England’s Paganini of the traditional violin, Adam Summerhayes,  plays the most brilliant and seductive of gypsy melodies with master accordionist Murray Grainger in an award winning duo, whose music has been described as ‘gorgeous stuff‘ by the BBC.
“Intoxicating … virtuoso fiddle playing” The Times
“Astonishing, all-out virtuosity from Adam Summerhayes” New York Times
“Breathtaking violin wizardry “
“Like the direct descendant of the devil’s violinist Paganini” (Badische Zeitung)



The Music

“Gypsy” music is smoke and mirrors; a virtuoso illusion — we all know what it sounds like, and the music is real enough, but it is not born of an ancient “Gypsy” tradition. Instead, centuries ago, travelling “Gypsies” (— or Roma, as they are correctly known) began to twist the local music around them into tantalising, mysterious and pulsating new versions. They earned their next meal by creating music that was rare, wonderful and provocatively different — but from local ingredients.

Dangerous, wild, alluring, exotic — feared, envied, persecuted — desired — scapegoats, or symbols of freedom: “Gypsies” roam the darker paths of our imaginations, alternately bewitching us with the allure of their music and  terrifying us by living by different rules. But who are they? A low-caste tribe of musicians from northern India took to the road at some murky point in history as the Doma (or Rom) and reappeared in Hungary in the 14th century as the Roma, fleeing the advancing Ottoman empire. They cashed in on their musical skills, appropriating the music of those around them and becoming the go-to players for all functions from village dances to the entertainment of princes.

Musicologists tell us that Hungarian “Gypsy” music is really mostly indigenous Hungarian folk music, or derived from 18th and 19th century art music, and Romanian and Bulgarian scholars are equally keen to reclaim their folk music from inaccurate branding as being “Gypsy.” And it is all very convincing: the Roma’s music for their own purposes was almost entirely vocal — nothing like the showy instrumental music we expect. As they travelled west, they earned their way by adapting their impressive musical skills — particularly on the violin — wherever needed. Peasant dances had their melodies twisted by eastern scales and between dances the musicians improvised with extraordinary expressiveness and skill — they were soon the must-have players throughout central and eastern Europe, the Balkans and Spain. Village dances and courts vied to have the best band and the Roma lent their fiddle bows to their version of whatever was in fashion. “Gypsy” music might not exist, but “Gypsy” virtuosity certainly does. 

And yet that is not the whole story of the music that we call “Gypsy”: in Europe, from the medieval period onwards, Jewish communities represented another wandering tribe who kept to themselves and had an equally specialised musical class, the klezmerim, who provided music for weddings and celebrations. They were also remarkable fiddlers with an eastern twist, so it is not surprising to learn that they branched out a bit to take on some of the Roma musicians’ success. We know, for example, that one of the most famous Hungarian “Gypsy” band leaders of the 18th century was a Jewish man who changed his name and became a celebrated “Gypsy” fiddler. Unpicking the appreciable klezmer influence from what we think of as “Gypsy” music is impossible.

Despite the fact that our beloved “Gypsy” music is not actually indigenously Roma, and that neither were many of the famous “Gypsy” bands who created the style, it remains one of the world’s most instantly recognisable musical brands: vibrant, expressive, sensuous and fiery.

The Musicians

Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger have been playing together for over a decade, with many wild adventures behind them, musical and otherwise. 

They have performed in more festivals than they can remember, but recent highlights included Glastonbury, Edinburgh Festival, Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Buxton Festival,  Petworth Festival, Swaledale Festival and the Great British Folk Festival. 

They had a productive pandemic. filming and producing a series of films for the UK’s Arts Council that combined landscape, music, poetry, history and archaeology in a unique way, as well as recording several albums. Their music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and they were commissioned to create the music for a BBC Radio 4 Feature Drama, which was also a first for the genre, in that the music not only runs underneath the entire drama, as a piece of music in itself, but was also improvised in the studio to the finished version of the actors’ words.

