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Nigel Keay - biography as violist
Nigel Keay l'altiste French flag

Nigel Keay is a freelance viola player and composer based in Paris, France.

Short Biography (153 words):

  Nigel Keay began playing the violin at an early age eventually switching to viola around 1986 to become a member of the Dunedin Sinfonia as violist.
  In 1994 Nigel Keay became an Associate-Violist with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Auckland's fulltime professional orchestra. Since moving to France in 1998, he has been a principal violist of the The Paris Choral Society Orchestra, and a member of Orchestre à cordes Idomémée. In 2006 he co-founded « Orchestre 2021 » in Paris with Elizabeth Askren, and he performed as violist with this group.
  Since completing formal music studies in both performance and composition, Nigel Keay has created, and performed with, several chamber music formations, notably string quartet, where he has often presented his own works along with the music of other living composers.
  Nigel Keay has participated as violist in various recording projects including film, and live shows by various artists in diverse styles; jazz, pop, singer-songwriters etc.

Longer Biography:

  Nigel Keay began playing the violin at an early age. Individual tuition began in Hamilton with Daphne Smith then Norman Grimshaw (1). In his teens he played in various orchestras; the Waikato Youth Orchestra (1) and the Waikato Junior Symphony Orchestra. He studied violin performance fulltime at the Wellington Polytechnic in 1977 & 78, graduating with a Certificate in Executant Music. He then studied for a year (in 1979) with Franco Domaneschi of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In December 1979 and January 1980 he performed in a quartet with Rodney Ford (oboe), Michael Clavert (guitar) and Jenni Dodge (cello) as part of the Summer City Programme in Wellington. In parallel to composition and orchestration studies between 1980 and 82 at Victoria University of Wellington, Nigel Keay also studied violin performance with Gavin Saunders. While studying in Wellington he was a member of the Wellington Youth Orchestra conducted by William Southgate, the Wellington Polytechnic Orchestra conducted by Simon Tipping, and the Victoria University Orchestra conducted by Ross Harris & Peter Walls.
  After returning from Java, in 1985, he joined the Dunedin Sinfonia (a part-time professional orchestra now called the Southern Sinfonia) as a violinist playing under conductors such as Georg Tintner, Erich Bergel, John Matheson, Jack Speirs, and Kenneth Young... During his time as Mozart Fellow (Composer-in-Residence) at the University of Otago he continued playing in this orchestra switching to viola in 1986. While living in Nelson (NZ) Nigel Keay participated as a violist in the annual CANZ (Composer's Association of New Zealand) Composer's Workshops presenting the works of many composers such as Weerachat Premananda, Helen Bowater....
  On moving to Auckland in 1993 Nigel Keay became violist of the Blue String Quartet. The members of this group were Miranda Adams (currently the Assistant Concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and First Violinist of the Jade String Quartet), Sally Keestra & Claudia Price. This group recorded for a New Zealand Composers CD (Denise Hulford, Eve de Castro-Robinson, Leonie Holmes et al.) manufactured and distributed by Ode Record Company Limited. A performance by the Blue String Quartet of "Three Transcriptions" - music from China, Madagasca (Ramandriana from Valiha by Paul Marorazana) and Bulgaria - as part of an Ensemble Philharmonia concert at the Auckland City Art Gallery was later broadcast by Radio New Zealand's Concert FM.
  In 1993 Nigel Keay was author of the Teacher's Handbook; Instruments of the Orchestra by Michael Leyden Publications of Devonport.
  In 1994 Nigel Keay became an Associate-Violist with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Auckland's fulltime professional orchestra. He played under conductors such as Vladimir Verbitsky, Jiri Starek, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Peter Scholes... While in Auckland he was also a Principal Violist for the Manukau City Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eliano Mattiozzi-Petralia & Uwe Grodd.
  In 1994 his string quartet received funding from the Auckland City Council programme "Arts Alive". The group presented his own String Quartet No.2 alongside quartets by Beethoven (op.74, "The Harp"), and also included works by New Zealand composers Ivan Zagni (View from my Window), Anthony Watson (String Quartet No.1), Helen Bowater (The Bohdi Tree), and Jack East (The Lullaby) in their concert series. (article)
  Between 1993 and 1996 he participated in various recording projects including film. He played on the “Shift Left” album of the Nathan Haines Group (acid jazz, 1995), performing with the group at the Auckland Town Hall as support act for Ronny Jordan in July 1994.
  Nigel Keay played on the “Vicarious” album by Strawpeople: in four tracks including "Taller Than God" and "Boxer's Hands". He also played on Greg Johnson's "Softly on Me" in 1996, produced by Dave Dobbyn with additional vocals by Boh Runga and released on a Maxi-Single CD by Pagan Records, PACD 1132).
  He played frequently in Sally-Anne Brown's group "Real Strings", and was one of two violists in Shirley Bassey's 20-piece orchestra for her 1996 NZ Mission Estate concert in Hawkes Bay.
  In 1999-2000 Nigel Keay was a member of Ensemble orchestral Capriccio in Caen conducted by Jean Malraye. The ensemble performed in the Lower Normandy region, and also performed at the Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne. He formed a string quartet with three other members of this ensemble (Geoffroy Voisin, Estelle Fouillet, and Amélie Mabire).
  Nigel Keay was, between 2001 and 2007, principal violist of the The Paris Choral Society Orchestra conducted by Edward Tipton. As a freelance violist he has participated in concerts given by the Chœur et Orchestre de Sciences Po (COSP) conducted by Elizabeth Askren. In 2005 he became a founding member of the Idomeneo String Orchestra directed by Didier Jacquin in Paris.
  While in New Zealand in 2004 Nigel Keay performed in a concert including Vivaldi's Four Seasons given by the ensemble "Vivo Baroque". Also in 2004, he performed in the Serenata Oberammergau concert series (in Bavaria) with the Aphanès String Quartet.
  In 2005 he performed in concert and recorded for internet Jeffrey Harrington's Oneiromancer for Flute, Viola & Harp, and Tetra-Mnemosyne VII for String Trio by Jeffrey Harrington with violinist Matthieu Coeffe and cellist Stéphan Lagorce.
  Nigel Keay has been a violin teacher to Charmian Keay and Laura Thomson (NZ/Aust.).
  In 2006 & 2007 Nigel Keay was the violist in a Parisian string quartet with Daniel Rémy as first violinist, Iwona Janaillac as second violinist and Dimitri Kindynis as cellist.
  In 2006 he established the ensemble "Orchestre 2021" with conductor Elizabeth Askren and performed in this group's first concert playing in his own Serenade for Strings.
  More anecdotal writing sometimes on the events mentioned above can be found on Nigel Keay's memoirs page.


