'......exposed pianissimos stopped the heart, with splendid solos from Leader Anna Downes'
Birmingham Post, 2015
During the course of her career, Anna has been invited to perform with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, the Royal Shakespeare Company, English Symphony Orchestra, Welsh Chamber Orchestra (Principal 2nd Violin) and British Philharmonic Concert Orchestra among many others. She has performed in professional orchestras accompanying internationally renowned soloists such as Leslie Howard, Catrin Finch, Nicola Loud, Simon Dinnegan, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Isata Kanneh-Mason. Crossover work has included National Symphony Orchestra with Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson, and UK tours such as Ibiza Classics with The Limelight Orchestra and Stars of the West End with Louise Dearman, Kerry Ellis and the International Film Orchestra.
Recording work has included Wagner's Gotterdaemmerung (Act 1) with English Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Downes Symphony no 6 with Central England Camerata and String Quartets nos 1&2 with the Amabile Quartet. She has also recorded strings on albums for singer songwriters David Jenkins and Coyote Grove, and for composer Dom Mason.
Pit orchestra work has taken Anna to major theatres and venues across the UK, such as The New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, Theatre Royal Nottingham, Derby Playhouse, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and Buxton Opera House. Most recently Anna has played the solo violin part in a production of Sweeney Todd for the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
Having been born into a family of professional musicians (her father is the internationally acclaimed composer Andrew Downes), Anna started her studies at an early age. She studied violin with Malcolm Latchem of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and with David Gregory of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. As an student, she played with The English Mozart Players and also appeared as a soloist on BBC radio 2.
In 2001 Anna founded Central England Ensemble which is made up of postgraduate musicians, music students and other talented musicians. The group has two main aims: to promote the music of Midlands' composers and to provide a high standard performance platform for young talented musicians in the area. Since its conception CEE has performed over eighty concerts with a work by a Midlands based composer in each one. The orchestra has also toured in Northern Germany and in Paris, giving concerts in prestigious venues such as La Madeleine and the American Cathedral. The orchestra also runs its own Concerto Competition which has attracted over 100 entrants from all UK music colleges, and abroad, since the inaugural competition in 2008.
Anna is the founder and leader of chamber orchestra, Central England Camerata, which stages musical events in partnership with charitable causes such as Oxfam, the Spinal Injuries Association, Mary Steven's Hospice, Christian Aid and the NSPCC. The orchestra also regularly accompanies choral societies in performances of great choral classics.
Anna is an active recitalist and works extensively as part of The Himley Duo with pianist Tony Bridgewater. They have appeared at the Lion Ballroom in Leominster as part of the Espressivo Concert Series, at St Martin's in the Bullring, Birmingham, Carrs Lane Church, Birmingham, St Mary Magdelene Church in Bridgnorth, St Alphege's Church in Solihull, St Andrew's Church in Rugby, the Gateway Arts Centre in Shrewsbury and Great St Mary's Cambridge. Anna also is the violinist of the Amabile Trio with Duncan Honeybourne (pianist) and Joanne Jefferis (cellist). Recently they have given recitals in the Lumby Room at the Elgar School of Music in Worcester, Wednesbury Art Gallery, Peterborough Cathedral, The Bay Theatre in Weymouth, and Worcester Cathedral, performing Mendelssohn's D minor Trio, and giving the world premiere of Andrew Downes Sonata for Violin, Cello and Piano.
Anna also leads and manages Sophistication Strings - a busy string quartet which has performed all over the UK and abroad at concerts, weddings, functions and events. Most recently the string quartet performed for Lancome at a product launch in Gordes, France and has performed extensively as part of the UK Tour of Fever Candlelight Ballet: Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
In addition to performing commitments, Anna is an experienced teacher and adjudicator, and until 2019 held the position of Director of Music at Old Swinford Hospital, a state boarding school in Stourbridge, West Midlands. She has been invited to adjudicate for Northfield Festival, Solihull Festival, Dudley Young Musician, Winterfold House Instrumentalists' Competition, West House School Music Prize, Central England Ensemble Concerto Competition and The Andrew Downes Performance Prize at Birmingham Conservatoire.
In January 2015, Anna was invited to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in recognition of her outstanding contribution to community music.
In 2019 Anna founded Music for Sanctuary, a charitable organisation which has raised over £20k for local homeless charities through musical events.
In addition to this, as a former leader of Midland Youth Orchestra (2000-2003), and recipient of the James Langley Memorial Award (2000), Anna is a Trustee of the James Langley Memorial Trust.
Anna lives in Worcestershire with her husband, Mike, and sons, Oscar and Maxwell.