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We are delighted that The Irwells return this Autumn. Their programme is:

Bach – Brandenburg Concerto no.3
Ravel – String Quartet in F
Schubert – Quartet no.14 (‘Death and the Maiden’)
Our players:
Nia Bevan (1st Violin), Helen Tonge (2nd Violin), Aimée Johnson (Viola), Doug Badger (Cello)


Nia Bevan (1st Violin)

Nia was born in Cardiff and began learning the violin with Marion Mattison at the age of 7.  After studying with Nina Martin during 6th form she won a McMyn scholarship to Manchester University where she studied with Peter Cropper, leader of the Lindsay String Quartet.  During her undergraduate years she was presented with wide-ranging opportunities, including leading the University’s symphony and chamber orchestras, playing with the new music ensemble and leading a string quartet which received weekly coaching from members of the Lindsay String Quartet.

After completing a post-graduate diploma at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Nia embarked on a very varied freelance career.  She has enjoyed leading posts with many orchestras including the British Sinfonietta, Swansea City Opera, Dartington Festival Orchestra, Cinematic Sinfonia, Opera Box and the Welsh Session Orchestra.  She has also appeared as guest-leader with the RTE Concert Orchestra, Novello Orchestra, Mid-Wales Opera, Welsh Chamber Orchestra, Borders Sinfonia, Skipton Camerata and the Bristol Ensemble.  In 2009 she led the Lunar Chamber orchestra on Sting’s dvd “On a Winter’s Night”, recorded live at Durham cathedral and in 2010 toured Europe and North America with Sting and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.  

Helen Tonge (2nd Violin)

Helen grew up in Kent, and her love of the violin and viola stems from lessons with her first teacher, Sheila Veryard. She studied at Manchester University, where she was inspired by the Lindsay String Quartet, especially her teacher, the second violinist Ronald Birks. She became the second violinist in the Rivoli String Quartet, with whom she completed a Masters in String Quartet Performance and performed at music societies throughout the UK. The Rivolis also created a mini-festival: ‘Schulfest’, championing the music of early twentieth century Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff.

Helen now enjoys playing with a variety of chamber groups, as well as with orchestras including Skipton Camerata and Manchester Camerata. She has recently been appointed co-leader of Cheshire Sinfonia.

Solo performances have included the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Tonbridge Philharmonic, and duo work with composer-pianist Richard Whalley, with whom she has premiered ‘Gorgon’s Head’ by Camden Reeves, and ‘Limp’ by Tom Coult.

Aimée Johnson (Viola)

Aiée was born in Merseyside but grew up in Cumbria. She was raised in a musical family with both her parents being Irish folk musicians. Her father, Michael Johnson, was also a violin maker and restorer. At the age of 18 Aimée won the Keldwyth award in Cumbria, and soon began her studies at the Royal Northern College of Music where she gained a BA in Music and Postgraduate Diploma in Performance, also winning the Cecil Aronowitz prize for viola.  

Aimée has since enjoyed a varied freelance career playing with many orchestras and ensembles including the BBC Philharmonic, Liverpool Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, Northern Chamber Orchestra, Goldberg Ensemble, The Pleyel Ensemble, Skipton Camerata and many more.  

Aimée has worked with many famous artists including Bryn Terfel, Andrea Bocelli,  

José Carreras, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Alfie Boe, Karl Jenkins, Kanye West and The Charlatans.

Aimée has also organised charity concerts to raise thousands for the MS society and MS Therapy Centre NW.

Aimee lives with her partner Doug, and their daughter. She also has two older children. As well as being a musician and teacher, Aimée is an artist. Having always had a keen interest in art, she only actually began painting in 2019. Working in a wide range of styles and media, she has since sold many works, throughout the UK and abroad.

You can find her work on her Facebook and Instagram pages: Art by ASJ

Doug Badger (Cello)

Doug was born in Edinburgh where, at the age of 11, he began learning the cello with renowned Scottish teacher Eleanor “Kitty” Gregorson MBE. He later attended the Junior Department of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly RSAMD), and then studied for a BA in Music at the University of York. 

In 1998 he moved to Manchester to continue his studies at the Royal Northern

College of Music, where he attained a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Performance.

Remaining in Manchester, he is now enjoying a career as a freelance cellist with ensembles and orchestras throughout the UK, including the BBC Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Opera North, Manchester Camerata and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, to name but a few.

As Principal Cellist of Skipton Camerata and the Stamford Orchestra, Doug also features regularly as a soloist and performs concertos with many other local orchestras, as well as duo and chamber music recitals throughout the UK with the Irwell Ensemble, which he founded in 2014.

When he’s not playing the cello, Doug is an avid chess player, speedcuber, coder, cryptographer and a parent to his lively and entertaining young daughter, with his partner, the accomplished painter and violist Aimée Johnson.




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