The West Ocean String Quartet (WOSQ) marks its twentieth anniversary in 2020 with an innovative recording project which celebrates the traditional music of Ireland’s Atlantic coast, echoing the quartet’s title.
Since it took its first tentative steps in 1999, WOSQ has received world-wide acclaim. Its founding members, Séamus McGuire (violin) and Neil Martin (cello) were later joined by Niamh Crowley (violin) and Ken Rice (viola).
Séamus McGuire, from Sligo, is a traditional fiddle-player and former holder of the prestigious Fiddler of Dooney title. Along with his brother Manus, Jackie Daly and Garry O’Briain, he formed the influential traditional band, Buttons & Bows. Neil Martin, from Belfast, is an internationally-acclaimed composer, a classically-trained cellist and an accomplished uilleann piper who learned his piping from his mentor and friend, Liam O’Flynn. Niamh Crowley, from Rosses Point, Co Sligo is a violinist who performs with Barry Douglas as a member of Camerata Ireland and tours with the orchestra in North and South America, China and Europe. Ken Rice from Tralee, the quartet’s violist, has broad musical experience which evolved from his immersion in many musical genres including classical, pop, jazz, baroque and Irish music. A violinist with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, he has played with the Nuevo Tango Quartet and the psychedelic pop band, Engine Alley.
Within the quartet, the worlds of traditional and classical music meet and combine effortlessly. At the quartet’s core is its happy disregard for musical boundaries and its willingness to fearlessly navigate the space between traditional Irish music and classical music. This has been central to the emergence of the quartet’s highly distinctive voice. In her 5* review of the quartet’s most recent album, An Indigo Sky (2013), the Irish Times reviewer Siobhán Long wrote: “Wide in its horizons, and plumbing emotional depths to which few musicians dare venture, An Indigo Sky lures the listener to its own netherworld, full of the joys and passions of a prematurely quenched light”.
The quartet was honoured to perform at the Ceiliúradh concert at The Royal Albert Hall in 2014 for the state visit of President Michael D Higgins. It has collaborated on stage and in studio with leading artists including Matt Molloy, Liam O’Flynn, Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill and Christy Moore. All of WOSQ’s albums have been played aboard the International Space Station.
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