Together Tania Davis (Violin), Eos Counsell (violin), Elspeth Hanson (viola) and Gay-Yee Westerhoff (cello) complete the line-up of BOND.
At its launch, BOND was hailed in the press as ‘the Spice Girls of Classical music’, and went onto turn the world of classical crossover music on its head, spawning many electric string groups inspired by its unique sound.
The members of BOND draw their inspiration from classical, latin, folk, jazz, rock, pop, electro, Indian and middle eastern styles. They have built a very active and loyal international fan base over the years and, since their debut, BOND have sold over 4 million albums worldwide, making BOND the best-selling string quartet of all time.
The musicians, educated to the highest standard at some of the world’s most celebrated music institutions (Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall and Trinity College of Music), are pure entertainment, serving up a genuinely genre-defying act willing to explore the joy of music regardless of the cultural hamstrings.
JUST SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS
BOND has achieved a staggering 56 platinum and 15 gold discs (including in the UK, USA, Australia, Japan, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, UK, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Colombia, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Austria, Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Philippines and Chile).
The quartet has made countless international TV appearances in the UK, America, Australia, Central America and Asia, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, CNN, FOX News, BBC, ITV, RAI, ZDF, NBC, Canal Plus, MTV, NHK, CCT, ABC, TF1, CBC, Televisa etc……the list is endless. As well as appearing on major TV shows, BOND has hosted CNN’s the Music Room, performed at the MTV Awards in Asia and the USA and participated in televised performances at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
As well as performing at many international Bond film premieres, BOND has featured in movies including Johnny English, starring Rowan Atkinson, and XXX State Of The Union, with Samuel L. Jackson, Ice Cube and Willem Dafoe. Music played by BOND has been heard at many sporting events, including the FA Cup, the Champions League, the Football World Cup, Olympics and the Cricket World Cup. Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent have used BOND’s music extensively.
BOND has appeared in most of the world’s major newspapers and magazines and has travelled the globe several times over in sell-out tours. First violinist Tania Davis says, ‘performing with Pavarotti singing Caruso and playing the Sydney Opera House were beyond special for me. We also have the most amazing fans – we go to places like Mexico and now know loads of them by name!’. Cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff adds, ‘we have played in front of the magnificent Giza Pyramids several times, including helping Zaha Hadid celebrate one of her phenomenal buildings’. ‘We were so proud to make our debut at the Royal Albert Hall’, says violinist Eos, ‘and then there was Wall Street, when we were styled by Patricia Field [of Sex and The City fame] – we arrived in convertible Lincolns, stopping off and playing before ringing the closing bell. Then it was straight off to play in Time Square!’. ‘Playing in Beijing, at the Olympics handover, alongside Jimmy Page, Leona Lewis and David Beckham, was amazing and four years later to perform with BOND at the Olympics closing ceremony in London was utterly awe-inspiring’, adds Elspeth Hanson.
HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN?
Four music college students decided to break with convention; the possibilities of using their own energetic and compelling approach to performance to become as dazzlingly contemporary and relevant as a pop act were impossible to resist. Perhaps a third way, somewhere between pop and classical, really did exist? ‘In an orchestra, you are, to a large extent, fulfilling someone else’s creative vision,’ says Tania. ‘With what we do, we are the producers and the artists, directing the process.’
BOND was the first truly globally successful classical crossover group and certainly caused a lot of controversy at its debut. Within a week of its first album hitting number one on the classical charts, it was banned for ‘not being classical enough’.
‘It started this huge debate about what constituted classical music,’ say Eos, ‘which was a good thing – at least our record label thought so because the story was everywhere! We found ourselves the subject of this international news story, which ran and ran, from the UK through Europe, to Australasia and America.’ ‘We weren’t that surprised. We’d written songs with pop producers and with that market in mind but we didn’t actually ever call ourselves classical,’ says Gay-Yee, ‘We set out to be popular and, in America, Billboard started a crossover classical chart which made sense and worked really well for us and stopped purist classical consumers getting too upset.’
It isn’t just the dizzying locations that have been afforded to Bond as a backdrop for their music that should be included in their history. With their recordings, BOND became the most successful classical crossover instrumentalists in the industry’s history. Because they have never been hampered by the restrictions of language, their highly energetic cross-pollination of pop and classical music has traversed the globe and they have achieved unprecedented platinum status in over 60 countries and topped the classical charts across the globe.
