Who We Are
For nearly 2 decades O Duo have been performing worldwide, entertaining and educating audiences of all ages. The duo was formed in 2001 by Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox, whilst studying at the RCM. Then in 2018 Toby Kearney (another RCM graduate) joined Owen to continue the musical journey.
The Duo made their Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut with their show, ‘Bongo Fury’, which they played over 25 times to sell-out crowds and critical acclaim. This led to them returning to the Fringe for two more years, and also laid a platform for their future success in a number of competitions, including being selected by Young Concert Artists Trust for representation in 2005.
Since then, O Duo has gone from strength to strength, giving recitals all around the world, performing both chamber music and concertos in many of the country’s top concert halls, playing in Hyde Park for the Last Night of the Proms, as well as commissioning many new works and inspiring countless children (and adults!) around the world with their virtuosic performances, laid- back presentation and passion for both percussion and music in general.
Described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘brimming with style and panache’, in recent years O Duo have won a Special Commissioning Award from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust and been appointed Artistic Directors of the Children’s Classic Concerts series in Scotland revealing their artistic quality, passion for commissioning new repertoire and dedication to education work.
Renowned for their ‘phenomenal artistry’ (The Daily Telegraph), O Duo have performed across the world. Highlights include appearing twice at the BBC Proms, at the Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park and most recently to give the premiere of Wilful Chants by Stephen Montague with the BBC Symphony Chorus, recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Cheltenham and City of London Festivals. O Duo gave the premiere of Stephen McNeff’s Concert O-Duo at the Barbican as part of BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 80th birthday concert, and have performed an eclectic repertoire including Bartók’s Sonata with Artur Pizzarro and Vita Panomariovaite, and music by Moondog (the iconic American composer) at the Barbican.
Concert appearances further afield include performances at the Al Bustan, Harare and Mexico City Festivals and in Paris, Madrid, Lucerne, Zug, and Seinajoki, as well as tours to Germany and Bulgaria. Orchestral performances include concerto appearances with the BBC Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras. In 2013 O Duo gave the world premiere of Fraser Trainer’s new percussion concerto firstly with Sinfonia ViVA and then with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Their successful appearance in Melbourne included curating and performing in a whole week of concerts and innovative interactive workshops for children and families.
O Duo released their first CD on the Sony BMG label in 2007 to critical acclaim, including being featured as CD of the week in The Daily Telegraph. Making a great impact on the UK music scene, the duo have broadcast with BBC Radio 2 and 3, Classic FM, and recorded with the BBC Symphony Chorus. Furthermore, as outstanding communicators, O Duo have worked at Abbey Road and Sony studios on television and film scores and broadcast on Channel 4 and BBC Television.
Prior to Toby joining O Duo, the pair had worked together with many of the countries leading orchestras and ensembles, as the pair pursue busy playing careers around the duo. Toby is a member of the CBSO and teaches percussion at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Owen continues his role as artistic director of Childrens Classic Concerts, as well as teaching Percussion at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Birmingham Conservatoire. The two have given masterclasses all over the world.
"Exhilarating ... a glistening constellation of timbres, at times hushed and haunting, at others athletically spry."
Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph 2015
"Phenomenal artistry...Brimming with style and panache."
The Daily Telegraph
"This duo’s wonderful rapport, both with each other and with their audiences, together with their extraordinary versatility, virtuosity and physical prowess, adds up to a visual and artistic feast that is exhilarating and utterly irresistible."
Oxford Mail Jacqueline du Pré Music Building May 2010
"Brilliant….one of the Fringe’s small gems"
"Startling…cheeky, but enchanting"
St Magnus Festival 2013
Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox may look, as they jokingly describe themselves, like ‘a pair of scruffy blokes playing the xylophones’, but they’re not. For one thing, they play a large array of tuned and untuned percussion. And in novel ways too - they stamp their feet, they beat the floor, bow instruments, yell and leap. They approach their work with imagination, and they are born performers. I’ve never seen volunteer hands go up so quickly for audience participation. Who could resist having a go at something that sounds so exciting and looks so much fun?
