players in chamber music concerts in and around the west midlands.
Sally went on to lead the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra and also won the Hebert Lumby Violin Prize during her higher education studies. In 1999 she gained a place on the London Philharmonic Orchestra's desk-partnership scheme and after graduating Sally continued her studies with Peter Thomas.
Sally has performed and toured with The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as an extra-player and has undertaken regular work with The English Symphony Orchestra both as a violinist and violist. Sally played for many years as a first violinist with Longborough Festival Opera's Wagner performances.
In 2017 Sally was very priveledged and honoured to take up the post as violist of Highly Strung String Quartet who are an exceptionally skilled profesional chamber group founded in 1996 by cellist Sarah Huson-Whyte. Highly Strung enjoy an enviable repution for providing the very best quality of music with an extremely impressive repertoire that extends throughout the ages to the present day popular chart hits.
Sally is also first violinist for Toscana String Quintet formed by double bassist Sophie Price who also studied at the conservatiore at the same time as Sally. Their repertoire is widely varied and includes some of the most well-loved string orchestra pieces such as Elgar's String Serenade. Sally has had the opportunity to perform several solo works with various local orchestras over the years including Vaughan William's The Lark Ascending, Mozart's Violin Concerto no.3 in G Major and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.
Sally has also carved a name for herself as a Jazz violinist over the last 15 years and has a great passion for the music of Stephane Grappelli and other great players such as Joe Venuti. Her award-winning quintet Fret and Fiddle have enjoyed many years of success and have just completed their fourth album. They have won awards from Jazz organisations such as Stafford Jazz Society and have performed and toured in the UK and beyond.
Shankara Andy Bole - Guitar, Bouzouki
Andy is a multi instrumentalist, arranger and composer with a highly respected international reputation. He is a member of Bonfire Radicals, one of 7 guitarists in Daevid Allen's Glissando Guitar Orchestra. He has over the past several years played in some of the finest Acoustic bands, most notably the legendary Bushbury Mountain Daredevils and The Late Night Band who for many years were regarded as two of the finest acts in the U.K.
Shankara has performed at concerts in Europe and America with members of Fairport Convention, Jay Sean, Bjork, Gong, Damo Suzuki, Blowzabella, Daevid Allen, The Electric Light Orchestra, Acid Mothers Temple, Dave Stewart and has studied the Hansa Veena with renowned Indian classical musician Barun Kumar Pal.
As a well-respected solo artist Shankara has produced seven solo albums, which have met with much critical acclaim.
In fact his album Ramshackle Pier was voted instrumental album of the year by top acoustic magazine Froots.
His masterly playing of the Bouzouki and Weissenborn acoustic slide guitar is in regular demand for use on many television and film soundtrack work.
Rich is a well established pianist in a variety of musical contexts which range from jazz, accompanying to choir leading. He has performed at many events and venues such as CBSO centre, Symphony Hall and music festivals in Europe.
His route into music began as a teenager when inspired by local pianist called Mike Peck during a jazz session in a smokey city centre bar.
‘The atmosphere was electric…Mike’s playing was so energetic and he’d come out with all these incredible rhythms and chords which I discovered later were influenced by McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock.' Unexpectedly his advice to Rich at the end of the gig was to learn classical music.
Rich took the advice and worked through the grades and diplomas, completing a music degree at Exeter University. The grounding was certainly useful and he has continued to 'keep a hand' in classical playing to some extent. It is in jazz, however, that he finds it most able to develop a voice for himself. ‘If you are musically creative, jazz is ideal because it gives you an entire musical heritage to begin with then allows you to come up with your own take on it..you can instantly recompose the material in a live gig without having to write anything down, you can also incorporate other musicals styles and genres’.
Rich likes to mix genres together. In his latest piano solo album, he uses classical and pop themes as the vehicle for improvisations. On this latest album he says, ‘It’s not so much what you start off with but where you go with it. The acoustic piano itself is an instrument I could never tire of it gives you both an orchestra and rhythm section with almost unlimited tonal and expressive possibilities.
As pianist in Fret and Fiddle, Rich shares a passion for exploring different styles such as jazz, classical and gypsy with repertoire that ranges from pieces like Meditation to J’Attandrais. He enjoys playing a part in the the rhythm section, helping it drive forward and having a strong backing to fly off on energetic solos, whilst trading improvised ideas with violin.
Steve Street - Drums
Steve was inspired to play drums after hearing Ringo play drums on his sister’s Beatles records and then seeing Buddy Rich in concert on TV. Through his teenage years he performed in school bands progressing to the Worcestershire County Youth Orchestra and Brass Band. Steve studied in London inspired by the teaching of Francis Seriau and Jim Chapin and the drumming of Gene Krupa, Roy Haynes, Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones who he opened for at Ronnie Scott’s. After an audition with the Rod Mason band in Bristol, ironically Stephan Grappelli’s guitarist Diz Dizley was playing in the band that night, he began touring in Europe and recorded for the British jazz labels Black Lion and Next Step. As a freelance musician Steve has had the opportunity to play in many diverse musical situations, from award ceremonies, educational workshops and concerts for the CBSO, working in Germany and the UK with Kenny Ball and his jazzmen and radio Two’s Friday Night is Music Night.
Simon Smith - Double Bass
Simonis a bass player with experience in a wide variety of music genres. He has spent time working in the USA as a session musician for many artists including the Tony Award winner, Idina Menzel, Ringo Starr and Dave Stewart. He currently plays with a number of folk and jazz groups at venues and festivals throughout the UK and Europe.