Composer Chats - Michael Cryne

Composer Chats - Michael Cryne

Hi Mike! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to us ahead of our premier of your piece, Frost Flower, at the Purcell Room on Friday 18th January 2019. Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure, I’m a British composer. I spent a long time working as a music director, composer and teacher in the theatre before turning to writing concert music about 7 years ago. I did my PhD at RHUL with Mark Bowden and Helen Grime, and I’ve been really lucky to have done some of the big orchestral development schemes with people like the LSO, LPO and RSNO. I love working with acoustic instruments as well as writing with electronics, and a lot of my work is influenced by the natural world, and the human relationship to it.

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Composer Chats - Alexander Glyde-Bates

Hi Alex! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to us ahead of our performance of your piece, Restoration, at Turner Sims on 3rd December. Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a Southampton-based composer and tuba/sousaphone player who grew up in north Cambridgeshire, moving down to Southampton in 2007 to start my undergraduate and have failed to escape ever since (despite a few attempts). Compositionally, I tend focus on interdisciplinarity, or, more accurately, how I can use theories and devices from non-musical art forms to disrupt and defamiliarize the musically commonplace. This was effectively the focus of my recently completed PhD. (Available online for those seeking a cure to their insomnia.)

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We asked you to write us a piece back in 2015 and are super excited to be performing it back in Southampton where you studied with our baritone player, Stephen. Had you written for the saxophone before at all? What did you enjoy about writing for saxophone quartet and what did you find challenging?

I don’t think I’d written for saxophone before, certainly not a saxophone quartet. I’ve always had a bit of a blind spot for wind instruments in general, so that was certainly a bit of a challenge as I didn’t feel as confident with them as I did with other instrumental groups. Also I’ve generally been drawn to combining and juxtaposing diverse sounds and timbres, so working out how I could draw out diverse timbres for the relatively homogenous sound of a saxophone quartet was my biggest personal challenge. That all said, challenges are why I compose — if someone doesn’t challenge me I do tend to lose interest quite quickly.

Who would you say has been the biggest influence on you as a composer?

My interests and influences have always been stronger from non-musical sources — particularly art and film. The Conceptual artists of the mid and late 60s — the Art and Language Group and Joseph Kosuth especially. The latter of whom introduced me to the work of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and how that could potentially be applied to art and music. The east-London based filmmaker John Smith is another massive influence on me. His work blends structuralism language and humour in ingenious and powerful ways. Everyone who hasn’t seen it should check out his Girl Chewing Gum on YouTube.

You’re quite active as a performer too, playing with contemporary ensemble ‘Out-Take Ensemble’ and pop horn sensations ‘Tuba Libres’ (of which we are huge fans!) Do you feel it helps you as a composer to be actively performing too?

Glad to hear your fans of Tuba Libres, makes being forced to dress up as the Cookie Monster a little more tolerable. But, yes I do. It something that one of my supervisors — Michael Finnissy — was always very strong on. He didn’t necessarily mean being a world-class virtuoso (which he is), but being able to have a certain kind of ‘musical empathy’ for the performers who you are writing for, to understand that they are people with certain skills and preferences and weaknesses not machines. That said, I have seen a number of composer-performers who struggle to understand that other instruments don’t work the way theirs do, so it can be a bit of a double-edged sword.

Without giving too much away… where does the inspiration for the piece come from?

Art Galleries, basically. You first commissioned me to write a piece for a concert you were doing in a specific room of The National Gallery. I’ve always been uncomfortable with pieces that try to ‘interpret’ paintings musically, so rather than engaging with a directly with a single painting I decided to try and look at how I could use music to critique the role of the museum-style gallery which The National Gallery is the epitome of. Essentially engaging with the institutional space, rather than its contents.

If you could only take one piece of music to a desert island what would you take?

Michael Tippett’s ‘A Child of Our Time’. I generally get jaded quite quickly as a person, but that piece blows me away every time I hear it.

Some quick fire questions now

- Cats or Dogs? Dogs.

- Popcorn; sweet or salty? Sweet

- Beer or wine? Beer

- Rugby or football (or neither!)? I should say football as Southampton FC kept me financially afloat in the last year of my PhD, but I’d have to say rugby…

- Tea or coffee? Coffee, 100% Tea is vile and I will brook no arguments

- Game of Thrones; Yay or Nay? Yay. Although I do hold the unpopular opinion that the later series are often better than the latter books, which do have a tendency to go on unnecessary detours for hundreds of pages at a time. But I digress…

Finally have you got any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about/what’s next for you?

