5 minutes with the Maconchy Quartet

They met at the Royal College of Music in 2018. The Maconchy Quartet is made up of four prize-winning musicians passionate about championing works by undiscovered and overlooked composers, with a feminist twist. We spent five minutes asking them what makes them tick.

How would you describe your music?

We all play string instruments, which are actually able to make a huge variety of sounds and colours, which we use to tell a story with the music we play. Our creative process is very collaborative, and we try and make sure each of us has a voice. It usually includes lots of lengthy conversations about imagery, emotions and what we want our music to say.

What would you say is your interesting rehearsal quirk?

We do something that we call ‘post-verbalism’ – we try to each vocalise a sound that sums up the mood of the music we’re playing, to describe it without using words. This means that when we all play it together we all have really strong feelings of how we want to sound, and we’re usually in agreement too!

 

Is there any hidden music in your music?

A lot of hidden meaning can be found in the context of the music we play. For example, in Elizabeth Maconchy’s second string quartet she had just recovered from tuberculosis, and you can really hear her struggle in this music. We also love to make up stories about what could be happening in the music, like an argument, a ballroom dance, a race or a romantic duet. The hidden meaning can be anything that you find while listening.

Who are you inspired by?

Our namesake, Elizabeth Maconchy, is our main source of inspiration. She was a fantastic composer who had a difficult life but used her experiences to keep creating music full of character and soul. She struggled to get the recognition she deserved in her lifetime (1907-1994), mainly due to being discredited as a woman, but even this didn’t stop her from writing music. We are constantly amazed that she remains so unknown, and we are fighting to change that.

What’s an average day like for you?

On a rehearsal day we would meet for breakfast together and plan out our day, then we’ll work hard for anything up to 7 hours, exploring the music, having debates and making each other laugh. If we have a concert to play we won’t rehearse anywhere near as much, but save our energy and excitement for when we can share our music with people.

Tell me about your favourite performance venues.

 

As well as the more traditional classical performance venues, we love to perform in unusual venues. So far we’ve performed in the British Library, major art galleries and theatres, and we plan to keep finding new weird and wonderful places to bring our music.

 

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps? 

Find something that drives you and that you can’t put down, rather than just trying to please people or be ‘good.’ And make sure to play with people you like! These relationships are so complicated so be prepared to work on things and be patient with each other.

You can see the Maconchy Quartet at The Museum of Brands on the Saturday night of the Festival (28th).

In the meantime, they’ve curated a special playlist, just for us: