Hailed as ‘an instinctive collective’ (The Strad) the Berkeley Ensemble takes its name from two British composers of the last hundred years, father and son Sir Lennox and Michael Berkeley.
It was formed in 2008 by members of Southbank Sinfonia, Britain’s young professional orchestra, with the aim of exploring the wealth of little-known twentieth- and twenty-first century British chamber music alongside more established repertoire.
It now enjoys a busy concert schedule performing throughout the UK and abroad, and is also much in demand for its inspiring work in education.
The ensemble’s flexible configuration and collaborative spirit has led to performances with leading musicians including Sir Thomas Allen, Richard Sisson and Gabriel Prokofiev. The group is an enthusiastic champion of new music and has worked with composers John Casken and Robin Holloway.
It was proud to premiere its first commission, Michael Berkeley’s Clarion Call and Gallop, in 2013 and features the piece on its debut recording of the same name, released in March 2014 and praised by Gramophone for ‘the vibrancy of the Berkeley Ensemble’s performance even compared with Dennis Brain and friends in [the Ferguson Octet’s] first recording.’
The ensemble is rapidly building a reputation for innovative and thought-provoking programming and in spring 2014 received official recognition with a Help Musicians UK Emerging Excellence award.
Equally at home on the summer festival circuit as in the concert hall, the group has performed at the Latitude and Greenbelt festivals.
Taking its music to new audiences, most importantly through education work, is central to the ensemble’s activities. Its activities in this area include self-directed projects in addition to collaborations with Southbank Sinfonia, Merton Music Foundation and Pan Concerts for Children.
The ensemble regularly coaches students in chamber performance at the University of York, is ensemble-in-residence at Queen Elizabeth School in Cumbria and runs an annual residential chamber music course in Somerset.