Harpist Jean has double reason to celebrate

HARPIST Jean Kelly is no stranger to royalty.

The Cork musician has already played at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles’s birthday, and yesterday she delighted the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as one of eight harpists who played an after lunch recital at the Áras.

According to Ms Kelly it is very unusual for harpists to play together so it was an extra special event.

However, it’s not the only golden moment Ms Kelly has to look forward to this week as a movie for which she recorded a soundtrack has been nominated for the Palm D’or award at Cannes.

Ms Kelly was commissioned by Radiohead guitarist Johnnie Greenwood to play on the soundtrack for We Need to Talk About Kevin, which tells the story of a teenager who commits a school massacre, and his mother’s bottomless grief.

Directed by Lynne Ramsay, who made a splash at Cannes in 1999 with her debut feature, Ratcatcher, and starring Tilda Swinton, the psychological thriller has been the talk of the festival for its hard-hitting subject matter.

In order to maximise the effect of his music Greenwood wanted to introduce new instruments to get a unique sound.

The harp Ms Kelly plays is strung with metal strings to produces a sounds like nothing else.

“At the beginning of this year I was invited by Johnnie to come and record the soundtrack at Radiohead’s recording studio in the Oxfordshire countryside,” she said. “Lynne Ramsay had asked him to write the soundtrack. They specifically wanted a wire strung harp which is quite unusual as it is the copy of an old Irish harp and made with a type of metal.

“As I am a huge fan of the band from my teenage years to be in the studio where groundbreaking records were made was amazing.”

Ms Kelly hails from an Irish family of several generations of professional musicians.

In 1996 she won a scholarship to study harp at the Royal College of Music, London. She regularly tours with the Locrian Ensemble performing harp concertos and her own arrangements of Irish music and has recorded three CDs with the group, including Handel’s Harp Concerto, Mozart Flute and harp Concerto and a CD of Chamber Music by Richard Arnell which was editor’s choice in Gramophone magazine. She has also played harp on several film scores, including The Lord of the Rings.


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