Tuba Libres have our second album out soon around the new year. OUT-TAKE are just coming to the end of a mini tour of the South, and any Bristol residents can catch our final date at Café Kino on Friday 7th December, where Joe Manghan will be playing my piece, Snare Dance. I also have a lot of stuff in the pipeline for 2019 as both a composer and performer, so watch this space.

The Laefer Quartet will be performing Alexander Glyde-Bates Restoration as part of a celebration of 21st Century Saxophone Music at the Turner Sims on Monday 3rd December at 1pm.

Flying south for the winter!

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As Game of Throne’s House of Stark is famous for saying Winter is Coming and with it the Laefer Quartet are heading south to seek some warmer skies. Before you get any ideas about exotic winter get-away’s we are only going 69 miles south but we are super excited about our trip as we return to the University of Southampton to perform in a lunchtime concert at the Turner Sims Concert Hall. We will also be sticking around afterwards to give a workshop for the students.

The concert starts at 13:00 and entry is free so if you’re in the area why not pop along and hear us play!

Wigmore Hall

On May 7th we were delighted to make our debut at one of the most beautiful chamber music venues in London, the world famous Wigmore Hall, as part of the Park Lane Group Young Artists Series. The concert was shared with Soprano Elizabeth Karani and Pianist Edmund Whitehead and the two halves were nicely balanced between modern works and those from the classical canon. We had a fantastic time performing and it was a pleasure to play in such an amazing venue.

If you weren't able to join us for that, why not come along to our next recital as part of the PLG Young Artists Series at St. Margaret's Westminster where we will be performing some cornerstones of the classical saxophone repertoire including Gabriel Pierné and Alexander Glazunov, alongside Guillermo Lago's Ciudades and Charlotte Harding's Sub to street, to scraping the sky, written for our PLG concert at St. John's Smith Square last year.

Happy New Year!

From all of us here at the Laefer Quartet we would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year! We had a very exciting 2017 with highlights including launching our Listenpony EP, performing as PLG Artists at St John's Smith Square, winning the Elias Fawcett Award in the ROSL Music Competition, and performing in the Three Palaces Festival in Malta.

We would like to thank you all for your support, 2018 is shaping up to be another great year so watch this space!

Amy, Rusne, Philip, and Stephen

Three Palaces Festival Part 2


Last weekend we had the pleasure of flying to Malta to perform the closing concert of the fantastic Three Palaces Festival.

The concert was set in the stunning Aubege de Provence in Valletta, now home to the National Museum of Archaeology and it was a real pleasure to perform some of our favourite works in such a beautiful venue, to a wonderful audience. Take a look at the photos below to see us in action!

We would like to thank the Three Palaces Festival for inviting us to perform and hope to be back in Malta for concerts in the near future!

Three Palaces Festival Part 1

The Laefer Quartet are delighted to have been invited to close the 5th edition of the Three Palace Festival in Malta on November 12th 2017.  We will be presenting a programme that showcases the breadth and depth the saxophone quartet has to offer in the beautiful Auberge de Provence, on Republic Street, Valletta, now home to the National Museum of Archaeology. More information and tickets can be found at

If you can't make it to Malta to see us perform we will be giving two variations of the same programme in the UK, first at the Peters Music Live concert series at the Schubert Society of Great Britain on November 8th and then later on at the Frome Concerts Group on December 3rd. More information can be found on our Concerts page.

David Maslanka (1943-2017)

We were extremely saddened to hear of the death of David Maslanka on August 6th 2017. As a composer he championed the saxophone, writing some spectacularly beautiful music for the saxophone in many settings. He is a firm favourite composer for the Laefer Quartet and we were delighted to recently perform his Recitation Book in our St. George's Beckenham recital, and would like to share with you the fourth movement, 'Meditation on the Gregorian Chant O Salutaris Hostia (O Salvation’s Victim)'.

Listenpony EP Launch, PLG & Nonclassical

Live at Listenpony EP

Last week saw the launch of our debut EP recorded live at our Listenpony concert! For those of you who missed it this is a great chance for you to catch up, for all those lucky enough to make it why not relive the fun!

We would like to say a massive thank you to Listenpony for making this happen!

