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Peter McCarthy

Unusual Bass Instruments

Principal bassist for the English Concert
I was 17 when a double bass suddenly arrived at school.  My heart was set on studying music at Leeds university, and having composition lessons with Alexander Goehr (recently made head of department). 
Maybe I hadn't quite realised that becoming a musician normally required learning an instrument (though I had found out where the notes lie on a bass guitar) but my music teacher knew it was an important omission, so he surprised me by secretly ordering a double bass and letting me think it was my idea to play it.  While I was at Leeds University I had bass lessons in Huddersfield with Peter Leah.  

Professor Goehr had recently ordered a "violone" for the department and asked me to go and collect it during my first term.  Well that was it: I was immediately consumed with an abiding passion for the history of large string bass instruments and I've worn the hind legs of many donkeys talking about it since.  

I'm the bass player for the English Concert and St. James’s Baroque (which I also manage); occasionally I assemble "Gli Amici della Rana"  for projects of my own and I've written and lectured on the history of 17th and 18th century string basses.  In my spare time I beg, cajole and browbeat colleagues into playing for Music in the Village, a concert series I started in Walthamstow now in its twelfth year!