The Quartet

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Helen Schilsky standing in a garden infrom of some hilld holding a violin

Helen Schilsky (Viola)

Helen Schilsky studied the viola at the Royal College of Music under the tutelage of Margaret Major and Baroque viola with Andrew Manze.

Since leaving college, Helen has worked with The Scottish National Orchestra, The BBC Philharmonic, and Scottish Opera. After moving to North Wales in 2005 with her husband and son, she established herself as a teacher and a freelance performer, and has played for orchestras and ensembles, including Liverpool Sinfonia and Ensemble Cymru, with whom she took part, playing for Genod Droog, a Welsh language Rap group, performing at the Welsh Rap Awards.

Helen plays for Sounds Interesting String Quartet, based in Shrewsbury, and runs the Snowdonia String Quartet who provide background music at varied social functions. Helen has played for the music festival in Criccieth, and more recently Welshpool Music Club with her pianist Simon Reynolds as part of Giraldus Duo. She is also currently a Music Associate for Theatr Clwyd in Mold.

She plays a Klotz viola c.1810.

Chris Atherton having his picture taken in a garden holding a violin

Chris Atherton (Violin)

Chris, leader of the quartet since its formation in 2003, was born in Widnes but has lived in North Wales since he was thirteen months old. His study of the violin started approximately thirty years ago through the school system and continued his studies on various courses. He studied at Bangor, The Royal Northern College of Music, Canford and The Ernest Reid Music Association at Wantage. He has studied with prestigious teachers, such as Barry Haskey, Ben Holland, Penny Stirling and Edward Davies before studying for his diploma with Michael Gatward.

He has played with various orchestras, including Clwyd Youth Orchestra, North Wales Youth Orchestra, Wrexham Symphony Orchestra, Cambrian Philharmonic, Opus One, St Albans Symphony Orchestra, North Wales Philharmonia, Bangor University Orchestra and The Bangor Music Society Orchestra. He has also led the band for various shows at Venue Cymru. 

From an early age Chris was involved with musical theatre starting with a summer season with Ivor Emmanuel, a subsequent summer season with Gary Wilmot and during his teens was a member of the Prince of Wales Theatre Workshop. In the latter years he has been musical director of Colwyn Bay Operatics, Llandudno Operatics, Llandudno Musical Productions and the Harmony Singers, where his duties also include arranging and engineering the music. 

He has also been on the adjudicating panel of the ‘Musical Theatre Young Musician of the Year’ competition. His teaching positions for the last 18 years have been with Conwy LEA, the Mathias Trust, North Wales Music Tuition and St. David’s College. He also teaches privately.

Mark Lansom holding a violin in a garden

Mark Lansom (Violin and Viola)

Mark is an experienced violinist and viola player and is currently Head of Strings at a prominent public school in Chester.

Mark has been playing violin since the age of eight, and has been a member of the Wrexham Symphony Orchestra since he was twelve years old. He has gone on to both lead and conduct the orchestra on more occasions than any other person, and the orchestra has grown from a dabbling group of amateurs to one able to perform Mahler’s Second Symphony at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, which it did in 2015.

During his student years in London, he played for many orchestras including the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and British Youth Opera, under conductors such as Lord Menuhin, Sir Edward Downes and Jane Glover. On leaving London he taught violin in Wrexham schools for 25 years, before moving to his current post.

As well as Wrexham Symphony Orchestra, he is in demand as a player for shows and many a professional “gig”. He regularly plays and conducts St John’s Festival Orchestra in Chester, plays with Sherborne Summer School Symphony Orchestra, and even the British Police Symphony Orchestra, despite never being a serving officer!

He also composes and arranges music, and much of the music the quartet plays has been prepared by him. His arrangements have sold well and are played by quartets all over the world.

A man holding a violin sat outside

Alfred Barker (Violin)

Alfred Barker was born in Johannesburg and started violin lessons at eight years old, studying in the Windhoek Conservatoire whilst living in Namibia. In 1993, he went the Purcell School in London, being taught by Carol Slater followed by studying at the Royal Northern College of Music with Yossi Zivoni. He also was a member and later a leader of the City of Sheffield Youth Orchestra which included a recording with Classic FM and many tours.

