RAVEN are Stephanie Benedetti, Natalie Holt, Rachael Lander and Kirsty Mangan. The quartet was formed in 2007 over a very spicy pizza in Soho. Disillusioned with the traditional background role of the string quartet and frustrated with tired old repertoire, the girls wanted to reinterpret popular classical tunes and revolutionise the way they are performed.
Raven are blessed to have two in-house arrangers. Within days of forming the group Natalie (viola) had fused together two of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in an entirely original arrangement. Inspired by Nigel Kennedy’s rock and roll interpretation of the piece, Raven abandoned the chairs and music stands and performed the work weeks later at Gabriel Prokofiev’s NonClassical night in Hoxton to an astonished crowd. Since then the girls haven’t looked back.
Three months after forming, Raven found themselves performing to millions of viewers as the resident string quartet on BBC’s Maestro, aiding Blur’s Alex James and drum and bass legend Goldie to hone their conducting skills. The eventual winner, broadcaster and comedienne Sue Perkins, called the three month old Raven “s**t hot.” Three years later, Raven’s dramatic arrangements and vibrant performances have taken them from the Macbeth pub in Hoxton to the Royal Albert Hall, and last year as far as Tokyo, Japan. The girls have played with artists including Hayley Westenra and Lee Mead, Jonathan Ansell, N Dubz, Russell Watson, The Last Shadow Puppets, Ellie Goulding and Echo and the Bunnymen. They have collaborated with everyone from musical comedian Tim Minchin to pop impresario, Guy Chambers.
In their first year Raven recorded an album of entirely original arrangements at Pinewood Studios. With no record label or promotion, the girls have sold thousands of copies at performances alone and the numbers keep growing. Natalie’s arrangement of Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe for Quartet and Orchestra saw the girls performing as soloists with the English Chamber Orchestra at the Cadogan Hall last year. They opened Glastonbury’s Classical Extravaganza with an hour long set and a collaboration with Nicola Benedetti and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to an audience of 4 000 in August 2010.
This year Raven have enjoyed a number or widely received live performances backing Ellie Goulding, as well as sell out shows at Hammersmith Apollo, Raven have performed on Lorraine Kelly’s Breakfast show, Alan Titchmarsh, Graham Norton , Dancing on Ice and Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. Ellie’s BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge performance premiered a cover of Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World” featuring Raven (see our videos page) which presenter Fearne Cotton called “the Live lounge performance of the year.” Millions of radio listeners were awoken by Raven on Chris Evans’ BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show in September last year. The girls were interviewed throughout the show and played live a total of 10 times over the course of the broadcast. The girls proved so popular with the listeners that Chris’s twitter account crashed due to the volume of tweets about Raven. BBC Radio 2 also invited Raven to perform twice on it’s longest running music show, “Friday Night is Music Night”, to an enraptured audience.
October 2010 saw the girls perform for Prince Harry at Buckingham Palace, as part of BBC documentary,“Goldie’s Band, By Royal Appointment” features the talents of 12 young musicians, each of whom were hand picked by the show’s mentors, Goldie, Soweto Kinch, Miss Dynamite, Cerys Matthews, Guy Chambers and Steve Abbott. Raven’s collaboration with the band will be aired on BBC 2 in March.
The girls are also making a name for themselves in the corporate world, performing frequently at London awards shows and events at Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland. Raven recently performed at the prestigious Pride of Britain awards in Mayfair. Raven were recently selected to be ambassadors for CLIC Sargent, the UKs largest Cancer Charity. The girls have also performed for the The Prince’s Trust, Help for Heroes, Unicef for Haiti Response, The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts, Barnardos, The Variety Club, The Army Benevolent Fund and Marie Curie. Raven recently finished their fourth tour with Hayley Westenra, which concluded with a sell out show at The Barbican. 2011 looks bright for Raven. In the next few months the girls are involved in several projects for the BBC and are collaborating with Squeeze and graphic novel writer Alan Moore. Raven are profoundly grateful for all the support they have had so far and are working tirelessly to ensure that as many people as possible can experience their extraordinary renditions in exciting live performance.