A4 Brass Quartet

We're delighted to introduce A4 Brass Quartet, winners of the 2018 RPS Henderson Award.

While most brass quartets are a combination of trumpets, horns and trombones, A4 uniquely comprises cornet / flugelhorn, tenor horn, baritone horn, and euphonium, creating a sound all their own. With no precedent, they are forging their own unique path. Formed in 2013, the Quartet has gone on to win numerous national awards including the 2018 Royal Over-Seas League Chamber Music Competition, Tunnell Trust Award, Tillett Trust Young Artists’ Platform series and the Musicians’ Company Concert Series. Its members - Jamie Smith (cornet / flugelhorn), Jonathan Bates (tenor horn), Michael Cavanagh (baritone horn), Chris Robertson (euphonium) - have come a long way since their first rehearsal in flat A4 at the RNCM's Halls of Residence...

We asked Mike to tell us a bit more about the group and its upcoming projects:

  • What brought you together as an ensemble?

It was a bit of a happy accident really! It got to October in our first year as undergraduates at the Royal Northern College of Music. We were the only four brass musicians left without a group for the chamber music module, so we thought we better get together and make an ensemble. We've never looked back since!

  • What are you working on at the moment?

The great thing about A4 Brass is the wide variety of concerts we do. We are currently working towards concerts for the Tillett Trust and City Music Foundation, with appearances in Cornwall, London and Preston.

Alongside this, we have just begun our second year on the fantastic Live Music Now scheme. We’re starting our Level 1 SEND Inspire Programme where we’ll learn how to deliver workshops and work with young people with special educational needs and disabilities. After that it will be time for a well-earned Christmas break, before a busy 2019!

  • Tell us three things your ensemble can't imagine living without.
  1. Gregg's the Bakers - we love a good Gregg's ahead of our numerous train trips to London!
  2. Virgin Trains - we need them for getting to London and back to Manchester. It's faster than driving!
  3. Phone breaks in rehearsals. As productive as we are in rehearsals, there is always one of us (usually Jamie or Jonny!) who has the latest video on social media they’ve been waiting to show to the rest of us, before we get the next piece out!

  • Who designed your logo and what's the inspiration behind it?

Chris, our euphonium player, designed our logo in early 2014, after we’d been together for only a few months. The main inspiration behind our logo is what we wear on stage: bright-coloured shirts with our dinner suits. We wanted this to catch people's attention, and it seems to have worked!

  • What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?

One of the best pieces of advice we have ever received as a quartet was from saxophonist Rob Buckland, in one of our first chamber music coaching sessions at the RNCM. He told us that in order to become a successful ensemble, it’s important not only to be good musicians, but also to get on well with the people in your group. He was so right. In our five years together, we have seen many very promising chamber ensembles form and then disband simply because they didn't get on.

Luckily, Jamie, Jonny and myself (Mike) were already good friends from our days in the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, and then we met Chris at the RNCM, who clicked with us as well.

  • Describe a time during your studies and/or career when you were faced with a difficult project or task.

With our unique instrumentation, we aren’t able to just go to a music library and play music that has been performed over and over again for years. So our main project has always been to commission compositions or arrangements for us to play!

We see this as a positive challenge. Luckily, the quartet has an exceptional composer – Jonny - and arranger – Chris – who've really helped to kick-start the group when we first formed. Since then we’ve been actively developing our repertoire, commissioning new music.

We also started a composition competition and are now welcoming entries for this year. There are plenty of prizes on offer, so to all those budding composers out there: get in touch!


If you'd like to find out more about A4 Brass Quartet, visit their website or follow them on social media:

Twitter: @A4BrassQuartet
Facebook: A4-Brass-Quartet

You can download their full biography by clicking the link below.

Each year, the RPS supports outstanding emerging artists and ensembles like A4 Brass to develop artistically and professionally. If you would like to get in touch with the group, with a query or possibly opportunity for them, please contact us by email or phone on 020 7287 0019.