Nicola Lisle meets quintet members ahead of an anniversary concert

One of the wonderful things about anniversaries is they are an excuse to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

As I catch up with Simon Payne and Chris Britton, two of the founder members of the Pavlova Wind Quintet, it’s not long before the reminiscences start to flow, punctuated by gales of laughter. Obviously being a member of Pavlova is not just musically satisfying, it’s a lot of fun as well.

What’s less clear to me is exactly which anniversary they are celebrating. Is it, as I had thought, their 15th, or should I believe their concert flyer which states it’s the 16th? It turns out it’s a bit of both.

“It’s 15-and-a-half,” Simon says.

“It’s 15-and-three-quarters, actually,” Chris chips in. “Our first concert was September 1999, so it’ll be 16 years in September.” “But 15 sounds a nicer number,” Simon adds.

With that cleared up we can move on to more important matters – such as what inspired them to start the quintet.

“We wanted to do lots of good playing,” explains Simon. “All of us in our different ways, and from our different backgrounds, were doing a lot of playing but wanted to do even more, and we didn’t have an outlet for quintet playing.”

Pavlova’s members are all Oxfordshire based and play in a variety of local orchestras and smaller ensembles. Go to almost any classical music concert in the region and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see one or more members of the Pavlova Quintet in the orchestra.

Chris, a flautist, who also teaches, is a skilled arranger and has a busy career as soloist, accompanist and orchestral player.

Oboist Carolyn King – the only other remaining founder member – also teaches and plays professionally, as does horn player Jenny Morgan, who joined Pavlova in 2005.

Simon, who plays bassoon, combines playing with managing the Orchestra of St John’s, while clarinettist Barbara Stuart, who joined the line-up in 2001, works in the OUP’s printed music department.

The quintet’s name – which suggests a connection with dancing or desserts – is actually based on Anna Pavlova Close in Abingdon, where Simon lives.

The quintet was launched with a sell-out concert at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, and since then has played at a variety of events all over Oxfordshire, from formal concerts to weddings, college and corporate dinners, fundraisers for local charities – particularly Helen House and children’s bereavement charity SeeSaw – and other private occasions, as well as making regular appearances at the Sheldonian as part of the Open Doors weekend in September.

Their anniversary concert on Saturday showcases the best of the quintet repertoire, and features guest pianist Ian Brown, of the Nash Ensemble.

The German-themed first half includes Hindemith Kleine Kammermusick and Mozart Quintet for wind and piano, while there is a French flavour to the second half with Debussy Two preludes, Francaix Quatuor à vents and Poulenc Sextet for wind and piano.

“These are all original pieces, not arrangements,” Chris adds. “It’s not an over-long programme – we’ve gone for quality.”

And that, of course, is what Pavlova is about. Quality. And having fun.

Pavlova Quintet 16th Anniversary Concert
Holywell Music Room, Oxford, July 11, 8pm
Tickets: 01865 305305 or