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Karen Street

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Biography of Karen Street

Karen started the accordion at the age of eight only because her big brother was having lessons, however it quickly turned into a passion and the highlight of her week became playing with the local accordion band which ploughed relentlessly through pieces like Sibelius’ Finlandia, Leroy Anderson tunes and selections from the musicals. At the same time she took up the saxophone, playing in the local jazz band.
She followed the accepted path for any budding accordionist and worked the accordion competition circuit (a bit like Come Dancing with squeeze boxes) becoming the British Virtuoso Champion in 1981/2, and consequently competing in the Coupe Mondiale (World Championship) in Hamburg and Folkstone.

At that time the world of the classical contemporary accordion was very limited, so Karen turned to the saxophone and found herself in an all girl saxophone quartet 'The Fairer Sax' who appeared on television and radio and at festivals all over the world.

In 1992 she was invited to join Mike Westbrook’s big band on saxophone and accordion and has since been involved in many of his projects - the latest being “Chanson Irresponsable”. Further invitations from Tim Garland led to tours with “Lammas”, his project “Songs of Love and Liberty” and more recently in his "Made by Walking " tour playing alongside Geoff Keezer Joe Locke and Avishai Cohen .
Other credits include, Phil Robson Octet, Steve Arguelles, Martha Lewis - Café Aman, and Roy Nathanson

Karen has always been a composer and arranger and in particular has written many works for the saxophone. Her catalogue now extends from solos to large ensembles, many of which are published by Boosey & Hawkes, June Emerson and Saxtet Publications. Her pieces appear in virtually every music exam syllabus in the UK. Inevitably she turned her compositional skills to the accordion and finished up with her debut album - “Finally a Beginning”. This collection of compelling compositions range in style from contemporary jazz to folk and tango reflecting her diverse musical influences. One of the compositions on the CD "In the Ballroom with the Rope" took first prize at the London Accordion Festival, Composition Competition in 2001.
She has just recorded another CD again featuring Stan Sulzmann and Fred T Baker, with a guest appearance from Mike Outram on guitar.
She also co-runs Saxtet with Andy Tweed her husband. This contemporary saxophone quintet uniquely has five composer/performers. Karen's material is very much at the heart of the group.

Karen’s accordion is a free bass accordion in which the bass has a range of five octaves unlike the limited standard bass of the stradella bass accordion.
This freedom allows her to play melody, harmony and bass lines that has not been widely explored on the instrument.

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