But don’t be fooled by their relaxed style, and all that charming chat about their mums and the John Lewis haberdashery department. Gunnell and Cox are fantastic musicians, trained to the highest level, bursting with talent. The sensitivity and musicianship with which they play a Bach Prelude and Fugue on, of all things, a marimba, gives them away. They moved through free improvised jazz on the vibraphone, before ending with a powerful performance of Minoru Miki’s Marimba Spiritual, a reflection on acute famine in Africa. A programme that proved O Duo are more than just great entertainment
Rosenna East. The Herald. July 2013
Going for Gold, Caird Hall, Dundee May 2014
These shows would not be the same without some continuity, and Olly and Owen proved to be link men extraordinaire. No strangers to Children’s Classic Concerts, their rapport with the audience was instantaneous, their enthusiasm infectious. I liked their take on ET, a film that apparently inspired Sir Chris Hoy to start cycling, but Olly’s We Can Fly, specially composed for the Games and given only its second airing at the concert, was even more memorable.
Gerry Fraser, Dundee Courier
The Daily Telegraph 10 February 2007 CD of the Week
In live concerts, part of the fun of watching Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox – the pair who make up the percussion ensemble O Duo – is that they are such nifty movers. The footwork is as spry as Fred Astaire's, the choreography as fluent as in any ballet. They dart from instrument to instrument in their arsenal of things to hit and slap, changing places with split-second timing. They have got the visual athleticism of their performances down to a fine art.
If that element is absent from this purely audio disc, you can certainly appreciate O Duo's virtuosity, their exploratory range of works and their willingness to give us some show-stopping arrangements in among modern pieces written specifically for percussion. So, alongside Minoru Miki's mesmerising Marimba Spiritual and Stephen McNeff's witty study of professional coffee-making in Baristas, there is a brilliant transcription of Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, as well as versions of Mendelssohn, Poulenc and Bach preludes and fugues.
So stylish are O Duo's performances, so kaleidoscopic the colours and so invigorating the rhythms, you feel that any of these composers would happily have scored their pieces for percussion if only there had been an ensemble of O Duo's calibre around to play them.
The Daily Telegraph Sony BMG 88697027202 February 2007
Short, snappy and infectious artistry
Bounding on to the platform at the start of this programme, Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell launched headlong into a short, snappy rhythmic extravaganza called Bongo Fury, a rousing curtain-raiser that they wrote last year. O Duo has been the toast of recent Edinburgh Festivals, and it is easy to see why. The style is infectious, and the pair can paper over protracted platform changes with perky patter. But there is phenomenal artistry underneath it all
The Daily Telegraph Wigmore Hall February 2006
Crash, bang, wallop
Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell, O Duo percussion, gave a superb lunchtime recital. If there had been an interval I would have been tempted to go out into the streets of Newbury to persuade perfect strangers to come in to hear them. They played an impressive range of instruments in a variety of styles and kept the audience enthralled, primarily with their brilliant playing but also with the informative and friendly introductions to the pieces
Newbury Weekly News Newbury Spring Festival May 2006
This was a stunning performance [Bartok Sonata], thrilling and moving in the extreme
Musical Opinion Park Lane Group Purcell Room January 2006
O Duo – percussionists Oliver Cox & Owen Gunnell – produced a short set that would go down a storm at the Royal Variety Performance….Hugely entertaining and very enjoyably musical
Classical Source QEH support act to JobyTalbot July 2005
Michael Zev Gordon, enjoyed a subtle performance of his Resolution 2004 for two percussion: the sticks, hammers and violin bows of O Duo’s Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell created slow-motion choreography as they conjured cycles of agitation and calm from two vibraphones, gongs and cymbals….Three classics of the piano/percussion repertoire provided welcome ballast: the premiere of O Duo’s own entirely magical arrangement of three of Ligeti’s piano sketches; a virtuoso performance of Berio’s hauntingly eloquent 1973 ballet score, Linea; and a performance of Bartok’s 1934 Sonata for two pianos and percussion
The Times PLG Young Artists Purcell Room January 2006