Cellist Mary Elliott-Rose on her finding her professional self through chamber music, and creating opportunities for others at the Cowbridge Music Festival

All the 2018 Seminar participants with Mary Elliott-Rose, Artistic Director (lower left)

Mary Elliott-Rose (lower left) with the 2018 chamber music seminar participants

Calling all graduate string players! Are you passionate about chamber music? Have you recently left music college but are still uncertain of the best way to progress a professional career? Who is there to help and offer advice? Where are you left after so many years of studying?

As a cellist and artistic director of the Cowbridge Music Festival, my career and my vision for the festival were profoundly influenced by my experiences following graduation from music college back in 2010. I have to admit that I found those years and that bridge between conservatoire and the profession rather daunting, albeit exciting. I missed the security and the support of the conservatoire, and was still hungry to learn.

So I searched all over the world for chamber music programmes which could offer me further training and open new doors. I travelled all over Europe, as well as to the USA and Asia, where I got the chance to work with international musicians, rehearsing intensively and performing together. Wherever I went I took notes with the idea to create something similar in Wales one day.

It is difficult for me to overemphasise the importance of these post-conservatoire experiences and how they helped shape me as a musician. It is unfortunately a harsh reality that such a low percentage of music graduates go straight into the profession. For many, and even for the most talented and hard-working, the period following graduation can feel like a bit of a void.

There will never be enough opportunities for the number of musicians coming out of the colleges, but at Cowbridge Music Festival we decided that we wanted to do what we as a small community festival could. So we came up with a programme that offered further training in the art of chamber music rehearsal, paid concert opportunities and experience in outreach.

After many pilot projects we finally launched the Seminar in 2017 with cellist Thomas Carroll and violinist Boris Kucharsky at the helm. Since 2017 we have had the pleasure of welcoming eight young music graduates, as well as several eminent chamber musicians to our picturesque old market town of Cowbridge at the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan in rural South Wales, for what has now become known as the Cowbridge Music Festival Chamber Music Seminar.

This annual get-together forms an integral part of our festival, which aims to celebrate great chamber music and to create as many opportunities for young musicians as possible. This year we welcome Boris back alongside Joel Marosi, cellist of the Swiss Piano Trio and Principal Cellist of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. They will be joined by seven other string players and one pianist – all recent graduates of European conservatoires.

Together they will work in various formations over several days to prepare a programme which includes Mozart’s ‘Spring’ Quartet, Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ Trio, Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet, Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio, Brahms’ G major String Sextet and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. They will then go on to perform two concerts as part of the main festival programme, as well as several outreach concerts in local care homes.

We have been overwhelmed by the number of young musicians applying to take part, as well as by the positive feedback gathered from past participants. It really shows a clear need for this type of programme.

Charlie MacClure, a violinist from Wales, who took part in the inaugural edition explains:

‘Cowbridge Music Festival Chamber Music Seminar is one of the most exciting programmes I have ever taken part in. I was honoured to be invited to participate back in 2017, shortly after I had graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.’

‘The Seminar provided me with the opportunity to work alongside Boris Kucharsky and Thomas Carroll. This was a relatively new experience, after so many years of lessons with the traditional teacher-pupil set-up. Finally I was working with great and highly experienced musicians as an equal, rehearsing intensively, sharing ideas and discovering new repertoire and rehearsal techniques.’

‘The Seminar definitely opened new doors for me at what can certainly be a tough time for many musicians at the outset of their careers. I made useful contacts and met some incredible musicians with whom I am still performing on a regular basis. I would highly recommend the CMF Chamber Music Seminar to other young musicians.’

If you are interested in taking part in the 2020 Seminar, we invite you to visit our website, www.cowbridgemusicfestival.co.uk, where you will find information on the application process.