Spotlight on "Friends"

"I heard about IT&T on some Oxford grapevine. The name seemed a mouthful but intriguing, the abbreviation like a combination of high tech and high explosive. But I can still remember the enthusiasm, the cautious excitement, of the person who told me about this new band of world class, world-employed, musicians who wanted to work together, and nearer their Oxfordshire homes. Of course it was an idea that could make sense for us too - their neighbours, friends, friends of friends, who could hear them without having to catch late trains back from London. I had half-baked thoughts about community versus global. Then I went to a concert and heard them.

At St John the Evangelist, Iffley Road, I was in a side aisle seat almost alongside the orchestra. I could see their faces: they were enjoying themselves in a way that seemed oddly unfamiliar. I asked a player about that at the end. Yes, he said, it did feel special, musically and socially. I enjoyed saying that I thought the audience got that too, alongside the wonderfully clear, clean Baroque sound.

Then old friends who were Friends of the orchestra told me how much they’d just enjoyed an invitation to an IT&T rehearsal and that was the spur. I found the website and Friends options and went for monthly subscription because it felt more financially comfortable than the annual equivalent, and also because it seemed in the spirit of sustained local community commitment, in both directions. And perhaps it seemed an appreciative nod to the subscription concerts that helped maintain music and musicians for previous generations.

Since then my Friends and I have experienced a glorious sequence of concerts, intimate and grand. At concerts, rehearsals, and all sorts of Friends’ drinks we get warm greetings from core IT&T musicians who now know us. There has been a memorable country house concert, with supper. And I have just spent the afternoon in Keble chapel, listening to the Bach B Minor Mass. It was in a strange rehearsal order but the steady increment of musical forces and volume brought its own frisson. From only a few feet away I marvelled at a player nonchalantly emerging from the Light of the World chapel to walk the apparent tightrope of his natural horn solo. It was a world-beating, and loving, sound - from our orchestra. What a privilege, what a joy, to be one of its supporters."

Mari Prichard 

If this piece has piqued your interest then you can find out more information about how to join our Friends' Scheme by emailing

spotlight on "friends" 

Every now and again we want to bring you a little insight into our Friends' Scheme, from one of our current members. This month's account is written by Jessica and Alfred Osborne. If this inspires you to sign up and support us then you can do so through the "Friends and Support" tab or by emailing

"I was lucky enough to hear about IT&T from my cello teacher who is a founder member.

My husband and I were immediately attracted to the idea and went early on to an open rehearsal – a great bonus of being a Friend.

What we particularly like – apart from the music of course – is that the musicians are mainly local, and are familiar faces on the Oxford music scene as performers and teachers: and they are unfailingly professional and lively in their playing.

These are people who have contributed an immense amount to education in the Oxford area and at the same time also share with us the fruits of their work and experience as performers. Gradually they are building a regular pattern of events that draws on the past while at the same time taking us forward into fresh and enlivening interpretations of a variety of music. Alongside more well known pieces, IT&T is committed to educational projects such as open rehearsals and performance of rare works (and even rarely heard instruments!) – and this is something we are keen to support.

Being Friends of IT&T keeps us in touch with what they are doing, and opens up Friends’ events and priority booking. We enjoy (which is in itself something of a rarity!) receiving the regular emails as well as the newsletters."

Jessica and Alfred Osborne

Player Profiles 


Gabriel Amherst (cello)

current player profile: Aliye Cornish (Viola)

How did you end up playing your instrument?

When I was 10, I auditioned on violin for the Central Music School run by the Oxfordshire County Music Service. I passed the audition but at the time they had a waiting list of around two terms. I was given the option of circumnavigating this if I wanted to come back in a few weeks with a viola. I sought out the school viola a couple of days later, and I remember my head buzzing the first time that I played the C string. To me it was the most glorious sound and feeling, and I resolved then and there to keep playing the viola until I stopped finding it amazing. That was 20 years ago and I haven’t yet stopped finding it amazing.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I tend to eat something and if I can take a short walk to clear my head. I like to warm up by doing slow bowing exercises on open strings, small “finger bows” to encourage mobility, and generally put myself into a state of mind where I feel settled and flexible. I also put lavender oil on my wrists, which seems to be popular with my colleagues too!

To relax, do you listen to the sort of music you play, or avoid it completely?