From 2006 to 2011, he was the leader of the King Edward Music Society Orchestra in Macclesfield, with which he also performed as a soloist. During this time, he was also working for Salford Performing Arts Service (MAPAS) as an instrumental teacher and conductor. He has performed as a soloist, chamber musician and in orchestras in many venues throughout the UK, Europe, as well as Southern Africa.

Music education remains an important part of his work and he teaches both privately for the Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias and as part of the Denbighshire and Wrexham Music Cooperatives, where he also conducts a youth string ensemble. He has also tutored on annual orchestral projects in the North Wales International Music Festival with the NEW Sinfonia in recent years.

A man standing playing a violin

Billy Thompson (Violin)

Billy is one of the UK’s foremost improvising violinists. Having reached the televised final of the Young Jazz Musician of the Year in both 1996 and 1998, Billy went on to record on five studio albums with Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia, with whom he performed all around Europe and Japan, including residencies at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London.

Whilst at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Billy’s string quartet studied with The Brodsky String Quartet. After graduating in 1995, Billy then studied privately with London College of Music professor of violin, Dona Lee Croft in order to develop his technique.

This training has led to Billy recording and playing professionally in many different styles from Classical to Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, Folk, Rock and most styles in between. He has also contributed to many appearances as a session musician for other artists.

Now based in Bala, Billy runs his own recording studio, recording and performing his own projects and those of others. He very much enjoys bringing his classical skills, musicality, and professionalism to the occasions he plays with the Snowdonia String Quartet.

Playing website -
Recording website -

A woman standing holding a Viola

Rhiannon Collins (Viola)

Rhiannon is a Welsh violist in her first year of postgraduate study with Lucy Nolan at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she also completed her Bachelor’s degree (BMus). During her time there she has played Principal Viola in RNCM String Orchestra and has participated in masterclasses with tutors such as Thomas Riebl, Robin Ireland, Lise Berthaud, Simone van der Guiessen and Timothy Ridout.

Rhiannon is the former Principal Viola of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. Rhiannon has taken part in side-by-side projects with the Halle, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Manchester Camerata and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Outside of her studies, Rhiannon has performed with a range of orchestras across the country in many notable venues including Bridgewater Hall, Symphony Hall, St David’s Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. Rhiannon plays regularly at weddings and events with a variety of string quartets, as well as playing orchestrally with NEW Sinfonia amongst other ensembles.

Rhiannon was also lucky enough to perform Hindemith’s Trauermusik for solo viola and string orchestra with Wrexham Symphony Orchestra in November 2018. Rhiannon grew up in rural North Wales and was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales from 2015-2022, where she was a recipient of the Gwynne Edwards award.

Ruth Bingham standing infront of greenary holding an Cello

Ruth Bingham (Cello)

Ruth Bingham started learning the cello at the age of eight and by the age of thirteen knew that she wanted to become a professional cellist.

As a teenager she was Principal Cello of the Clwyd, North Wales and National Youth Orchestra of Wales and at the age of seventeen she went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. During her time at the Academy, Ruth was lucky enough to be coached by the world renowned Amadeus Quartet, instilling a lifelong love for playing chamber music.

Since leaving the Academy, Ruth has played with many orchestras such as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Welsh Chamber Orchestra and English National Ballet. Ruth also continues to perform as a soloist and chamber musician across North Wales and the North West.

As well as performing, Ruth also teaches cello in North Wales, Cheshire and Shropshire where she teaches beginners right through to Diploma level students.

A woman standing in the garden holding a Cello

Marie Smith (Cello)

Marie has been a cellist since the age of eight and has been privileged to enjoy music making in various ensembles and orchestras ever since.

Marie led the cello section of the Southampton Concert Orchestra for some years and has played for weddings and other special occasions such as for the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Marie has two music degrees, one from Bangor University and the other from the Open University and has accompanied folk singers Kate Doubleday and Lucy Kitchen on tour and featured on their most recent recordings.