Angela Richey: Inspirational violinist and passionate teacher
Tuesday 23 June 2009
The death of the violinist Angela Richey leaves a void in that will be difficult to fill. As a musician she was respected both as a performer and a teacher, but she was also greatly appreciated by her many friends and colleagues as a remarkable human being. She always had time for people and although she was essentially a modest person she was an excellent organiser with a surprising talent for persuasion.
The daughter of J.E. Richey, an eminent Irish geologist, she was born in Edinburgh and educated at George Watson's College in that city. Her introduction to the violin was the accidental discovery of one hidden underneath a cabinet at her grandmother's. "I started to make such a noise they decided to let me take lessons to learn how to play properly," she died.
She made excellent progress from the outset and it was soon clear that she would eventually make it into the profession. In 1949 she went to London and the Royal Academy of Music, where she was a student of the celebrated Frederick Grinke. She won numerous prizes, including the Charles Oldham Scholarship, enabling her to study for a further three years.
On graduating in 1954, she successfully auditioned for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and at 23 was their youngest member. She left in 1957 in order to complete a further year's study at a music academy in Siena, Italy. On her return she became a freelance player in Birmingham, where she performed with a number of chamber music ensembles, including the Element String Quartet and the Delphos Ensemble. It was with the latter that she first participated in BBC broadcasts; she also played regularly with the Orchestra Camerata from its foundation.
She was leader of the Bury St. Edmunds Bach Society Orchestra from 1963-88 but continued to play in her own Richey String Quartet, which she founded in 1967 with Dennis Avery, Peter Bridle and Kathleen Walker. Avery, who played second violin, has happy memories of those times: "We met weekly – gave regular concerts at many different venues and had many intensive holiday sessions in order to concentrate on some very taxing works by Bartok, Ravel and Walton ... Although Angela had a very kind and gentle manner, underneath she had a strong personality which kept the quartet together in both a musical and personal sense."
String-quartet playing did not prevent her from accepting freelance engagements with a number of celebrated orchestras, including the Boyd Neel, Sadlers Wells, Stratford-on-Avon Theatre Orchestra, the Birmingham Bach Society and the BBC Symphony, Midland Light and Midland Radio Orchestras.
In 1999 with Megan Webb she founded the Volante Strings, a small group which performs without a conductor. She gathered string players from all over Worcestershire for the ensemble, which she led and directed. Their new leader, Kathy Holmes, said in her eulogy at Richey's funeral: "Angela was the inspiration behind each performance. Every member of the ensemble fell under the spell of her musical energy and enthusiasm."
Richey was a passionate and dedicated teacher. She remained open to new technical ideas and would spend hours with her colleagues discussing ways of achieving the results. She taught at various schools in Birmingham and Warwickshire, including the Coventry Centre for Performing Arts, King's School, Worcester and the Elgar School of Music, also in Worcester. A tireless supporter of the West Midlands branch of ESTA, (the European String Teachers' Association), Richey will be missed by the members in that area, as practically all their concerts and meetings were held courtesy of Richey and her husband Richard in their beautiful old house in Shelsley Beauchamp in Worcestershire.
Angela Margaret Grace Richey, musician and teacher: born Edinburgh 2 September 1931; married 1959 John Sinfield (died 1973, one daughter), 1975 Richard Haigh; died Shelsley Beauchamp, Worcestershire 11 February 2009.
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