Sonnerie was a most unique ensemble: originally founded as a trio, it enlarged to perform orchestral works while maintaining a core group of players to accommodate smaller pieces like trios and quartets.
At the core of the group were four musicians -- Monica Huggett, director and violinist; Emilia Benjamin, viola da gamba, violin, and viola; Joseph Crouch, cello; and Matthew Halls, harpsichord and organ. These four performed at most concerts, and, typically, were abetted by about 10 additional instrumentalists to form a chamber orchestra. Sonnerie performed a series of annual concerts at London's Wigmore Hall and often went on tour throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Sonnerie's repertorial focus was largely early music and Baroque works, though Mozart has also been explored. Sonnerie/Trio Sonnerie has made over 20 recordings spread over several labels, including ASV, EMI, Teldec, Harmonia Mundi, Virgin, and Gaudeamus.
Sonnerie was founded in London in 1982 by violinist/conductor Huggett. Its first concert was given in London that same year, but under its original name, Trio Sonnerie. The group then consisted of Huggett, bass violist Sarah Cunningham and harpsichordist Mitzi Meyerson. As one might suspect, there have been more than a few personnel changes over the years: in addition to the departure and replacement of Cunningham and Meyerson, harpsichordist Gary Cooper, and cellist Alison McGillivray have come and gone as core players of the ensemble.
By the early '90s Sonnerie, still known as Trio Sonnerie, was internationally acclaimed, not least because of recordings like the Op. 5 Corelli violin sonatas, on Virgin Classics, released in 1990. By the mid-'90s the group had expanded into a chamber orchestra and thus had also extended its repertory to include many large Baroque works. Among their first recordings was a pair of highly acclaimed 1994 J.S. Bach cantata discs on EMI, with Nancy Argenta, soprano.
In 2002 Sonnerie was given a Gramophone award for its recording of the Biber violin sonatas on ASV. Other prestigious citations and awards followed, as the group maintained a fairly active concert schedule, which typically has included major European Baroque festivals, such as the Cheltenham, Innsbruck, Aldeburgh, and Nordic Baroque festivals.
As of 2009, it had reformed as Trio Sonnerie once more, with James Johnstone as harpsichordist. Its concert schedule included performances of works by Handel and Purcell at the Luftana Festival in England, while in 2011, it toured Asia.