Martin Anthony (Tony) Burrage
Martin Anthony Burrage (‘Tony’) is a classically trained violinist, pianist, teacher and music animateur. After graduation from the Royal Academy of Music and the BBC Training Orchestra, in 1971 he joined the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he remains a proud member. Founder Director of Ensemble Liverpool, Live-A-Music & Elegant Music, Tony is a keen chamber musician, committed to engaging audiences and to the work of black British composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor.
Martin Anthony Burrage LRAM, GRSM, ARAM, known to his friends and colleagues as ‘Tony’, is director of the Liverpool-based music groups Elegant Music, Ensemble Liverpool and Live-A-Music, which he founded in 1993. Live-A-Music (chronologically the first of this trio of flexibly instrumented ensembles) is a not-for-profit group dedicated to musical activities in the community, often in schools and other venues such as local churches and halls.
Chamber music and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Ensemble Liverpool arose later, from the work of Live-A-Music, and is a more formal group performing full ‘classical’ recitals, again often in informal settings. Some of these recitals include music by composers such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whose Piano Quintet Opus 1 Tony realised for performance in 2001 from a copy of the original handwritten full score which he had located after much enquiry in the library of the Royal College of Music, in London. This intention to establish Coleridge-Taylor’s reputation is on-going. [2010: The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation has now been registered to take this work forward.]
The first-ever known recording of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Piano Quintet, using Tony’s realisation of the original score, was made from a performance, probably also the first in living memory, by his chamber group Ensemble Liverpool (then known as Live-A-Music) in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall at a public recital on 7 November 2001. The artists for this concert were Andrew Berridge (violin), Martin Anthony Burrage (violin), Joanna Lacey (viola), Michael Parrott (‘cello) and John Peace (piano).
Tony has also continued his work exploring the chamber music of lesser-known English speaking composers, e.g. in the 2002 Three Choirs Festival Fringe recitals entitled Across the Divide (music by Amy Beach, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Hurlstone, Dame Ethel Smyth and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford) and more recently as short interludes in HOTFOOT concert programmes. His interest in these musicians can be traced back to his study at the Academy of the Elgar Violin Concerto and his induction into orchestral life by that luminary of English music, Sir Charles Groves, who himself appointed Tony (then aged just 23) to his position in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Elegant Music, Tony’s other group, is a micro-business with only fully professional performers, delivering high quality music for entertainment and relaxed enjoyment at social and corporate functions and other celebratory events.
Teaching and music in the community
Tony as worked with many youth music ensembles, including early experience as a Royal Academy of Music Junior Exhibitioners coach, and later as Senior String Tutor and Conductor of the Liverpool Youth Orchestra. In 1973 he attended the first Suzuki Violin Workshops in Britain, given by Dr Shinicki Suzuki himself.
Alongside his performing duties, Tony has been a busy member of the RLPO Education and Participation team, e.g. as the Phil’s ‘adopted musician’ in a local Liverpool school. He has also worked for the Phil in a variety of community settings, including Sure Start, with very young children – one of whom, not having previously enountered many bearded men, decided he was Father Christmas…
Tony was also Director for HOPES: The Hope Street Association of the HOPES Festival Orchestra, which he founded and which, with his colleague Richard Gordon-Smith, he developed to perform annually[until 2009] in the HOTFOOT on Hope Street concert in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.
Tony’s involvement in working ‘in the community’ and with children stems back to his days in the 1960s as an undergraduate tutor for Junior Exhibitioners at the Royal Academy of Music, and even before then. He says:
I feel I can identify with some of the children I teach in Liverpool’s inner-city schools.
At a time in my own childhood when my family’s circumstances were extremely testing, my parents – neither of them with any musical training – made heroic efforts to ensure I had the opportunity to learn the violin and piano.
I grew up in the 1950s, in a Midlands new town post-war council estate, and I didn’t go to the grammar school. But when I was about eleven a group of instrumentalists from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) came to play to us, and I knew immediately that being an orchestral musician was what I wanted to do. I can still remember telling my startled mother about this ambition, when I got home from school!
My musical education, until I reached my ultimate dream of the Royal Academy of Music, was thanks to the Worcestershire County Schools Music Service, Bromsgrove Technical College (to which I bicycled ten miles every weekday for two years) and the determination of my mother that I should have the instrumental lessons I so wanted.
I learned way back then from my own personal experience that classical music can be for everyone who is given the opportunity to enjoy it.
Married since they were both students in London, Tony and his wife Hilary have subsequently been active in the cultural life of Liverpool for many years. They have a daughter, Anna, who herself now lives with her own family in London.
Working with professional colleagues
Tony has a long-time interest in world music, and has performed regularly with jazz / crossover musicians such as Surinder Sandhu (with whom he and others formed the celebrated Saurang Orchestra) and with classical Indian vocalist Sumitra Guha.
Amongst his other music profession related roles, Tony has been Chair of the NW Region of the Musicians’ Union; he has a strong on-going interest in the health of performing artists.
Tony has performed across the length and breadth of the UK – from London’s South Bank and the Royal Albert Hall to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh – and also in many others of the world’s great concert halls, including the Vienna Musikverein, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Dvorak and Smetana Halls in Prague, in most central and southern European capital city concert halls, and in major concert halls in the Far East.
Tony estimates that he has over his career so far(mid-190s) spent about 90,000 hours playing the violin, and has been an artist in some 300 radio, TV, film, LP and CD recordings. His television appearances include many BBC Proms, as well as the Christmas 2007 BBC live broadcast of the Liverpool Nativity, in which Tony was an on-stage performer. Film credits, also in his violin playing role, include Hilary and Jackie (1998, with screen play Frank Cottrell Boyce – the tragic story of cellist Jacqueline du Pre, some of it filmed in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall) and the similarly acclaimed film, Chariots of Fire (1981, written by Colin Welland, about the true story of British athletes in the 1924 Olympics) for which the ballroom scene was shot in Liverpool Town Hall.
Tony’s concert violin – a beautiful reddish varnished instrument, made in Paris in 1895 by H.C. Silvestre – has been his constant companion since college days. He studied the piano (joint first study with the violin) at the Royal Academy of Music with Joan Last, and his violin teachers over the years have included Molly Mack, Leonard Hirsch, Emanuel Hurwitz, Frederick Grinke, Peter Mountain and Leland Chen.
In 2001 Tony was honoured to be made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, the first such award to be granted by the RAM for contributions to music in the community.
Contact email: Martin Anthony (Tony) Burrage
Posted on November 16, 2006, in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: The Man And His Legacy, The Music and tagged Amy Beach, Charles Villiers Stanford, Elegant Music, Ensemble Liverpool, Ethyl Smyth, HOPES: The Hope Street Association, HOTFOOT concerts, Live-A-Music, Martin Anthony (Tony) Burrage, Music teacher, RLPO, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Sir Charles Groves, Sumitra Guha, Surinder Sandhu, Violinist, William Hurlstone. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.