Photo of Nigel Keay

Photo: Szymon Cieślar

Upcoming events:

The Parisian ensemble "Traces d'Aujourd'hui" will give a concert

Saturday 25 May 2024 at 8pm.

Mundoligua, 10 rue Servondoni, Paris 6ème.

Past events:

The Parisian ensemble "Traces d'Aujourd'hui" will give a concert Friday 26 January 2024 at 8pm.

Lycée d'État Jean Zay, 75016 Paris


Arnold Trowell - Sonate pour alto et piano
Jean-Claude Wolff - Trio Rhein Errinerung
Nigel Keay - Trio "Adagietto Antique"

Clarinette : Frédérique Moine
Alto : Nigel Keay
Piano : Isabelle Dutel

Performance of Arnold Trowell's Viola Sonata (ca. 1922) with Isabelle Dutel, piano 14th October 2023, 4.30pm at Manoir de Bel-Ébat, Avon.

Performance of Arnold Trowell's Viola Sonata (ca. 1922) with Isabelle Dutel, piano 12th October 2023, 7.30pm at Reid Hall, Paris. Details of the event, PDF

Saturday, 17 September 2022, 20h00. Concert by the ensemble Traces d'Aujourd'hui at the Temple de Port-Royal, 18 bd Arago, Paris 75013. Valérie Guéroult - clarinet, Nigel Keay - viola, Isabelle Dutel - piano.
Contemporary trios for clarinet, viola & piano.
Works by Jean-Claude Wolff (Rhein-Erinnerung), Christian Dachez (Entre les ronces), Philippe Hersant (Six Bagatelles) et Nigel Keay (Trio Adagietto Antique).