This varies wildly according to my mood! Every now and again, in the middle of a busy period in life, I make time to have a “listening party” on my own. I start around 10 or 11 at night and they can go on for hours, sometimes until the sun comes up as I completely lose track of time. I am careful to do them when I have a morning off the next day! I’m likely to be found listening to anything. The other day I began with Corelli and ended up wandering off though Geminiani, Platti and Locatelli. Handel and Mozart are frequent visitors to my listening parties. I also like listening to music made by my friends, such as the folk fiddlers of the Twisted Twenty, the beautiful jazz voice of Alice Zawadzki, and the inventive song-writing of The Lost Art. All these artists have made discs with real heart behind them, and they are such a pleasure to listen to. I am also becoming obsessed with the latest Radiohead album, having been a fan for quite some time.

Which piece would you recommend for someone who has never listened to the kind of music you play?

I would insist on them sitting down to listen to the opening of Bach’s St John Passion. The whole work might be at bit much as an introductory piece, but it always astonishes me how anyone could sit with a piece of blank paper and not only conceive of, but so perfectly commit to paper such an incredible piece of music. In general I would recommend to anyone that they start with Bach. I don’t think that there’s a feeling that I’ve ever had which I haven’t heard somewhere in his music.

If you could choose any other instrument, what would it be?

I’ve always secretly fancied being a cellist, but at the moment I am tempted to say the bassoon. I have been listening to Peter Whelan’s recent recording of Vivaldi Bassoon Concertos with La Serenissima and the sound that he makes is unbelievably eloquent and mellifluous.

What’s something you wish more people knew about professional musicians?

I genuinely believe that my colleagues are some of the nicest people to work with in the world. Often you can strike up conversation with someone that you’ve never really spoken to before and end up discussing something really interesting or profound. They’re also great fun to be around. I know that sometimes Classical Music has a reputation as being somewhat austere, but the people performing it are generally not that way at all!

What makes a great concert?

Some of the best concerts that I have been involved with have a sense that the music is evolving afresh amidst an idea of collective spontaneity. Normally this is an idea associated more with chamber music but I have known it happen with really large forces and it is something which I think the audience picks up on. It makes for a fantastic concert experience for everyone both on and off the platform.

What’s the most dramatic incident you’ve ever witnessed during a live performance?/What’s your best concert-related horror story?

Many years ago (September 2008) I was booked for a gig with an electric string quartet in Jersey. The only problem was that I was told the wrong month (July 2009), and about three weeks after the booking came in my phone had malfunctioned and consequently deleted my text messages. All I had to back up this booking was an entry in my diary for a few months’ time. About six months before I was expecting to do the gig, I woke up the morning after my 23rd birthday party (October 2008) with an astounding hangover to a whole list of missed calls on my phone. This transformed into the terrible realisation that three members of a string quartet were expecting me to be in Jersey to do a gig that I hadn’t thought was happening until the following summer. As I couldn’t prove that it wasn’t my fault I ended up going. They gave me an electric violin that was strung as a viola when I arrived, so it sounded terrible and I was playing sharp all night. I was nearly sick on stage when they suddenly brought the spotlights up to do a big Reveal at the start. I tripped over a guy rope during the interval and sprained my ankle so severely that I was hobbling for the second half, and we were standing to play. The whole story is quite something, but these are just the edited “lowlights”. The most embarrassing part was probably the return visit through St Helier airport at 8am next morning. My colleagues were all in normal clothes. I was in a low cut black dress (which I had had to sleep in) and heels as I had left the house in such a rush that I had no other clothes. It was, by far, the worst gig of my entire life.

How do you balance a musician’s strange/hectic schedule with family commitments?

I’m still learning on this one, but I’m trying to have REAL days off from time to time, where I don’t engage with anything to do with work. My husband is also really busy so we have to be pretty disciplined with putting aside time so that we actually manage to see each other, and to also spend time together with our very lovely cats.  

If you could have any other job, what would it be?

I would still have to be self-employed as I am definitely not cut out for regular hours, or many other things associated with a “normal” job. I would love to work as a writer, and also as a photographer.

Have you ever left your instrument behind on public transport? Did you get it back?

I haven’t, purely because of the fact that I have an anxiety dream about this exact scenario about three times a month! Travelling without my instrument feels so unnatural now as whenever I am travelling with it a piece of my brain is constantly locked onto its whereabouts!

If you had to advise your own child about their career, would you steer them towards classical music or away from it?

If I had a child who was keen enough to want to make music their profession then I would absolutely support them 100%. I was raised with the idea that I could do anything I wanted in life as long as it made me happy, and this is definitely an idea that I would pass on. I happen to think that it’s the best job in the world, and if a child of mine had the same view of it then I would love to share that enthusiasm with them!