Oliver, who was born and brought up in Manchester, took up the clarinet at the age of 15 in 2008. For ten years before that he had studied the violin but had decided it wasn’t the instrument for him. His grandfather, John Fuest, had played clarinet with the CBSO and convinced Oliver to give the instrument a go. The rest is history!
After two years of lessons with his grandfather, Oliver went to Chethams School of Music to study with Rosa Campos-Fernandez. He followed this with four years at the Royal Academy of Music with Mark van de Wiel. After graduation Oliver freelanced with some of the London orchestras before joining the CBSO as Principal Clarinet in December 2014, describing the months since that as ‘the time of my life’. He singles out the Beethoven Cycle in Bonn and Birmingham with Andris Nelsons as a memory he’ll never forget.
Outside of the CBSO, Oliver enjoys watching sports in general, playing tennis and cricket and balancing all that physical activity with a love of ‘cooking and eating lots of nice food!’
Alexei Watkins graduated from the Royal Academy of Music with First Class Honours in July 2017 and a Master of Arts Degree with Distinction in September 2018. During his time at the Academy, amongst other accolades, he was awarded the Dennis Brain Prize.
As a soloist, Alexei has given recitals at venues including St John’s Smith Square, the Buxton International Festival, Blackheath Halls, the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival, Hampton Court Palace and Southwark Cathedral. Other recent solo engagements include Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto in Surbiton and Ealing as well as Mozart’s 3rd Horn Concerto in Guildford. Alexei has also performed the Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings both in the UK and abroad. In 2019 Alexei won the University of London Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and is looking forward to performing Strauss’ 1st Horn Concerto with the orchestra in 2022.
He is a keen orchestral player and has played Principal Horn with English National Opera, Glyndebourne Touring Orchestra and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. He also regularly plays with orchestras across the UK such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia. Alexei’s playing can also be heard on various Film and television soundtracks including the upcoming James Bond Film, “No Time To Die”.
Alexei particularly enjoys playing chamber music and has performed with the Nash Ensemble and London Winds at the Wigmore Hall and the Bath Mozartfest amongst others. Whilst at the Academy, Alexei won the Worshipful Company of Musicians Brass Ensemble Prize with his Brass Quintet and was a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians for Five years. In April 2015 he recorded Mozart’s Gran Partita with the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble and Strauss’ Wind Serenades with Aldeburgh Winds, both for Linn Records.
British Soprano, Camilla, is a recent graduate of Royal Academy Opera where she studied with Raymond Connell and Jonathan Papp. She was awarded the Regency Award at graduation for “distinguished studentship”, the Tom Hammond Opera Prize, Kendal Prize, John McAslan Prize and was a Bicentenary Scholar, through which she recorded a programme based on the theme ‘Songs of Love and Longing’ with world-renowned independent recording label Linn Records. She is a Britten Pears Young Artist, a member of RAM’s ‘Song Circle’ and is supported by the Josephine Baker Trust and was a Countess of Munster Musical Trust Derek Butler award holder. She was recently selected to represent the UK in the finals of the Vincerò World Singing Competition in Naples. She holds a Masters of Performance (Distinction) from Royal College of Music and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Durham University, where she studied Music. Her formative years were spent as a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral.
Camilla will join Garsington Opera’s Alvarez Young Artist programme for their 2022 season, covering the role of Fiordiligi and performing as a member of the chorus. Recent roles include Countess in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro for HGO, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Helena in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Comtesse in Massenet’s Chérubin and Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Royal Academy Opera), Suzanne in Offenbach’s Robinson Crusoe and 1st Bridesmaid in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro directed by Sir Thomas Allen (Royal College of Music International Opera School).
Camilla has performed as a soloist in Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, St John’s Smith Square and Royal Festival Hall among others. Recent solo highlights include finalist in Royal Academy of Music’s Bicentenary Prize at Wigmore Hall, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (Royal Festival Hall) and Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate (HM Tower of London) and prizewinner in the Mozart Singing Competition. Camilla was a chorus member for the Glyndebourne Festival 2019.
British Baritone, Michael Lafferty, is a dynamic artist, praised for the “melting warmth” of his voice, and “demonstrable affection and involvement” of his performances. (Opera Today - Hurn Court Opera recital, Salisbury Arts Centre, Nov ‘19). He currently studies on the Opera School at Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the tutelage of David Pollard, where he is generously supported by The Behrens Foundation, The Drake Calleja Trust and Countess of Munster Musical Trust. Prior to his studies at Guildhall, Michael studied at Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin and at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, graduating with a first-class honours Bachelor degree in 2018.
He has had success in numerous competitions, with highlights including First prizes at the AESS Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition 2021, Freda Parry Foundation Competition 2017 and the Guildhall English Song Prize 2021. Other successes include reaching the finals of the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2021, Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards 2020 and second prize at the Hurn Court Opera Competition 2018. Michael’s Operatic stage debut was in 2018 as Tarquinius for Trinity Laban’s The Rape of Lucretia. Since then, Michael has performed the roles of Dr.Falke (Die Fledermaus), Pausanias (Une Éducation Manquée) and Masetto (Don Giovanni), as well as scenes from Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Figaro), Albert Herring (Sid) and Die Zauberflöte (Papageno). Michael is currently preparing the roles of Prince Andrei (Prokofiev, War and Peace), Fritz (Korngold, Die Tote Stadt) and revisiting Figaro (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) for Guildhall Opera School scenes performances in November.
Recent performances include Schumann’s ‘Requiem für Mignon’ as a soloist under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner for Salzurger Festpiele 2021, Mozart Requiem for Battersea Choral Society and guest soloist for Prenzlau Opera Gala, Berlin, conducted by John Axelrod. Other engagements include Guglielmo (cover) for Nevill Holt Opera's production of Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte for the 2019 Season.
Thomas Aldren performs regularly as a principal violinist with many of the UK’s leading orchestras, including the Bournemouth, BBC Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestras, and chamber orchestras such as the English Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, and Manchester Camerata. His activity as a chamber musician has included performances alongside Lawrence Power, Anthony Marwood, Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Valeriy Sokolov and Adrian Brendel, with live performances on BBC Radio 3 and concerts at King’s Place and the Wigmore Hall. He has performed many of the major violin concerti, including those by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Mozart and Bach.
Tom grew up in Buckinghamshire and started playing the violin at the age of six. He went on to graduate with a First Class Honours degree in Music from King’s College London, and then completed a Master’s with Distinction from the Royal Academy of Music in 2015, during which time he was the winner of numerous competitions including the Winifred Small Violin Prize and the York International Chamber Music Festival Competition. After a final year of study at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich, he embarked on an exciting international career as a concert violinist, combining orchestral and solo playing with his passion for chamber music. He has performed with Burt Bacharach, Quincy Jones, Martha Argerich, Dizzee Rascal, and many other of the best-known artists in music today across a huge range of genres.
Tom was a member of ULSO from 2011-13, and is delighted to be returning as a soloist once again after performing the Stravinsky Violin Concerto with the orchestra in 2016. He plays a violin by Antonio Gragnani made in Livorno, 1779.