26 November 2021; recording of sountrack for the short film "H" (screen capture image .png)

July 2021; Recording of David Victor Feldman's Viola Sonata (1974).

February 2021. Recording of "Quo non ascendet ?" for viola solo by Isabelle Fraisse. Broadcasts in May 2022 on "La Contemporaine", the web-radio of Radio France Musique (screen capture image .png)

Performance of Trio for clarinet, Viola and Piano, with Jean-Marc Fessard (clarinet) and Gwenaëlle Cochevelou (piano).Saturday 14th September 2019, 7.30pm. Le Regard du Cygne, 210 Rue de Belleville, 75020 Paris.

Performance of Trio for clarinet, Viola and Piano for Radio France Musique's new music programme "Tapage Nocturne" presented by Bruno Letort on Friday 11th October 2013. Listen to a replay at the following link; Session Live de Nigel Keay.

Saturday 27th October 2012, 5pm, Concert Cantus Formus CRR de Paris. Performance of Trio for Clarinet, Viola & Piano with Jean-François Bescond and Dora Cantella.

Thursday, October 14, 2010, 8:30pm, Paris. Private concert at the Atelier de la Main d'Or, 9 passage de la Main d'Or, 75011 Paris. Metro Ledru-Rollin.

Programme: Mozart - Kegelstatt Trio op. 498, Reinecke - Trio op. 264, Schumann - Märchenerzählungen op.132 and world premiere of Nigel Keay's Trio for clarinet, Viola and Piano.

Erika Bliznik, clarinet. Nigel Keay, viola and Jeffrey Grice, piano.

Concerts in Paris with Ondine Musique performing with Amy Blake, soprano, and Debra Takakjian, piano in three songs by Loeffler for soprano, viola and piano: "Dansons la Gigue!", Le son du cor s'afflige vers les bois", & "Sérénade".

L’heure musicale au Marais, 22 fevrier 2009 à 19h00, Cathedrale Saint-Croix des Armeniens,13 rue du Perche, 75003 Paris, France.

Atelier Series,1 mars 2009 à 17h00, Église Américaine, 65 Quai d’Orsay, 75007 Paris, France.

Amy Blake, soprano, Eugenia Choi, violon, Nigel Keay, alto, Debra Takakjian, piano - works by Saint Saëns, Loeffler, Gershwin/Heifetz, Zachery (Zack) Patten (premiere mondiale), Ravel (Sonata for Violin and Piano)

Poster of concert, pdf

- violist in Mozart's Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello. Soloists of Orchesstre 2021, 30th October 2008, 8.30pm, Fondation des Etats-Unis (Grand Salon), 15 boulevard Jourdan 75014 Paris.

- recording of new titles for Jérôme B. Sedeyn, Paris. 2008

Nigel Keay performed Anthony Ritchie's "Whakatipua" for String Quartet, Martin Lodge's "Pastorale" for String Quartet, and his own "Tango Suite" in an Orchestre 2021 concert on Thursday 17th April 2008, 8.30pm at the Fondation des Etats-Unis (Grand Salon), 15 boulevard Jourdan 75014 Paris.

- performed Martin Lodge's "Pacific Rock" for solo viola at Mirandol, Dordogne, 2nd June 2007.

Nigel Keay's string quartet participated in Sennheiser France's "Studio Days" held in Paris in both 2005 and 2007. In April 2007 the quartet performed for a presentation given by Neumann to a group of sound engineers to introduce their new KM-D digital microphones. Listen to the recording of a performance of Nigel Keay's String Quartet No.2 (first movement) recorded using several couples of microphones; KM183-D omnidirectional, KM184-D cardioid, & D-01 double membrane. This "all digital" recording was made on a 48 track Tascam X-48 via a DM-3200 mixer. Audio; www.nigelkeay.com/audio/sq2/nksq2m1senn.mp3

- in a concert of music for string orchestra conducted by Elizabeth Askren on Thursday 7th December 2006, 8.30pm at the Fondation des Etats-Unis (Grand Salon), 15 boulevard Jourdan 75014 Paris. More details on this event...(Page en français French flag)

- recording - violist in string quartet for Samuel Bonnet's (guitariste and compositeur) song "Handicapé au cœur" at Bopcity, Paris, September 2006.

