top of page
Astarias park photo crop.png


19 January 2019

 Cosy Hall 7.30pm

Shulah Oliver (Violin)

Kelly McCusker (Violin)

Kate Bickerdike (Viola)

Sean Gilde (Cello)


Kreisler - Schon Rosmarin & Liebesleid

Ravel - String Quartet in F



Piazzolla - Libertango

Turina - Bull Fighter's Prayer

Piazzolla - Tango Ballet

McLean - selection from Tangos & more

You can find out more about the Astaria Quartet here:

Astaria String Quartet 2019 crop 01 19_9

Concert Review


Astaria String Quartet

at Cosy Hall on Saturday 19th January, 2019.





Winter's chill was soon forgotten as the Astaria String Quartet

raised the temperature in the aptly named Cosy Hall.

This Worcester based quartet presented a programme of music

which included pieces by Kriesler, Ravel, Piazzolla, Turina

and McLean.


In Kreisler's Schon Rosmarin and Liebesleid, the spiccato bowing

was beautifully executed and there was a lovely blend of

delicate patterns which were very pretty and tender.


The String Quartet in F major by Maurice Ravel consists of

four movements.


In the first movement the theme was weaving and moving from each instrument with full sounds and full bodied playing. An exciting start to the second moved along with pizzicato and the viola calming down the lyrical tune. The numerous changes of tempo in the third movement were beautifully executed. Astaria managed the emphatic arpeggios and changes of time signature with ease in the final movement.


After the interval the four musicians turned up the heat with Latin American themed music by Piazolla, Turina and McLean. Piazolla's well known sultry tango, "Libertango", was delivered with lively up-beats in unison which created more tension.


In "The bull-fighters prayer" by Turina, the quartet contrasted the hubbub of the expectant crowd, the public that awaited the Fiesta and the quiet prayers of the bull fighter.


We were treated to an excellent finale with a selection of tangos from McLean. I particularly enjoyed the cello throughout the recital although all four musicians deserve a Bravo! for their skilful and entertaining performance.


In a welcome departure from the norm the artist joined us during the interval for a chat with a very appreciative audience.


Thank you Astaria and Newport Music Club for a delightful evening.


The Club’s next concert will be on Saturday 16 February at 7.30pm and will feature pianist Edward Leung - once again at Cosy Hal.  


Review by Janine Kitchin

Photo by Edward Kosinski

©Newport Music Club, Shropshire 2019



Inspirational and innovative, the Astaria String Quartet continues to explore not only less well known works for string quartet, but also aspects of audience development with their exciting new programme ‘An Evening of Requests’ and the commissioning of new music by local composers.
They were awarded an ‘Arts4All’ Grant from the National Lottery to study with the distinguished chamber musician Gábor Takács-Nagy in Geneva and were also awarded a bursary to attend the prestigious ‘International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove’.  They have recorded their first album, ‘Fiesta', a celebration of Spanish and Latin American music, which includes compositions by Turina, Villa-Lobos and a first recording of the ‘Tango Ballet’ by Piazzolla for string quartet. Most recently they have also recorded music by Clement Jewitt, which includes compositions for voice and string quartet featuring Wendy Nieper, called ‘The coming of Light’ and two quartets by Helen Ottaway - String Quartet No.1 and No.2 ('Rain').
Their busy touring schedule has seen the Astaria String Quartet performing throughout the UK, including recitals across Scotland for Enterprise Music Scotland and the ‘Argyll and Bute Concert Tours’, in Devon for Beaford Arts and in Shropshire for ‘Arts Alive’. They were first Selected Artists for the Making Music Concert Promoter’s Network during the 2013 / 2014 Season.
They were invited to present a recital at the BCU Birmingham Conservatoire as part of the ‘Salute to Midlands Composers’ Series.  This included the rarely performed ‘String Quartet in A’ by Edgar Bainton, ‘On Wenlock Edge’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams with Julian Pike and Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet, with Robert Markham.
The Astaria String Quartet's commitment to education and music in the community is reflected through coaching, master-classes, workshops and performances in both primary and secondary school settings as well as hospices and Camphill Communities. They particularly enjoy creating musical stories with a narrator for their annual Family and Christmas shows. Both the 'Snowman' and the 'Nutcracker' amongst others, have featured at these events.
They continue to develop their festival ‘Chamber Music @ Worcester’, which aims to create a vibrant, accessible and enjoyable environment, where people of all ages can interact with chamber music concerts and related events.


Shulah Oliver completed her Masters Degree in Performance with Distinction at the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied with Howard Davis. She was awarded the Diploma of the Royal Academy of Music for her outstanding Final Recital. Her studies were assisted by awards from the Elmley and EMI Music Sound Foundations, Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and Winifred Disney.

Shulah graduated from the Royal College of Music with a First Class Honours Joint Principal (violin/viola) degree in 2004. She was a finalist in the Delius Prize and has received commendations in several competitions including the Wilfred Parry Prize, the Winifred Small Prize and Sir Arthur Bliss Prize, and received the John Mundy and D-Day Fund Prize Awards from RAM.

She is a member of Duo Armande and was violinist of the Lichnowsky Piano Trio who were prize winners at the 2003 European Music Competition for Youth. As a soloist and ensemble member she has been invited to play in festivals such as the Paganini London Festival, Norfolk and Norwich, Worcester Live, Peter-Maxwell Davis and St. Endellion Festivals.

