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Ensemble Marsyas

PETER WHELAN runs period instrument octet Ensemble Marsyas.

Half Irish, half French, the members of the group met as early music students at the Musik-Akademie Basel.

The name comes from the satyr of Greek mythology (Marsyas played a mean reed instrument and challenged Apollo, the god of music, to a contest judged by the muses). Its aim is to explore baroque and classical wind music, but Whelan draws attention to the continuo section - cellist Sarah McMahon, lutist Thomas Dunford, keyboardist Philippe Grisvard - as mainstay of the group's latest disc, The Proud Bassoon.

"Any continuo section is a really vibrant place to be. It's the rhythm section of any orchestra. There's loads of creativity going on. If you wanted a glamorous existence you wouldn't have chosen the bassoon, or indeed any continuo instrument. My fellow musicians are all people who are really interested in the nuts and bolts of how music works. They don't need to be at the front of the stage, and yet they have supported all the greatest singers around. They can make or break a soloist. They are a bunch of unsung heroes."

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