For Gay-Yee, ‘being the first of this kind of group was exciting. It’s great to see quartets and groups coming through in the BOND format now and one of the most rewarding things is the constant feedback from students, teachers and kids who have engaged in string instruments through the use of our music.’ Says Elspeth, ‘BOND’s accessibility really helped many musicians and music students who didn’t have a strictly classical career in mind – there are still many musicians who crave the epic thrill of a huge orchestra, but if you look to different routes it certainly isn’t frowned upon any longer. There are more options now for classical musicians because of BOND.’
THE ALBUM PLAY
The quartet was recently commissioned by a major car company to create a special “BOND version” of the Vivaldi Four Seasons for an international campaign. Gay-Yee: ‘it was exciting being back at the centre of the creative process.’ ‘The reason everyone knows the Four Seasons is because the tunes are so fantastically good,’ says Elspeth, with Eos adding, ‘we wanted to turn the melodies on their heads’. ‘The Four Seasons recording was the starting point of the new album, PLAY, which would celebrate our tenth anniversary’ says Tania, ‘and, before long, we were running through a selection of material that began to reflect our global audience’. As well as original material, pop/classical version of AR Rahman’s Jai Ho, made famous through Slumdog Millionaire, sits perfectly next to a rewiring of the original string line from the Rolling Stones The Last Time (better known as The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony). The Bollywood excursion was simply returning a favour after the first Bond hit, Victory, had been covered as the theme tune to a major Bollywood smash. Says Tania, ‘everything fitted perfectly into place in the studio’. BOND worked with long-term collaborator, Magnus Fiennes (we trust him like a brother’, says Eos) Graham Stack (of Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Take That, Westlife and Girls Aloud fame) and the team at Metrophonic and, says Gay-Yee, ‘for a fresh sound, they were unbeatable – we got our hands dirty with this recording: writing, arranging and producing so much of it ourselves’.
Tania, first violinist with Bond, began playing the violin at the age of four. As a teenager she gained both her Associate ( AmusA) and Licentiate ( LMusA ) in Music with Distinction from the Australian Music Examinations Board. She gained her Bachelor of Music Degree with First Class Honours from the Sydney Conservatorium and won awards and scholarships to further her violin studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where she received a Diploma in Performance with Distinction. Prior to Bond, she worked with orchestras including the Australian Chamber Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra, as well as performing internationally as a soloist and chamber musician.
Bond co-founder Eos Counsell, from Cardiff, holds an honours degree from the Royal College of Music, where she won prizes for chamber music performance. Before signing to Universal, she worked with chamber groups dedicated to performing music by living composers. A singer, composer, arranger and producer in her own right, she has written for film and commercials, has played on many film scores, and recorded solo violin for several award winning national TV programmes, including Dr Who and Sherlock. Eos has worked with artists including Sir Paul McCartney, Paloma Faith, Badly Drawn Boy, Tinie Tempah, The Cocteau Twins, The Blockheads, The Divine Comedy, Nitin Sawhney and Julian Cope. Eos coached Benedict Cumberbatch’s violin playing role in Sherlock- she also performed the violin on each series and soundtrack. She coached Tom Hiddleston in Only lovers Left Alive and Simon Bird for Friday Night Dinner.
VIOLA/5 STRING VIOLIN
Elspeth Hanson has enjoyed travelling the world since joining Bond. She famously performed with guitar legend, Jimmy Page, and Leona Lewis at the Beijing Olympics Closing Ceremony. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music, has played at the Proms with the National Youth Orchestra and has recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Prague Philharmonia. She played solo at the Paralympics Closing Ceremony and has performed at the Southbank alongside Annie Lennox, Beverley Knight and Ruby Wax for Oxfam Aid. Elspeth is a proud ambassador for the charity, Wooden Spoon.
Gay-Yee Westerhoff, co-founder of Bond, is from Yorkshire, England, and is the quartet’s cellist. Gay-Yee holds an Honours degree in Music from Trinity College in London. Before Bond’s rise to fame after signing with Decca/Universal, Gay-Yee worked all over the world with groups including Primal Scream, the Spice Girls, Talvin Singh, Embrace, Sting, Bryan Adams and Barry Manilow. Gay-Yee is a prolific composer, arranger and producer and is currently working on several composing projects, including a musical soon to hit the West End, London.