Merton Road musicians

19th June 1998 at 01:00
No.1 The Levis family. Ruth, 19: bassoon, piano. John, 17: viola, piano. Michael, 16: tuba, piano. Huw, 13: French horn, piano. Ruth and Michael have played for national orchestras. Says Michael, who is currently doing music GCSE at the nearby Leytonstone School: "Music gives me a different way to express myself and I use it as a way to relax and get away from the pressures of school, too."

No.4 Anna Jones, 16: Baritone saxophone, clarinet, piano. Most recently, she has played with the National Youth Wind Orchestra sax ensemble. She also attends the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama. "Music is the best thing in my life. I'm very obsessed with it, so much so that I don't think I could have a friend who wasn't into music. It's nice living in a street with so many other musicians. Me and some others have got together in the past to play together. But what I really think is lovely is when you hear the bagpipes drifting across on a Sunday morning - from a distance."

No.5 Paul Ibberson, professional saxophonist and pianist. Teaches and writes television commercials. Catherine Lett, professional violinist. With so many musicians around, there just had to be a romance somewhere in the street. And it's here, at number 5. Catherine moved in after seeing Paul's advert in 'Loot' looking for a flatshare. That both are musicians was just another Merton Road coincidence. After two years of making beautiful music separately (they both practise at home), they're engaged to be married next year. Paul teaches clarinet, sax and piano to a couple of children in the road. Catherine says, "While Chris Davies at No 22 is in his tails playing at the Opera House, I'm busking in Covent Garden Piazza."

No. 13 Steve Stratton. Professional accordion player and singer. "I specialise in entertaining elderly people." He started playing in the 1960s on his father's bidding. "In those days, it was the most unsexy instrument you could play. Today, it's riding high on a wave of popularity in Irish and Cajun music."

No. 14 The Simpsons. Primary teacher Peter is the bagpiper who Anna and most other residents of the street hear most evenings. Clare, 14: oboe and piano. Katie, 13: trumpet and piano. Charlie, 9: has just started piano. Both girls play in bands at Walthamstow Girls'.

No. 22 Chris and Maxine Davies. Chris plays French horn with the Royal Opera Orchestra, teaches privately and was a peripatetic music teacher in the borough. Maxine is a peripatetic oboe teacher in Waltham Forest and includes Walthamstow Girls' on her rounds. Chris is worried at the winding down of instrumental teaching nationally. "When LMS came in, schools had to buy in music services. Suddenly, some schools started asking teachers to account for every minute you're there for music tuition. It's not a situation conducive to creative teaching, when you're being governed by financial constraints."

No. 26 Cecily Hennessy, 21: bassoon. Polly, 18: bassoon, piano. How did the bassoon playing start in the first place? A peripatetic teacher from the borough's music service recruited Cecily when she was in junior school. The same teacher started teaching Polly a few years later, and then her friend Ruth (at No. 1).The rest is history.

No. 116 Grove Road - just around the corner: The Kabra family. Roxanna, 14: baritone sax, clarinet, piano. Jessica, 12: flute, piano. They moved to the street two years ago because, says mother Kathryn, "I seemed to spend my life bringing my children here tofriends. So we finally decided to move in ourselves. I love it in the summer when all the windows are open and you hear the music coming from all directions."

No. 124 The Bowell family. Helen, 17: steel drums, piano. Catherine, 15: steel drums. Rebecca, 11: cello. "We don't all practise at the same time," Catherine says reassuringly. "You can't really practise steel pans at home - they're quite loud."

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