Jacqueline Shave Q&A - Britten Sinfonia

Jacqueline Shave Q&A

Jacqueline officially steps down as Leader of Britten Sinfonia at Britten Sinfonia’s performances of Holst’s Sāvitri on Wednesday 4 May at the Barbican – though we are sure she’ll be back for special projects. Here, we find out a little more about her time with us, and about her trio with tabla player Kuljit Bhamra and guitarist John Parricelli, who will be joining us on stage during the concert.

Jacqueline Shave © Benjamin Ealovega

Can you remember the first time you played with Britten Sinfonia?

Absolutely! The memory is very strong – it was a tour of Germany, and I remember staying in this incredible castle, complete with ballrooms and crystal chandeliers. My room was gigantic, with a four poster bed. It was extraordinary. I remember feeling incredibly at home, straightaway, surrounded by these lovely musicians.


What have been some of the really standout performances and projects for you over the years?

The big one has to be Bach’s St John Passion, which I spent a year preparing for and directing in the Concertgebouw and the Barbican. Being able to get into the bones and the whole structure of this piece, and live with it for a year, was lifechanging really. It had the most wonderful reception.

There was a Britten Serenade I directed early on, in a Suffolk church on a beautiful sunny day. Everything came together, everything seemed perfect. It was with Mark Padmore. The Serenade was one of my father’s special pieces. It meant so much to him.

Touring Mexico with a fabulous team of players was definitely one of the happiest times of my life.

Being conducted by Oliver Knussen at Snape Maltings – the place I feel is my musical home – was unforgettable.

All our concerto performances with Imogen Cooper were incredible, as were the concerts in King’s Chapel with Stephen Cleobury. Our Messiah concerts and recording with Stephen Layton – the work we did on that is imprinted forever. And everything we did with Thomas Ades. You always feel you’re given something very special, like unwrapping an unexpected present. Everything with him is heightened and miraculous.


The concert on Wednesday evening is going to finish with a short performance by your trio with tabla player Kuljit Bhamra and guitarist John Parricelli. How did it come about?

Just over a decade ago, I took a sabbatical from mainstream playing, because I wanted to explore lots of things that I hadn’t done before musically. One of these things was playing with Kuljit, and that was the year we joined up with John and made the CD Postcards from Home. Composing and improvising with them – it opened up a completely different door for me.

I’m lucky enough to have been to India a number of times, and the three of us performed extensively there. It’s always a complete joy to travel there, and you always come back having learned so much. I’m so grateful to have performed there with these two fabulous musicians. I feel very lucky.

Britten Sinfonia/Jacqueline Shave © Alex Beer

Jacqueline Shave © Alex Beer


You can see Jacqueline performing at the Barbican on Wednesday 4 May – find out more here.