- in a concert of American Music given by the Choir and Orchestra of Science-Po in the Grand Salon of the United States Foundation, 15 boulevard Jourdan, 75014, Paris Thursday 15th June 2006, 8.30pm. Conductors; Elizabeth Askren & Branislava Strizak. Programme: Aaron Copland - American Songs, Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings, Kyle Gann - The Disappearance of All Holy Things from This Once So Promising World, George Gershwin arr. Eric Salzman - Strike up the Band.

- in Dvoràk's Requiem performed by The Paris Choral Society at the American Cathedral in Paris, 23 avenue Georges V, 75008. Conductor; Edward Tipton. Two concerts; 6pm Sunday 11th June 2006, & 8.30pm Tuesday 13 June 2006.

- in a concert given by the Idomeneo String Orchestra conducted by Didier Jacquin at 8pm, 1st June 2006 at the Grande salle de la Maison des Associations, 17 Avenue Jean-Baptiste Clément - 92140 Clamart, Paris.

The Rémy/Janaillac/Keay/Lagorce String Quartet - performed on 23 May 2006, in a private soirée for the France - New Zealand Association. Programme: Nigel Keay's String Quartet No. 1, 2nd movement, & String Quartet No. 2, 2nd movement, Jeffrey Harrington's Adagio-tenebroso (1992) (world premiere performance), Mozart's Quartet in G Major K.387, & Schubert's Quartett-Satz.

- in a concert given by Idomeneo String Orchestra conducted by Didier Jacquin at 4pm, 29th January 2006 at Saint-Christophe-de-Javel, 28 rue de la Convention, 15ème arrondissement, Paris. Programme: Réminiscence d'après la symphonie pour cordes - Dimitri Tchesnokov, Serenade for Strings (Op.20) - Edward Elgar, Divertimento en Fa Majeur (K.138) - Mozart, Idyll for Strings - Léos Janacek, and Adagio for Strings - Samuel Barber.

- in Charles Gounod's Messe de Sainte-Cécile performed by The Paris Choral Society at the American Cathedral in Paris, 23 avenue Georges V, 75008. Conductor; Edward Tipton. Two performances; 6pm Sunday 20th November 2005, & 8.30pm Tuesday 22 November 2005.

- Jeffrey Harrington's Oneiromancer for Flute, Viola & Harp. Sunday 10 April 2005, 4 pm, Eglise Saint Denys d'Arcueil 1 rue Raspail, ancienne mairie.

- Debussy Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp. Friday 25th March 2005, 7pm. "Concert Classique" at the Maison du Quartier Plaine. Poster of concert jpg.

Performance with Chœur et Orchestre de Science Po 3rd & 4th June 2003 at Salons France-Amériques, Paris and Fondation des États-Unis, Paris. Programme "Portraits d'Amérique" included Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring.

- in Prokofiev's Quintet, Op.39 for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Viola & Double Bass. Sunday 30 March 2003, 5pm, Salle des Fêtes, La Charité-sur-Loire, France. PDF Flyer.

- in Prokofiev's Quintet, Op.39 for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Viola & Double Bass. Friday 7th March 2003, 7.30pm at the Maison du Quartier, La Plaine Saint-Denis, France. PDF Flyer.

Concert with Orchestre Capriccio of Caen at the Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne, Sunday 19th November 2000.

- Mosaic String Quartet. Hauraki Room, Aotea Centre, Auckland.24, 25 & 26th Februaary1995. Programme; Beethoven Op.74, Anthony Watson String Quartet No.1, Ivan Zagni, "View from my window" (Quartet No.1). Flyer PDF.

- The Blue String Quartet at the Pumphouse, Killarney Park, Takapuna, Friday 13th August 1993, 8pm. Works by Haydn, Prokofiev, Denise Hulford & Beethoven. Programme PDF Article PDF

- Sirius Quartet, Dunedin Art Gallery, 12th December, 1985. Mozart Piano Quartet in E-flat & Beethoven String Trio Op.3, No.1. Poster PDF.