Our staff

Marina Solarek

Artistic Director and Conductor

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Biography

Marina’s first professional work was as an extra ballet dancer in the Bremerhaven State Theatre.

She studied Music at the Musik Hochschule Heidelberg/Mannheim and later at the Hamburg Hochschule for Musik und Theatre where she was trained in Violin, Piano, Voice, Choir and Orchestral conducting.

In 1986 she moved to London to study violin with Professor Yfrah Neaman and gained her performance and teaching diplomas at the Guildhall school of Music and Drama in 1988.

Her first job was in the BBC Radio Orchestra and since becoming freelance she has played with most major London Orchestras and Opera Houses, has played in and led numerous West End shows and freelance orchestras and worked for film and television. As a chamber musician she has recorded for BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. Her Piano Trio, which specialises in the performance of neglected 19th and 20th century women composers has performed at the Purcell Room, St Johns Smith Square, St David’s Hall Cardiff and has toured in Great Britain and Europe.

Throughout her playing career Marina has taught at many different institutions. She has taught chamber music at the Royal College Junior department, violin at Royal Holloway University and has given masterclasses at Belfast University. She also enjoys leading various amateur orchestras in London and conducting their string rehearsals. Recently she started conducting her own string orchestra in St Albans.

MY SKILLS

Catherine Manson

Chamber ensembles

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Biography

Catherine Manson enjoys a versatile performing career as a soloist and chamber musician. 

As first violinist of the classical London Haydn Quartet she has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, London’s Wigmore Hall and the Sydney Opera House. The quartet’s series of recordings of the Haydn quartets on the Hyperion label has met with high critical acclaim internationally.

She was appointed as leader of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra in 2006. Together with the orchestra’s director, Ton Koopman she has recorded the six obbligato sonatas by Bach, Haydn’s concerto for violin and organ and the complete chamber music by Buxtehude. They have given many concerts together throughout Europe. 

Teaching has always been an important part of her musical life; in 2001 she co-founded and now directs MusicWorks, an organisation which presents a range of chamber music courses for young musicians.  She has given masterclasses and workshops at conservatories in London, Lyon, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and at Juilliard School, Yale and Indiana Universities. 

MY SKILLS

Sheena McKenzie

Cello and Ensembles

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Biography

Sheena began her ‘cello studies in Hong Kong at the age of 11. Three years later, she moved back to her father’s native Scotland where she attended the Douglas Academy music school. At the age of 16, Sheena was invited to perform Prokofiev’s Concertino with the junior orchestra of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where she went on to study with William Conway. She was then awarded a post-graduate scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London with Amaryllis Fleming. (more…)

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Alison Smart Fisher

Choir and voice/aural skills

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Biography

Alison Smart Fisher, Voice/Aural and Choir conductor


The British soprano, Alison Smart, studied Classics at Clare College, Cambridge, where she was Senior Choral Scholar.
She took postgraduate diplomas at the Royal Northern College of Music in 1995 and at Trinity College of Music, London in 1996.


After 22 years in the BBC Singers she is extending her conducting work and is delighted to have been appointed Musical Director of De Mer Chamber Choir.


Alison is an experienced professional singer and also director of Music at St Mary-at-Finchley Parish Church, London N3, with a thriving adult and youth choir.
She curates a long-established series of chamber concerts.


Recent solo soprano appearances include: Bastienne (‘Bastien and Bastienne’, by Mozart) for Insieme – Highgate Festival and Islington Proms, June 2019.
UK premiere of Graham Waterhouse’s song cycle ‘Emerald Spring’, May 2019.

Forthcoming concerts include Berg’s ‘Seven Early Songs’ and Vaughan Williams’ ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’
on Wed 25th Nov at St Giles’ Cripplegate (Barbican) with Echo Ensemble, directed by Noah Max.

MY SKILLS

Fiona Nisbett

Cello and conductor of Preparatory and lower strings Orchestra

Fiona Nisbitt

Biography

Fiona studied cello with Alexander Baillie and William Pleeth. She made her concerto debut at the age of seventeen and since then has performed most of the major concertos with orchestra.

At the age of eighteen Fiona was one of five soloists selected to perform in the Youth Makes Music Rotary International Festival at The Royal Albert Hall.

She has given recitals throughout England, France, Holland, Germany, The Czech Republic and Italy including first performances of John McCabe’s Solo Partita for cello in Italy and Keith Beal’s Sonata No1 for cello and piano in Holland. (more…)

MY SKILLS

Kristina Greally

Recorder

Kristina Greely

Biography

Kristina read Music at King’s College London and graduated in 2015 with a First Class Honours BMus. She is continuing her studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where she is on the Masters degree in Historical Performance programme under Pamela Thorby. She gained a piano diploma, the DipABRSM, in 2009, and was awarded the FTCL, a Fellowship in recorder performance from Trinity College London, in 2012. Kristina has six years’ teaching experience, and was recently awarded the Cert PTC teaching diploma from EPTA (UK). She places special importance on ear training in young children. Kristina also teaches piano and recorder at Watford Grammar School for Girls, and accompanies singers and instrumentalists.

MY SKILLS

David Evans

Flute Ensembles and Parent Orchestra

David Evans

Biography

David Evans studied the flute privately with Peter Lloyd before winning a scholarship to study with Geoffrey Gilbert at the Royal Manchester College of Music.

He has been a member of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra and in England has played with many national orchestras including the Halle and the BBC Northern Orchestras, Royal and Festival Ballets, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Liverpool Philharmonic. David now freelances and teaches at the City of London School for Girls.

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Graham Bennett

Theory and Composition

Graham Bennett

Biography

Graham Bennett BMUS LRAM PGCE studied piano, theory and composition at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal Northern College of Music, and the Royal Academy of Music in London where he was awarded the Associated Board Entrance Scholarship. During this time he won many prestigious prizes and performed extensively in the United Kingdom and abroad as a soloist and chamber musician.

In 2001 Graham studied for a PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London to obtain Qualified Teacher Status which enabled him to broaden his teaching experiences working with students in mainstream schools across North London, and he is Head of Theory and Composition at the Youth Music Centre

Graham is also the author, composer and publisher of the ‘Music Master Series’, a collection of Educational Music Books specialising in composition, theory and performance.

MY SKILLS

  • “A fantastic music experience for all my children. They look forward to playing every Saturday”

    Angela Stephens
    PARENT
  • “Highly professional and fun at the same time. My son has gained so much from taking part”

    ANNIE KING
    PROFESSIONAL VIOLA PLAYER