Live at Listenpony: Laefer Quartet - EP is available to download from iTunes here.



Thank you to everyone who came along to St John's Smith Square for our Park Lane Group Young Artists recital.

We had a fantastic evening and loved sharing two great world premieres with you. We are immensely grateful to both Giles Swayne and Charlotte Harding for writing us such fantastic pieces. If you weren't able to join us have a look at the pictures below and read a review of the concert here, but more importantly keep an eye on our upcoming Concerts for an opportunity to hear these great pieces soon.

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NYC comes to London

Last week was a busy week for us, not only did we launch our EP but we also had a great time bringing a little bit of New York City to the Victoria, Dalston at the latest Nonclassical concert. Curated by the super talented Charlotte Harding we performed a programme of New York inspired works consisting of Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint and Charlotte's Sub to Street, to Scraping the Sky, alongside the amazing Guastalla Quartet and a video performance from James Larter. Pictures from the event can be seen below.

Sorry its been a while, we've been quite busy..!

Sorry it has been a while Laefer Fans! We've had a busy few months! Those of you who avidly follow us on the Twittersphere will know what we've been up to but for those of you who don't here is a brief summary:

  • We reached the final of the Royal Overseas League Competition where we were awarded the Elias Fawcett Award for Outstanding Ensemble.
  • Following on from our concert in November, we've been working with Listenpony to create a live EP from the concert! Artwork and Recordings are now mastered, so watch here for the release date! If you can't wait that long here is a video of us from the concert.


  • We're excited to announce that we will be performing in the next NonClassical concert on May 10th curated by composer and saxophonist Charlotte Harding. The concert is New York themed and we will be playing Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint as well as a piece by Charlotte written for our Park Lane Group Concert (see below) called Sub to Street, to Scraping the Sky.
  • And last but by no means the least of our endeavours has been preparing for our St John's Smith Square recital on Monday 24th April as part of the Park Lane Group Young Artists Spring Series 2017. If you can't wait until May 10th to hear Charlotte Harding's piece then why not come to the World Premiere! We're also very excited to be giving the World Premiere of Leapfrog by distinguished British composer Giles Swayne, alongside Richard Rodney Bennett's Saxophone Quartet and Felix Mendelssohn's Capriccio.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from us here at the Laefer Quartet! 2016 was an amazing year for the Laefer Quartet and we would like to say a massive thank you to all of our friends and fans for making it so!


Some highlights include:

  • Performing at the International Womens Day at the RCM.
  • Giving a Masterclass and recital at the University of Southampton.
  • Recording at the Abbey Road Institute.
  • Being selected as Park Lane Group Artists for the 2016/17 season.
  • Giving three world premieres as part of the fantastic Listenpony concert series.
  • Performing at the Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts with another world premiere.
  • Numerous concerts up and down the country which we have been thrilled to give!

It's still early days but 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year too: look out for our Park Lane Group concerts at St. John's Smith Square (featuring World Premieres by Giles Swayne and Charlotte Harding) and St. Margaret's Church, Westminster.

Working on World Premieres

Between now and Christmas we are excited to be presenting four world premieres; three as part of the Listenpony concert series, and one at the Royal Academy of Arts in their In Tune with Abstract Expressionism event. 

With the Listenpony concert coming up next week we have been spending a lot of time learning the three new works by Emre Sihan Kaleli, Erica Telisnor, and William Marsey. All three works have been commissioned for the quartet by the Listenpony concert series and written specifically for us. Playing new music is always a fantastic experience for the quartet as it draws upon a different skill set to playing standard repertoire. The music comes to each of us without any preconceived notions of how it should sound; there are no other artists' interpretations to compare and contrast with, and no history of performance practice behind the work. As an ensemble it enables you to experiment with the works in a completely free way, and discovering and unwrapping the music is often great fun and really rewarding.

One of the advantages of playing new works is having the composers there to talk to, which really help with the whole "knowing the composers intention" thing that performers strive to achieve! In our rehearsal today William Marsey joined us and it was great to be able to have his input and to give feedback to him on the work. It's a really valuable tool for both us as performers and (I hope) composers, as it enables us both to really clarify how the piece works for our quartet. The three pieces are really contrasting in styles and it should make for a fantastic concert paired with three more established pieces of our repertoire.

