Annie Routley: Viola virtuoso steps into the spotlight

Wednesday 21st September 2011

Tony Cummings spoke to instrumentalist ANNIE ROUTLEY who finally gets a front sleeve billing alongside composer Roger Jones

Annie Routley
Annie Routley

Annie Routley may not be a name many will recognize though in fact she has vast experience in Christian music ministry, having played on numerous recordings emanating from Birmingham's popular Christian musical man, Roger Jones. Now Annie, a highly accomplished viola player, steps out into the limelight when she is given front sleeve billing on the new instrumental album 'This Is The Place' released on Jones's CMM label. Cross Rhythms quizzed the lady.

Tony: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Annie: I was born in Taunton, Somerset in January 1957. My Dad worked in a bank, but also ran a trad jazz band in which he played drums. Both he and Mummy played the piano, so music was always part of our home. I have a younger brother, Ian, who was probably very musical too, but chose the art route instead and is now an architect. I loved ballet and wanted to be a dancer. I would often put on classical records and dance to them, and we often put on 'shows' for our parents with the children next door, making up our own dance routines, making the costumes, etc.

Tony: How and when did you first begin to play music?

Annie: As soon as I was old enough to sit up on his lap, Dad started teaching me simple things at the piano. I started formal lessons at seven. I very quickly went through the Associated Board exams, and would take part in Talent Shows at Butlins holiday camps in the summer when we were on holiday. I may have developed into a very good pianist, but unfortunately my parents split up when I was 11, and although I still had piano lessons, things were very difficult at home. My mother became increasingly depressed, with periods in a psychiatric hospital, and when I was 15 she took her own life. I started the violin at Tiverton Grammar School aged 12, and changed to the viola aged 15. I didn't have formal lessons though; we learned by playing every weekday lunchtime at school in the school orchestra, playing Mozart and Haydn Symphonies and Bach suites. Consequently, I am a very useful orchestral player on the viola, but couldn't perform a concerto!

Tony: Have you played in different orchestras?

Annie: At Exeter University, where I studied Music, I had wonderful opportunities to play in a variety of orchestras - the University Symphony Orchestra, of which I was Secretary, the Chamber Orchestra, with which we toured towns and villages in Devon, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, the Choral Society, etc. When I moved to Birmingham in 1979 to become the Assistant Orchestra Manager of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (just three months before Sir Simon Rattle joined us as Conductor), I had the opportunity to play viola once or twice for 'Prom' evenings, and I sang for some years with the CBSO Chorus.

Tony: How and when did you become a Christian?

Annie: I'd been brought up to go to church and to read Scripture Union notes. Mummy was a committed Christian, and I know now that my Dad made a commitment to Christ at a Billy Graham rally in the mid-50s. I didn't have much sense of God's love during my teenage years, with my parent's marriage breakdown and Mummy's illness and death. In my upper-sixth year I did join the Christian Union at school, and I remember going to the 'Come Together' musical. I was very moved indeed, and felt God was speaking to me directly in the words of 'May I introduce you to a friend'. At the end, people hugged me and assumed that it had 'happened' for me - but in fact nobody led me in a prayer of commitment! It was another year before I was at University and I was part of a group of friends who knew God in a personal way. They led me to Christ through their friendship and love, and by their example. After an evangelistic meeting one evening I knelt by the bed with my friends and made my commitment to Christ. (We are still friends all these years later, and to celebrate our 50th birthdays, we hired a cottage together for the weekend.)

Tony: Have you made any recordings prior to 'This Is The Place'?

Annie Routley: Viola virtuoso steps into the spotlight

Annie: I have worked alongside Roger Jones at Christian Music Ministries for the last 17 years, and am involved in all the CD recordings we make. Roger hand-picks the soloists and works with them in the studio, but the live arrangements and the close-harmony choral group recordings he leaves to me. I have played viola on many of our albums, usually in a string quartet with Christian friends from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Tony: How did you first meet up with Roger Jones:

Annie: I saw an advertisement for a Christian Musician to work alongside Roger Jones in 1994. I was currently working for the International Nepal Fellowship, but my boss at INF had been saying for some time that I wasn't 'realising my potential' - though I was perfectly happy working as a secretary. Since joining Christian Music Ministries (CMM) I have been able to use my musical training and gifts to the full, in ways I wouldn't have envisaged. One of the most fulfilling of these has been in arranging and orchestrating Roger's musicals - so that the orchestral parts are achievable and enjoyable to play, whatever level of ability. We run Music Family Weeks at places like Lee Abbey and the Christian Guild hotels, and it gives me great joy to work with whoever comes - whatever combination of instruments - and at the end of the week perform the musical together.

Tony: How did the recording sessions go for 'This Is The Place'?

Showing page 1 of 2

1 2

Reader Comments

Posted by Geoffrey Rees in Swansea @ 07:26 on May 7 2016

Hello Annie, just put your name into this I pad and the piece on you came over the ether! Great to see you are playing viola - also I expect some Sati etc.we had such a fabulous time at Exeter your piece brought it all backUniversity can be the best time of our life's(not school)!! Barny Ling died recently - incroyable- best wishes to you and your works. I am still busy law family granddaughter this year and new large rescue dogxxgeoffrey

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

Add your comment

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.