The Quirk ensemble
Sarah Markham was the soprano saxophone player in the Adelphi saxophone quartet (EMI recording artists), the baritone saxophone player in the NSQ: Northern Saxophone Quartet (Yamaha performing artists), and the soprano saxophone player in ReedPlay. In 2015 Sarah wanted to create a new ensemble, focusing as much as possible on repertoire that she had not performed before. It was also to be a more flexible ensemble: not constrained by the format of a saxophone quartet; ranging from a duo with her partner Kenneth, to an octet.
Some might say the name ‘Quirk’ came about in a stereotypically English manner: mulling over what the ensemble might be called, drinking tea on a sunny Sunday morning. Sarah suggested using strong consonants such as Q, V, Z etc. Then came the planets… how many ensembles have had the same conversation? We talked around what the focus of the ensemble might be, and how the repertoire needed to be quirky, looking for new avenues. Which is how we stumbled upon the name: Quirk.
On Repeats by Nick Rich
Quirk Duo at the Hull City of Culture celebration
The Quirk Duo consists of Sarah Markham and Kenneth Wilkinson. Kenneth has a performing career spanning forty years: including solo recitals, opera, orchestral, jazz, pop and chamber music. He is comfortable performing in classical, jazz or contemporary genres, and is also a composer. His most recent projects include an arrangement of Ravel’s String Quartet in F major for saxophone quartet, and Scintilla; a saxophone quartet. At the moment he is working on a series of works for two saxophones and audio track for the Quirk Duo. The combination of two performers enables a distillation of experiences, an exploration of possibilities.
Sarah is often found ‘Sibelizing’* works for more than two instruments, or compositions for other instruments, to arrange them for our Duo. Our repertoire includes works by Barry Cockcroft, Christian Lauba, Guy Lacour, Paul Hindemith, Marc Mellits, Ondrej Adámek, Jean-Michel Defaye, Lucie Robert, Nick Rich and the wonderful music for two saxophones and piano written by Masanori Katoh and Jun Nagao.
*Sibelizing: the act of putting music into Sibelius notation software. Usage: ‘I’ve Sibelized the theme from Rocky to within an inch of its life’ .
The Duo grows to a Quartet with the addition of Chris Jolly on tenor saxophone and Sarah Hind on baritone saxophone.
Chris Jolly is a classical and jazz saxophonist. He is also a composer that takes inspiration from a wide range of genres and artists, as seen in the range of techniques and colours used in his compositions. Smudge, a recent addition to our repertoire, combines elements from folk and classical genres alongside techniques of multiphonics and slap-tongue.
Sarah Hind trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, and also at Huddersfield University: a European centre for contemporary music. Sarah has performed with a number of saxophone ensembles, recently including the HD8 octet and the Yorkshire Saxophone Choir. Her interest in 1940s big band repertoire led her to form and direct the Regent Big Band. Sarah has become renowned for her ability to slap-tongue on baritone saxophone for an inordinate length of time, often at an ear-splitting volume.
The combination of personalities and experience within the quartet expands our musical horizons and possibilities: four classical saxophonists + two jazz saxophonists + two composers = Quirk saxophone quartet.
Short clips from our live performances
Smudge by Chris Jolly
Cityscapes by Rick Hirsch
La Fileuse by Felix Mendelssohn – transcription Marcel Mule
Tango Virtuoso by Thierry Escaich
Nuages by Eugene Bozza
Bigger than a quartet
Quirk grows from a quartet to a quintet, sextet or octet, inviting special guests including Jérôme Laran (France), Lynn Klock (USA), Philippe Geiss (France), Richard Ingham (UK), Claude Delangle (France) and Stathis Mavrommatis (Greece). We were joined by Richard Ingham to record his Nine Pieces for Five Players.