Frances Kelly

Harp

Frances Kelly

What & where was your debut gig with The Sixteen?
Long time ago, I can’t remember! I think it was a recording for the BBC, but I strongly recollect a concert of Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater in the chapel of St John’s Cambridge.

What’s been a memorable Sixteen gig & why?
I always love whatever I am involved in at the time, so there have been many, but Spanish/South American baroque concert in Morelia in Mexico was one, Al Ross playing Handel organ concerto in last year’s prom another. The gigs are always a mix of lovely music, the enjoyment of playing with good colleagues and the ravishing singing of the choir.

What’s your favourite Sixteen recording?
I used to have a recording which included the Crucifixus by Lotti which made me melt – oh, and Heros and Heroines (minus choir), Sarah Connelly singing Handel (with gorgeous bassoons in ‘Scherza Infida’).

Where did you train/study?
Junior Department of the Royal College of Music, then music degree at Cambridge University; after that I commuted to Maastricht for lessons with the wonderful Dutch harpist and harp teacher, Phia Berghout; then the university of life – I’m still studying and learning!

What are your hobbies and interests?
My family and friends, walking, reading, sewing, yoga, I’m learning French… and I love music of all sorts; when I’m tired I like playing the piano to relax (strictly in private!)

What else do you do (professionally) when not playing with The Sixteen?
I have worked with most of the major English early music specialist ensembles, played opera at ENO, National Welsh Opera, Opera North and Glyndebourne; I also enjoy chamber music, (many recordings), both early and 20th century, some solo work, and have recently formed a flute, viola and harp trio. I teach at both senior and junior departments of Trinity College of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music and have a busy teaching practice at home.

What football team do you support?
I take my sons’ advice and we support Arsenal – and Pompey as they are our local team! But I genuinely like watching football!

Please tell us a little about your instrument.
Early harps: Italian baroque triple harp, Spanish baroque cross-strung harp, renaissance wire-strung (Irish) harp, medieval harp, also early 20th century pedal harp (Fauré, Britten…)

My baroque harps are very different from modern instruments as they have no mechanism but two or three rows of strings to provide all the chromatic notes, making them good for improvisation; they are light in construction, have the range of a keyboard but their sound complements the lute family very well.