Four moor year

Cellist Toby White was the grand age of three when he found his calling. Twenty-six years later, he’s returning to his home in North Yorkshire to serenade audiences and, most importantly, his mum

Hero image

When he was growing up in Ripon, Toby White was surrounded by music. His mum was an amateur viola player and his older sister played the violin, but in his earliest years White didn’t take to it himself.

“Mum thought maybe I wasn’t going to be musical,” White says. “There was always music around, but it was never expected that I would do it. There wasn’t much pushing. It was always very much out of fun.”

Then, listening to his mum’s car radio one day, three-year-old White heard Saint-Saëns’s celebrated cello piece The Swan.

“Apparently I turned to Mum and said: ‘It’s a daddy violin. I want one of those,’” he recalls. “Being an amazing mum, just so overjoyed that I liked music, she went and got me a tiny little cello. I started playing, she found me a great teacher and, 26 years later, I’m still playing.”

White is now an acclaimed young musician, performing as cellist with the Jubilee String Quartet. In something of a return to home territory he’ll be joining the quartet for three shows as part of this year’s North York Moors Chamber Music Festival. Established by Jamie Walton in 2009, the festival takes place, as the name suggests, right on the moors – this year, within a huge, socially-distanced marquee just outside Kirkbymoorside.

North Yorkshire might not immediately spring to mind when thinking of chamber music, but, White says: ”There’s a lot going on there that isn’t talked about enough, a lot of hidden gems and wonderful musicians. When I was growing up, I was always going to concerts and partaking in stuff. I think it’s just one of those scenes that’s content with itself. It doesn’t need to shout – although we’d like more people to know about it, and Jamie’s doing a phenomenal job at that. What he’s managed to achieve with this festival is unbelievable. It’s a huge privilege to be part of it.”

Aside from performing work by Elgar and Mendelssohn alongside other musicians, the Jubilee String Quartet will be giving their own lunchtime concert at the festival, featuring pieces by Haydn and Schubert.

“The Schubert, Death and the Maiden, is very personal for us. It was the first major work that we performed as a quartet. Myself and Lorena, our violist, joined at the same time and it was really the piece that brought the Quartet back on track. They’d been together for a long time but they’d lost two members. So it’s now very fitting that it’s the first work that brings us back onto the stage after such a long time.”

Being back on home territory carries a charge for White, too. “It’s always quite an emotional experience for me coming home. I love going back. The audiences are so warm and receptive. They’re really passionate about the music and us. It gives me a chance to go and spend some time with family as well. They rarely get to hear me play.”

His mum is immensely proud, of course. “She tells me she is. I mean, I owe her so much. She’s very modest and humble, she doesn’t like to take credit, but she’s the reason why I do this. When I told her about these concerts, she went online straight away and booked her tickets.”

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, 7-21 August (

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Four moor year

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.