Adam Summerhayes – Leader

Adam defies musical categorisation; he effortlessly moves between disciplines –  20th century chamber music recordings, early music, a fiddle lament or the wild and spiralling improvisations that are his trademark. A New York Times review reflects something of this: ‘astonishing, all-out virtuosity on violin by Adam Summerhayes – including “beer-fiddling”, as he terms it’. For him, music is about storytelling: communication and unrestrained creativity. His mastery of a diverse range of genres underpins the apparent disregard for traditional boundaries in his compositions and improvisations – creating new musical narratives in his own dialect.

His “thrilling virtuosity” (Gramophone) perhaps stems both from his technical grounding from Yfrah Neaman, one of the twentieth century’s greatest pedagogues, and his own fiddle heritage: he was taught by his grandfather, a pupil of Adolf Brodsky, the player who premiered Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. He is steeped in folk idioms from a long line of north-country fiddlers and Eastern European influences are part of his musical bloodline. A fiddler with a virtuoso technique “like the direct descendant of the devil’s violinist Paganini” (Badische Zeitung, Feb 2019).

Adam grew up and was educated in Leicestershire and played with the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra until moving to London to study at the Guildhall School of Music, subsequently directing his own chamber orchestra which performed in various venues in London and around the country. He has been involved with the Bardi Symphony Orchestra since the very early days and relishes the opportunity to lead the Orchestra regularly whenever he is not touring abroad. He has appeared with the Orchestra as a soloist on several occasions and his international career as a soloist began with the Orchestra in concertos  at the Hermitage Theatre in St Petersburg and the Rudolfinum in Prague.

He has since toured the USA and Europe as a concerto soloist. Much of his career has been devoted to chamber music, kick-started by a Purcell Room recital of music by Copland and Alan Bush – ‘consummate virtuosity from all three players’ The Strad  –  and highly critically acclaimed premier recordings of the same – ‘to die for’ The Strad; ‘I cannot recommend this too highly’ Gramophone; ‘ utterly compelling’ BBC Music Magazine. The Bush recording was a selected disc in Gramophone Magazine.

He has performed in many prestigious venues: South Bank Centre’s Purcell Room; Queen Elizabeth Hall; Wigmore Hall; and recently in distinguished international venues including the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music Concert Hall, the Théatre du Chatelet, Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Extensive international touring has taken him across the majority of Europe, to Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Canada, Alaska, the USA, and New Zealand. 

Not only has Adam played in some of the world’s most highly esteemed venues, but also has played with Dutch platinum selling pop star Caro Emerald to 20,000 people in the O2 arena. 

Adam first explored pushing the boundaries of genre with Zum, the world-touring gypsy-tango band: the new ‘gypsy tango’ genre arose partly as a result of both his composition and unique “intoxicating … virtuoso fiddle playing” (The Times). He joined the extraordinarily dynamic baroque group Red Priest in 2015 and arranged and composed most of Red Priests latest album “The Baroque Bohemians”, an incandescent mix of baroque virtuosity and gypsy influence that topped the classical charts.

Adam’s arrangements and compositions feature most notably Harmonia Mundi’s ‘Piazzolla and Beyond’ – ‘a riveting, dramatic and even sexy listen’ BBC – in Chandos’s ‘Gypsy Strings’ – ‘cumulative excitement and sheer abandon’ Gramophone. He has recorded 25 discs for various labels including Harmonia Mundi, Meridian Records, Chandos, ASV, Toccata Classics, Sargasso and Red Priest Recordings and now has own label – Extinct Records. He composed a track for the soundtrack of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, where he also makes a cameo appearance as a gypsy. Adam recorded live on set, improvising a melancholy melody as Robert Downey Jnr’s body double before training the actor to mime to the resulting track. Adam’s music is played frequently on radio stations throughout the world as well as on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM.

Also a remarkable multi-instrumentalist, Adam has developed a dramatic and unique baroque guitar style: ‘spectacularly joined on guitar taking a momentary break from his equally breath-taking violin wizardry.’ — He plays medieval gemshorns, mandolin, mandola and a keyboard melodica, instruments that feature in Dodo Street Band and The Ciderhouse Rebellion – another developing project, with master accordionist Murray Grainger (“Grainger’s accordion with Summerhayes’s fiddle are especially beautiful” Songlines). At the other end of the instrumental spectrum, he made premiere recordings on viola of works by Copland and Alan Bush – critically acclaimed additions to the recorded musical canon.

His festival sell-out new project, Dodo Street Band, spins elements of the traditional tunes from his musical bloodline to create a wildly irreverent take on folk music. Performances with Cormac Byrne, the world renowned bodhran player, led to their remarkable recording – ‘Stone Soup’ – released in May 2019 … ‘we didn’t plan anything, we just started to play’.