Earning a Living: 12
Site Map
Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Earning a Living: 13

The English String Quartet, masquerading under yet another name, the Chips Quartet, was a very popular feature of the 'At Homes', annual social gatherings arranged by the Union. The 'chips' of the title referred to the bizarre, often highly amusing, musical fragments that they performed, contrived to a large extent by Bridge himself. Ivor James recounts one such episode:

We played tunes on four wood-winds, on four brass instruments, and 'Sweet and Low' on four double basses, also a passionate love duet for two violins accompanied by viola and cello, in which one of the violinists became so enraptured that he was unable to hold his instrument, which slipped over his shoulder and shot up into the air behind him; we all rushed to save it, but down it dropped on the floor. In our anxiety to pick it up someone trod on it. I shall never forget the sound of that scrunch, nor the sight of the faces in the audience, all of which paled with horror. It was only later they discovered that it was a toy fiddle!7

Another celebrated entertainment staged by the Chips Quartet was Bridge's Scherzo Phantastique (1901) with its various sneezes and gasps in unison, the continual changing of seats and the lost first violinist, who, at the end of the piece, was heard playing somewhere aloft in the balcony.

7 I James, 'Frank Bridge', Obituary, Royal College of Music Magazine, Vol 37, No 1, 1941, p.24. The four 'brass' instruments were, in fact, clarinet (Morris), horn (Kinsey), trumpet (Bridge) and bassoon (James). Whereas Bridge's deputizing at Brighton meant that he could cope with performing on several different instruments for the various 'chips', the other players were not so fortunate. Of necessity, Kinsey's horn part consisted solely of one note! (H Kinsey, 'The Chips', Royal College of Music Magazine, Vol 52, No 2, 1956, p 48.)