When did you join the orchestra?
I joined the company in 2001 as sub principal oboe doubling cor anglais. In 2005 I became the main cor anglais player
Favourite ENO opera?
The biggest challenge for me was definitely Tristan & Isolde in 2016. The cor anglais has a lot to do in Acts 1 & 2 and then in Act 3 the cor anglais plays off stage alone for extended solos before returning to the pit. It’s a marathon to play! It was really interesting to be part of the stage rather than the pit and see how the process works there, which we are never normally part of.
And more recently meeting and watching Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd was fascinating
How did you start?
My brother started had Snoopy stickers on his violin case. I started on the violin at age 6. My mother is a trained musician and the viola is her first instrument. There are also amateur cellists on my father’s side through the generations, so there are several string players in my family. However I rebelled at age 13 and took up the oboe which appealed as no one in the family knew anything about it and it gradually took over!
Passion outside of opera?
Outside of music, I love the ballet. I love to watch performances and classes, and I attend adult classes. I am also enjoying crochet which is a relatively new pastime. For holidays I like to see the sea and sunshine, Greece is a favourite destination.
Helen studied at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester. While in her third year at college, she started working with the BBC Philharmonic, then gradually all the orchestras in the north of England.
She was a founder member of the Chione Oboe Trio, formed at the RNCM, where they won the RNCM Musicale Prize. The trio were finalists in the Royal Overseas League competition and award winners from the John Tunnell Trust. They also performed new repertoire by composers such as James Macmillan, and were very active with the Live Music Now scheme.
Helen’s first orchestral job was in Cardiff with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as Sub principal Oboe. After 5 years in Wales, Helen moved to London to pursue a freelance career, and enjoyed a great variety of work with many different orchestras in London and frequent tours abroad.
Helen joined the orchestra of English National Opera in 2001 where she regularly plays both Cor Anglais and Oboe. She very much enjoys the challenges of the opera repertoire, and still plays as a guest with other orchestras when her schedule allows.
As a soloist Helen was a prize winner in the 1997 Isle of Wight International Oboe Competition, and has performed concertos with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Northern Sinfonia and London Concertante.
Last updated: 28th September 2023