Quartette

Quartette. A four-member female folk ensemble whose musical style also embraces roots, bluegrass, and country. The original members were Sylvia Tyson, Cindy Church, Caitlin Hanford, and Colleen Peterson. After Peterson's death to cancer in 1996, she was replaced by Gwen Swick.

Quartette

Quartette. A four-member female folk ensemble whose musical style also embraces roots, bluegrass, and country. The original members were Sylvia Tyson, Cindy Church, Caitlin Hanford, and Colleen Peterson. After Peterson's death to cancer in 1996, she was replaced by Gwen Swick.

Quartette was formed during the summer of 1993 for a concert at Toronto's Harbourfront; the positive response from critics and audiences resulted in their first (self-titled) recording, released on the Outside Music label in 1994. That year the ensemble received an award for best vocal collaboration from the Canadian Country Music Association. Juno Award nominations for top country group followed 1995-7, and the ensemble's fame spread further with an hour-long presentation on the CBC TV program Adrienne Clarkson Presents. Quartette has continued to enjoy considerable acclaim, attributed not only to its consistently high level of artistry, but also to the wide range of musical styles and the fine blend of voices, despite the differences in vocal quality inherent in each singer.

All of the members have careers outside the group as solo artists or with other musicians. Quartette's music is almost entirely original. Sylvia Tyson explained: "We all know how to harmonize, and with four songwriters, we knew we weren't going to lack good material" (Globe and Mail, 28 Jul 1994). The ensemble has released 6 CDs, including two with a Christmas theme, all of them recorded for Outside Music.

Cindy Church (singer, songwriter, b Bible Hill, NS, 1958?) has been a major figure in Canadian roots music since the 1980s. Her influences were country and traditional music, eg, Hank Snow and Kitty Wells. Church has had a successful solo career, releasing three CDs - Love on the Range (1994), Just a Little Rain (1995), and a self-titled album a year later. In 1993, she was named female artist of the year at the Alberta Country Music Awards. She has performed with Ian Tyson; as part of Lunch at Allen's (with Murray McLauchlan, Ian Thomas, and Marc Jordan); and on The Nearness of You (with Joe Sealy and George Koller).

Caitlin Hanford (singer, songwriter, b US, 1955?; B Ed (McGill) 1978) graduated from McGill University and began teaching music at a Toronto public school while simultaneously pursuing a country music career. Her partnership with her husband (and song-writing collaborator) Chris Whiteley resulted in two acclaimed albums and a Juno Award nomination for top country group in 1984. Five years later, the pair formed the Adobe Brothers with numerous other artists, the musical style combining acoustic country, western swing, and bluegrass. Hanford is also a member of The Marigolds (with Gwen Swick and Suzie Vinnick) and she released a solo album, Bluer Skies, in 1997.

Gwen Swick (singer, songwriter, composer, bass guitarist, b Winnipeg 1953) attended York University. She has earned recognition both as a singer/songwriter and as a guitarist. Her solo albums include Gwen Swick (1993), A Pebble of Mercy (1995) and Love and Gold (2002), in addition to five others she has recorded as part of Tamarack, and of the Marigolds with Caitlin Hanford. Swick's music has also been used in film soundtracks, such as Never Talk to Strangers (1995), and in two award-winning Canadian features, Heater (1999) and Sleeping Dogs (2006).

Sylvia Tyson (b Chatham, Ont, 19 Sep 1940), the most renowned of the four members, first came to prominence in the 1960s as part of the folk-country duo Ian and Sylvia.


Further Reading

  • Gallant, Doug. "Down at the fair," (Review). The Guardian, 30 Jan 2008

    Kirchhoff, H.L. "Quartette fast becoming Canada's Fab Four," Globe and Mail, 28 Jul 1994

    Kirchhoff, H.L. "Quartette adds a new dimension: the arrival of Gwen Swick after the loss of Colleen Peterson has helped spawn an edgier, more layered sound," Globe and Mail, 24 Oct 1998

    "Sylvia Tyson hits road with Quartette," Canadian Press Newswire, 20 Jul 1994