With the commission for the Royal Academy of Arts concert we actually met with the composer, Andrew Chen, last week before he began writing the work to discuss the different ideas he had, how we play, and what music we like playing. In the meeting Andrew said he wanted to take the time to get to know us so he could write us a work we would want to play again and its great to be able to work so closely with composers to help create new works for our instrument.

Laefer Quartet in the Studio

We've had a busy few months here in the Laefer Quartet with performances at Lincoln's Inn Chapel, St Boniface Concert Society, and several private functions. On top of this we were lucky enough to be invited to record with Chris Cook at the Abbey Road Institute. Chris is currently studying at the Institute and asked us to record some tracks for his portfolio and we were happy to oblige!

We decided to record Eugene Bozza's Andate et Scherzo and the Capriccio from Felix Mendelssohn's Four Pieces for String Quartet Op. 81 keeping one live take of each and mixing a final take as well. As it was the first time in the studio as a quartet we were pretty excited to see what the outcome would be, especially as our busy individual schedules meant that we only had one evening to do all the recording! A week later Rusne, Amy and I went back to the studio to go through the takes and sort out the final mix with Chris.

Below are some pictures from the session and we hope to have the recordings up soon.



University of Southampton Masterclass: Part 2

We were invited by Dr Angela Space to give a recital and masterclass for her saxophone students at the University of Southampton which took place on Sunday 15th May. Every year Angela gathers together students, past and present, and invites a guest artist to give a class. Angela contacted our Baritone player, Stephen, himself a former student, to ask if the Laefer Quartet would be available to give the class and we were delighted to say yes!

After driving down from London we arrived at the Turner Sims Concert Hall where the event was being held and had a warm up and a spot of lunch. We began by giving a short recital where we performed the first two movements of Ravels' String Quartet in F Major and Theirry Escaich's Tango Virtuoso to showcase the variety of repertoire we play, as well as our love of transcriptions.

We then took it in turns to work with some of the students on pieces they have been preparing for their upcoming end of year recitals. Rusne worked with 3rd year Student, Wayne, on Barry Cockroft's Kuku going into depth on the technical aspects of the piece, including the tricky multiphonic section towards the end. Amy worked with another 3rd year student, Emily, on the third movement of the Dubois Concerto and emphasised the importance of a solid, consistent air-stream as the basis for all playing. Philip continued this theme whilst working on the Villos-Lobos Fantasia with 2nd year, Ali, demonstrating how a good air-stream, good articulation, and good finger faculty can all be practised with scale practice. 3rd year student Lawrence performed the Tansman Sonatine and Stephen discussed some of the challenges faced when playing transcriptions, and shared some thoughts on vibrato.

We were then treated to all four students playing as the Momentum Quartet, with an impressive performance of the fifth movement of Maslanka's Recitation Book, a fantastic piece with two opposing characters, one choral like and one fast and scalic, which all members of the Laefer Quartet suggested improvements for.

Afterwards we relaxed in the foyer of the Tuner Sims Concert Hall, ate pizza, and talked all things saxophone! We would like to thank Angela for inviting us, Karen for accompanying, and all the students for playing so well!

Park Lane Group 2016/17

It's with great pleasure that we can announce the Laefer Quartet have been selected as Park Lane Group Artists for the 2016/17 series. We will be performing a varied programme at St. John's Smith Square including two world premières by Charlotte Harding and Giles Swayne who we are very much looking forward to working with.

More details will follow nearer the time, watch this space!

Over 100 Years of Women and the Saxophone

As part of International Women's day the Laefer Quartet are involved with a project at the Royal College of Music entitled Women in Music. Our Soprano player, Amy Green, developed the project 100 Years of Women and the Saxophone with composer/saxophonist Charlotte Harding for the 2015 World Saxophone Congress in Strasbourg.

The project celebrates the often overlooked role women have played in the development of our fantastic instrument; including the first ever recording of a saxophone, the commissioning of key works in the repertoire, and the all female dance bands of the swing era!

We will be performing an arrangement Charlotte Harding did for us of Cosmopolitan American March by Helen-May Butler in the 6:00pm evening concert, come along to find out more!

New Website

Merry Christmas everyone!

The Laefer Quartet would like to give you all an early Christmas present in the form of our new website! We're very excited to finally have it up and running after months in the planning; we would love to know what you think of it! 

Why not share it with your friends and like our Facebook and Twitter pages for even more Laefer Quartet fun?!