Asaka Quartet: finale and farewell!

Dear friends!

We’ve left now, and want to say the biggest thank you and goodbye to the people, the sheep, to every kind smile and word that made our time what it was – a dream.

Writing on the train back to London today, this is Inis Oírr, violist of Asaka Quartet. As a quartet, our story is very short; we’ve only just passed our 9-months-together landmark. We often joke that quartet is like marriage, and our marriage started sort of as a week of blind dating (sight reading and bashing through Mozart and Brahms) in October that suddenly led to a successful audition for the school’s quartet scheme, followed by a spiral of exciting and lucky events, and suddenly we’re here. I am in awe of what Tunnell Trust stands for and what Jonathan and his team support. To allow us onto the course and to push us many levels further than we thought we could learn to play, I feel completely trusted and (I hope I can say this without it being incredibly ironic), humbled.

Thank you Jonathan, Charles, Dickie, Scott and Tim for your guidance this week, you’ve taught us a bit more how to be humans and musicians, not just one or the other. I know we’re very emotional and noisy and uncultivated as a quartet, so apologies for the extreme crying and laughing this week (Charles, I didn’t mean to wail at you in the middle of your sentence and Dickie, I’m sorry for the lack of score which meant that you were forced to listen sadly with 100% attention to us sawing away at Mendelssohn.)

One of the mornings, Jonathan T and Scott kindly gave their time to sight read Brahms Sextet with us. The rest of that day, mysteriously, Jonathan (my cellist) and I had almost no intonation NoNos (seriously, we usually look at each other like WOAH when our unisons are exactly together, and that day was a day of 100 WOAHs). At the end of the day, I said to Jonathan (our Jonathan), ‘You did some scales or something right?’, and he said ‘Nope, I learnt today from playing with Jonathan T, the trick is, just don’t listen to anyone else, and it sounds gooooood’. (He explained wisely to me later that this is about trust – the struggle of the cellist is to trust his or her group to be able to tune to them! I definitely need Jonathan’s wisdom sometimes). So, I was SO happy that we begged (for real this time) Jonathan T to do a 10am Brahms bash with us!

I’m thinking of one more thing on the train right now: how can we recreate this week, or continue its spirit within our playing when we’re back in polluted busy London? It seems, the answer is actually ‘nothing different’. As a group, we do a lot of things. The evenings where we say ‘Okay, 45 mins to eat noodles then back to rehearsal’, and then we spend about 2 hours eating and laughing at each other. The serious meetings we have all the time where I bring my laptop and the others bring their frowns and we say ‘Okay, now we REALLY have to change the way we do things, it’s not good enough’ – these meetings could potentially be somewhat pointless alone, but after a collection of hours and hours of speaking (seriously, we talk A LOT), it feels like we’re brand new. We go a million times one way (too much talking) then maybe a bit more the other way (too much panic playing), and before you know it, we’re a different shape, maybe (hopefully), more flexible.

So, my summary is that Thank you Jonathan and your Tunnell Trust, because the time we have had this week has been really really invaluable and whilst felt like a second, was also a little timeless. We stretched in 10 different ways and back, and even sound a bit better than we did on day 1 woo! The company was great, eating sandwiches from the same tray as the violinist who calls your own viola teacher his ‘good friend from back in the day’, and joined by two wonderful groups, Ferrante Quartet (we could learn to sleep properly every night like them) and Sylva Winds (how do they make breathing look so easy!) all week. We hope to be back in Coll someday, instruments or not, perhaps with a better sense of what ‘Inis Oírr, pack some warm clothes it will be cold’ means and maybe a more balanced alcohol tolerance average within the group…


All the very very best,

– Inis Oírr, Asaka Quartet


When I’m not handling that precious wooden machine (viola), I usually have my little Canon camera in my hands, so now for the best bits of every book, the pictures!