Violinist Sarah Brandwood-Spencer appears at our 2022 Summer Festival, playing in the Piano and String Octet concert on Friday 17 June. We caught up with her to find out more! 

Sarah Brandwood-Spencer, violin

What is your favourite piece of music? 

Oh I hate being asked what my favourite piece of music is because it depends on what mood I’m in! I have so many….Elgar’s in the south will always have a special place for me… I played it in my brilliant youth orchestra on tour in France, and in Japan with the Rlpo, so many amazing memories of that piece, it’s such brilliant writing for the strings and there’s an incredibly intimate moving moment for the violins near the end which I love so much I can barely play it. But I also love Mendelssohn’s octet,… ( which is handy) it always cheers me up… Mozart opera, Brahms symphonies, Rachmaninov piano concerto’s, Mahler,.. Ella Fitzgerald,… west side story,…anything written by Daniel Whibley… arghhhh I can’t choose! 

A favourite memory from a previous Glossop Music Festival?

I’ve never played here before… be gentle

An unusual / little known fact about you?
I started playing the piano by ear from when I was about six. I’d hear stuff on the tv or radio and then go and play it on the piano.  I could play the entire west side story score on piano from memory when I was 14. I throw up if I eat seafood and I can’t eat anything spicier than a korma! 


Not much time for hobbies! Love watching films, eating lovely food, being in nature. Art. Reading. Walking Daphne my little dachshund. In lockdown I made quilts to stop me going mad! 

What, or who, inspired you to become a musician?

My inspirations… Don’t laugh…. Ralph the piano playing dog from the muppets. He always looked like he was having a great time so I thought I’d like to do that! Also my mum, she sang in shows and always took me along to rehearsals so I became a rehearsal pianist from when I was really young and played in the orchestras. And finally John Williams film scores. When I heard the soundtracks to films like ET I just wanted to be in the middle of that sound. 

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?

I’m really looking forward to hearing my lovely friend Eva Thorarinsdottir play the Beethoven triple concerto and also playing the Mendelssohn octet with her. 

Your career highlight so far (not just GMF!)?

So many career highlights. Playing on the Michael Bublé BBC special. I played in a string quartet for him and I was slightly star struck! The big band was incredible and he was a really nice guy. Playing in the John Wilson orchestra prom. Surrounded by musicians of that calibre is mind blowing. Also playing in a string quartet for a man and his quadriplegic son. Seeing the boys reaction to the music will stay with me forever. Whenever I play for children and see their unguarded reaction, it’s always a highlight! 

Which orchestras or ensembles have you played with?

I’ve played with The Canadian Opera Company, John Wilson Orchestra, European Union Chamber Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Hallé, CBSO, BBC Philharmonic, Opera North, Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Collective, Manchester Camerata, Picture House Orchestra, Conway festival Orchestra… to name but a few. I also do lots of chamber music and recording for Film TV and recording artists. Nice life really. 

Funniest / most embarrassing moment in music ?

One of my most embarrassing moments was when my mobile phone went off in a recording session for the Royal Liverpool Phil. I was co leading the orchestra sitting right under Vasily Petrenko’s nose… he was not happy and I wanted the ground to swallow me up! I still cringe when I think about it. 

You can find out more about the Piano and String Octet concert on Friday 17 June by visiting our website, or buy tickets now from Ticketsource.