Shulah was a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra.  As a member of orchestras including the National Youth Orchestra, she has performed at a variety of prestigious events and venues including Cheltenham International Festival, BBC Proms, Young Euro Classic, Southbank, Concertgebouw, and Royal Albert Hall and with prominent conductors such as Yan Pascal Tortelier, Bernard Haitink, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Colin Davis and Sir Charles Mackerras. She freelances with orchestras such as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, English Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Swan.

Kelly McCusker initially studied at the Purcell School and then Kingston University, before attaining a distinction in Music Performance as part of her Masters Degree at the UCE Birmingham Conservatoire. At Birmingham she studied with Gabrielle Lester (a former CBSO principal) and upon completion of her degree, was invited to join the staff at the Conservatoire, where she continues to be a violin tutor.

Kelly enjoys a busy freelance career across the UK and has been guest leader of the Sinfonia of Birmingham. This has included being director and soloist in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.5.  She has led the Birmingham Philharmonic with performances in the CBSO Centre and the Adrian Boult Hall and has followed Felix Kok as Leader of The Elgar Sinfonia. As a violinist and vocalist, Kelly has also performed in numerous productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and on tour in Washington D.C. She has also been in the recent production of ‘Saint Joan’ at the National Theatre in London.

As a performer on the Baroque and Classical violin, Kelly is a principal member of the Hanover Band and works with her own chamber group, Musical and Amicable Society. She has also worked with a number of Ensembles in London, most notably The City of London Chamber Players and St. James Baroque, with whom she has toured Germany and  performed with at the BBC Proms in 2000.

More recently, Kelly was appointed leader of the Warwick based Orchestra of the Baroque and the newly formed Worcester Chamber Orchestra directed by Stephen Shellard. Future engagements include performances in Italy, France, Austria and Majorca and numerous concerts as both a violinist and vocalist, with film composer Jocelyn Pook in connection with various recording projects spanning the last 6 years.

Sean Gilde studied with Christopher Bunting and at the BCU Birmingham Conservatoire with Ulrich Heinen, where he graduated with a B.A. (Hons.) Degree and the ABRSM Performance and ABRSM Recital Diplomas. As well as continuing his studies with William Conway, he was a founding member of the Astaria and Almira String Quartets and in that capacity has given recitals at many of the UK's major Concert Halls, including the Purcell Room, St Johns' Smith Square and Symphony Hall Birmingham.

Residencies and Special Projects with the Almira Quartet have included the Ryedale Festival, Birmingham and Midland Institute and the UK premiere of C. H. Parry's Third String Quartet, which was broadcast ‘as live’ from the Three Choirs Festival.

As well as having played with Mid-Wales Opera as section leaders, the Almira Quartet also took part in competitions in Italy and Germany as well as master-classes with Sigmund Nissel, Malcolm Layfield and the Chillingirian and Coull Quartets.

Sean has performed at Festivals, for Music Societies and has also broadcast live for Classic FM (Almira Quartet) and BBC Radio 4 (Astaria Quartet).  As a quartet player, as well as working for the Council for Music in Hospitals and Live Music Now! Sean has toured regularly including Scotland for Enterprise Music Scotland, the Argyll and Bute Concert Tours and by invitation, for the National Federation of Music Societies Music Club circuit.

Sean has presented workshops and lecture-recitals for Arts Alive, Birmingham University, the City of Edinburgh Music School and the Education Department at Symphony Hall Birmingham, often to National Curriculum and National Lottery specifications.  He is a regular tutor for the 'Fantasia Music School' music course, during the summer.

Through an interest in contemporary music, Sean has taken part in the UK premieres of quartet-commissions by Andrew Downes, Colin Touchin and Richard Lee-Harris and has worked with composers at the Birmingham Conservatoire through an Association with the Composition Faculty.  He also gave the UK premiere of ‘Imago’ for solo ‘cello by F. M. Beyer as part of a touring exhibition of the Blackboard Drawings by R. Steiner.

As a freelance musician, Sean has played for amongst others the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford.

Most recently Sean has performed in projects with Darkin Dance, most notably ‘Parabolic’ for the Brunel 200 Celebrations in Bristol and ‘Up Close’, a UK Tour for Dance South West.  Sean plays on a French 'cello by Collin-Mezin from 1902.

Kate Bickerdike graduated from the UCE Birmingham Conservatoire. She continued her studies by completing a Postgraduate Diploma and Diploma of Professional Studies in Music Performance with Professor Rivka Golani. During her time at the Conservatoire Kate was awarded the Herbert Lumby Prize, the Young Cygnets Bursary and was the winner of the Ludlow Philharmonic String Competition.

As a freelance player Kate has worked with some of the leading ensembles in the country including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the English Symphony Orchestra, English National Ballet, the New English Concert Orchestra and Longborough Festival Opera. She has also appeared with artists including Katherine Jenkins, Chris de Burgh and Russell Watson.

Kate has also given solo recitals and has performed with orchestras, highlights of which have include the Cello Concerto by Elgar arranged for viola by Lionel Tertis, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.6, Bruch’s Romanze and the fabulous Harold In Italy by Berlioz.

A former member of the Astaria String Quartet for seven years, she was a co-founder of the Chamber Music @ Worcester Festival. During this time Kate was privileged to perform concerts, recitals, and tours in beautiful venues around the United Kingdom and perform to celebrities and royalty.

Kate also enjoys teaching and spends part of her week working in schools for the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust, encouraging talented young violinists to convert to the viola!

bottom of page