Red Priest – recently described in the New York Times as ‘the wildly virtuosic little band’ – has been at the cutting edge of baroque music performance for over a quarter of a century. Formed in 1997 by recorder virtuoso Piers Adams, together with violinist Julia Bishop, cellist Angela East and the late Julian Rhodes, harpsichord (a role now filled by David Wright) - and named after the original ‘red priest’ Antonio Vivaldi - the quartet has developed a truly unique style, combining high-energy performance, boundary crossing arrangements and theatrical presentation, delighting audiences across the globe.
Although based in the UK, where they are long established favourites amongst promoters and public alike, Red Priest has crossed the Atlantic for over 50 coast-to-coast tours of America, Mexico, Cuba and Canada, as well as performing in prestigious festivals in almost every European country, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Lebanon, Japan, China, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. The group has given numerous radio and TV broadcasts, including a fly-on-the-wall documentary for The South Bank Show in 2005, which attracted a million viewers.
Red Priest’s discography – released on their own label – includes an iconic take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, hailed by Gramophone Magazine as one of the all-time best recordings of the work, alongside titles such as Handel in the Wind, Johann I’m Only Dancing, Pirates of the Baroque, Nightmare in Venice and Priest on the Run – all of which have received the highest critical acclaim. Their most recent release, The Baroque Bohemians, surprised the major labels by reaching No.1 in the UK classical charts.
2023 has been a year of revival and regeneration for Red Priest, as the group emerges from the ravages of the pandemic with a mostly home-based schedule, allowing audiences across the UK to experience once more their unique blend of musical magic and mayhem. New for the season is the formation of Red Priest Strings, an expanded ‘concerto’ version of the group with Piers Adams as soloist, which will be touring in the Autumn with help from the Continuo Foundation.
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Piers Adams is the modern day wild man of the recorder. His stubborn refusal to accept the natural limitations of his instrument has led the Washington Post to describe him as ‘superhuman’, and International Record Review to declare: ‘The things Adams does with his recorders defy the imagination.’ Born in 1963 he trained initially as a physicist before joining the tail end of the Dutch recorder movement of the 1970s and 80s, rapidly branching out from there to create his own, unique sound and stage personality. Innovations in recorder design – most recently the ‘Eagle Recorder’ – have enabled Adams to expand the instrument’s repertoire to include every musical genre from renaissance to romantic to rock, and to astonish audiences with its expressive possibilities. His concert tours have taken him to all corners of the globe, performing over 1000 concerts with Red Priest, as well as recitals and concertos with international symphony and chamber orchestras, and numerous TV and radio appearances. His latest project, Baroque Alchemy - a boundary-crossing duo with his keyboardist partner Lyndy Mayle - combines his recorders with the universe of sounds offered by modern day synth technology.
Julia Bishop discovered her love of early music during her studies at the Royal College of Music when she first heard the Baroque orchestra directed by Catherine Mackintosh and knew from then that she would make the Baroque violin her speciality. Thirty-five years later Julia is recognised as one of the most colourful exponents of the instrument. She has toured the world extensively and made numerous recordings with all the period instrument orchestras in the UK including the London Classical Players, the Hanover Band, the Academy of Ancient Music, the English Concert, with whom she was a member for six years, and as leader and soloist with the Gabrieli Consort and Players for five years. A founder member of Red Priest, Julia stepped back from touring in 2015 for family reasons, and now returns to the ensemble for the 2023 season. In her time away from the group she has become increasingly popular for her lively and informative teaching on workshops and courses around the UK and at the University of Chichester Conservatoire.
Angela East is widely respected as one of the most brilliant and dynamic performers in the period instrument world, praised in The Times, London, for the “elemental power” of her cello playing. She has given numerous concerto performances in London's Queen Elizabeth and Wigmore Halls, and has performed as soloist and continuo cellist with many of Europe's leading baroque orchestras, as well as with her own ensemble, the Revolutionary Drawing Room. Among her impressive list of concert credits are La Scala, Milan, Sydney Opera House, Versailles and Glyndebourne. Her disc of Bach’s Cello Suites was released on Red Priest Recordings, together with a recital disc of popular baroque cello sonatas. Angela is very active as an educator, running workshops and training courses at home and abroad for the Suzuki Institute, as well as running her own Alexander Technique practise from her London home.
David Wright has spent many years trying to shed his reputation as the hard man of the harpsichord, having come to the instrument as a refuge from his East End gangland upbringing. The final spur to pursue a career in music came in 1994 when, as a 17-year old, he found himself facing a sawn-off shotgun at close range in an underground car-park. Since that time he has reinvented himself as something of an 18th century fop and lothario, thanks to several years of study in sundry London music colleges (he was previously self taught) and a penchant for baroque beauty and morals. With his harpsichord he has toured throughout Europe, America and the Far East, sharing the stage with such Early Music luminaries as Emma Kirkby and James Bowman, performing concertos, directing orchestras and operas (including the first modern day performance of Arne's The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green), and championing the instrument’s solo repertoire – in particular Bach’s Goldberg Variations. He remains one of the country's most in-demand harpsichordists today, appearing with a plethora of early music ensembles and orchestras.