4 min read
Jacqueline Thomas and Paul Cassidy are members of The Brodsky Quartet, a world renowned string quartet who celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2023. They are also husband and wife. Their extraordinary career has involved travelling the world, performing in legendary concert venues, collaborating with famous names in pop, such as Elvis Costello and Sting, and recording the very best in chamber music. Naturally they both have a fascinating story to tell in their musical memoirs.
In 2020, Paul published Get Beethoven, about how he got into music and followed this up in 2022, with Got Beethoven, covering his first 40 years in the The Brodsky Quartet. Jacqueline, a founder member of the quartet, published her biography, Jacksons, Monk & Rowe and the Brodsky Quartet – the formative years also through Troubador, about her own extraordinary journey from Middlesborough to musical success.
Talking about the drive to write a book, Paul observes ‘I sat down to write about my 40 years in the Brodsky Quartet but ended up writing two books – that, and one about my 22 years before joining the group.’ Jacqueline, whose book filled in the gaps adds, ‘Paul had written the story from his joining the group, when we were already a decade into our existence, to the present day. So, I felt the first ten years needed to be given their own book too.’ While writing and music can both be considered as creative pursuits, they require different disciplines and skills, as Paul observes ‘I am a musician, not a writer, so having the confidence to even begin writing was a challenge - it took me quite a while to start!’
Jacqueline agrees, ‘Self-belief was a big challenge for me. Did I have enough to say? Would it be good enough? Would I have the time to finish it? I was lucky that my writing began during lockdown, so my usual career was on hold. I would shut myself away for a few hours at a time, at any time of day. But as real-life kicked back in and I was back on the concert stage and in the recording studio, I had to find scraps of spare time to complete the book. It was a huge push to the finish line, but I made it in the end!’ The couple both used Troubador to publish their musical memoirs, electing to keep the control that self-publishing brings.
Paul had originally looked for mainstream publishers, a process he describes as ‘pretty soul-destroying', before self-publishing. Jaqueline had originally imagined that ‘being published’ somehow lent her work more kudos but, as she goes on to explain, ‘I realised that self-publishing would offer me more freedom and control, which was important in such a specialist field. And Troubador is a hugely respected self-publishing house. Suddenly the term ‘self-published’ no longer felt like a defeat, and throughout I found that Troubador were always ready to explain and hold my hand.’ Jacqueline found the publishing process to be interesting, but quite different to what she had expected. ‘Being a novice, I found I had a lot to learn about the whole process. I wasn’t ready for the fact that when your first draft has taken shape, then the real work begins.
Reading and re-reading draft after draft, correcting and changing as you go.’ Both had strong ideas about how the books should look and feel. Jaqueline wanted photos to illustrate her story and had to spend a lot of time tracking the perfect images down. ‘I wrote to a lot of friends, family, and promoters and some of them came up trumps with some great images, including the first-ever photo taken of the group, for the local newspaper, when I was only 12. I worked hard getting the images digitised and sized to offer the best quality, ordering them chronologically and by relevance.’ Paul, meanwhile, opted to leave photos out of his printed books, but offered links to a specially created website where the photos could be viewed instead.
In terms of format and feel Jacqueline was guided by Troubador. ‘I felt that a paperback would be best; this being my first (and probably only) book, I had to be modest in my expectations regarding sales.' While being guided on her options, she also ‘had strong ideas regarding how I wanted the diary sections to look.’ This kind of freedom is of course central to self-publishing. Jacqueline and Paul already had a ready-made readership of fans of the quartet, but they’ve been busy marketing and promoting the books in many different ways: ‘I have been giving radio and TV interviews, which have helped enormously with sales. We also both sell books at our concerts, giving pre-concert book talks, which have gone down extremely well,’ observes Jacqueline. In addition, their books have an audience outside of the quartet. Paul identifies his readership as follows: ‘I feel that both my books carry potential interest for just about anyone, whether it be growing up in Ireland, trying to escape a crazy family, a Dickensian school, the Church and a war, or finding out what it’s like being in a band at the very top of their chosen field.’
For the future, Brodsky Quartet goes from strength to strength, with a full concert season lined up. Ultimately, though, at least for Jacqueline, the chance to publish allowed her to not only tell her story but inspire the next generation. ‘I believe I am unique, being the only woman to have remained in the same string quartet for fifty years! I hope that my story will inspire young people embarking on their musical careers, as well as rekindling some of the early enthusiasm in hardened professionals, reminding them of just what a magical journey music can be.’