They were awarded the Instrumental Album of the Year 2022 by the prestigious UK music magazine FATEA.

Adam Summerhayes

Fêted as folk music’s Instrumentalist of the Year in 2021, Adam’s classical pedigree is also impeccable, with direct links via his grandfather to the violinists who premiered Brahms’s and Tchaikovsky’s violin concertos. He has an impressive classical discography including discs that have received exceptionally high praise in the press and been played on Radio 3, Classic FM and throughout the world.

Adam’s career has been astonishingly varied, the only consistent feature being the high critical acclaim attracted by his performances and recordings. His first disc of chamber music, including premiere recordings of works by Copland, was described as being “to die for” by the UK’s The Strad magazine and, recently, the New York Times reported “astonishing, all-out virtuosity on violin by Adam Summerhayes”  — the references to virtuosity are frequent in the international press: “breath-taking violin wizardry” from New Zealand; “like the direct descendant of the devil’s violinist Paganini” from Germany; “intoxicating … virtuoso fiddle playing” (The Times). 

As a classical chamber musician, he has performed in many prestigious venues: the South Bank Centre’s Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, as well as the prestigious Wigmore Hall; the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music Concert Hall; the Théatre du Chatelet, Paris; and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Extensive international touring has taken him across the majority of Europe and to Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Canada, Alaska, and New Zealand — and a total of 45 US states. He joined the extraordinarily dynamic baroque group Red Priest in 2015 and arranged and composed most of their latest album “The Baroque Bohemians”, which topped the classical charts. Outside the classical sphere, Adam played over much of the globe with the gypsy-tango band ZUM and enjoyed a period as featured solo violinist in the band of Dutch multi-platinum-selling pop star Caro Emerald (including in London’s O2 arena to 20,000 people). He also wrote a track for a blockbuster movie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and had a brief cameo role — as a Roma violinist. Fun-fact: Robert Downey Jnr. ‘played’ Adam’s violin on set.

Adam considers his career highlights to be falling in an extremely deep ditch in Denmark at four in the morning, losing the skin from the end of his right thumb through ‘frostnip’ halfway through a winter tour of the Mid West as concerto soloist, and being (wrongfully) arrested by the US Border Force in Arizona in a surprising episode that involved two helicopters, three police trucks, a lot of men with machine guns … and some cacti.

Murray Grainger

Murray  is established as one of Britain’s most influential and innovative accordionists. Having studied at the Royal Academy of Music, his exceptional ability to move between genres has seen him crossing boundaries across the musical spectrum from traditional, through classical and jazz, to commercial and popular music.

He has performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Liverpool Philharmonic, and Scottish Ballet; at Glastonbury Festival of Arts, Sidmouth International Folk Festival, Edinburgh Festival, and Celtic Connections; and collaborated with many of the world’s top performers, including Cormac Byrne, Piers Adams, Adam Summerhayes, Miranda Sykes and Martin Allcock.

Murray is a respected educator teaching at Halsway Manor, Hands on Music in Witney and former head of accordion studies at Chetham’s School of Music. A talented music engineer, he regularly produces successful albums, including The Baroque Bohemians, Red Priest, which topped the classical charts.

An accomplished player of both piano and button key accordions (as well as the bandoneon and the accordina) he has collaborated with composers creating new works for the instrument and given world premiers to pieces by composers such as Jonathon Dove, Eddie McGuire, and Gerhard Stäbler.

His current projects include gypsy klezmer group Dodo Street Band, folk tone poem trio Words of a Fiddler’s Daughter, folk-improv duo The Ciderhouse Rebellion and new improv-trad group The Haar.

Much of Murray’s last decade has been spent making sure that Adam does not leave his violin in a pub, or on the roof of the car, or at the venue … or forget to take it to the gig in the first place.


Lisa Sapinkopf
Director, Lisa Sapinkopf Artists