Handel House Talent Interview with Hannah Ely
Hannah Ely is a member of the Handel House Talent scheme 2018/19. She is a founding member of the Fieri Consort and specialises in 16th-18th century solo and consort singing.
Firstly, I have to ask you about the Fieri Consort. Could you describe the project for those who may not be familiar with the (I’m not sure if I’ll get away with this one) neo-Baroque circuit?
Fieri is a group of 8 singers specialising in Italian music from the 16th & 17th centuries. We formed the group in 2012 in order to continue performing consort music together. There isn’t a single artistic director, rather we’re all equally responsible for the music which is very rewarding. We often perform with instrumentalists too – baroque guitars, harp, gamba… We’re always looking to discover new music and study performance practices and styles as well as new ways to perform the music we love, for example, we’ve been working most recently on a play with music about 17th-century composer Barbara Strozzi who was involved with the early development of opera in Venice.
Huge congratulations for having been selected to participate in ‘Female Founders Accerator’. There is of course a thriving market for innovative baroque projects – do you feel that the Early Music industry is supportive of young entrepreneurs?
Yes there are so many opportunities for young groups in the early music industry. There are also a huge number of ensembles to compete with! So it’s important to find and develop a niche and also to pursue work on the continent and further afield. The Female Founders course led by Hatch Enterprises helped me to see the importance of developing the business-side of the group and not just the artistic aspects, in order to sustain the group into the future. Myself and Fieri are also extremely lucky to have the support and guidance of female early music scholars Deborah Roberts and Laurie Stras who have experienced the challenges of working in what has been a male-dominated world.
What first drew you to 18th Century Music?
I love the sound-world of early music. The instruments we get to work with, the freedom we have with the score. I first trained as a pianist and have done a lot of accompanying in my time, which I love, but there’s so much more variation when you’re working with a theorbo, a baroque harp, a gamba, a lute…or a cappella!
In your view, what makes baroque music intriguing and relevant to modern audiences?
Perhaps it’s the different sound-world that modern audiences are drawn to as well as the huge variety of interpretations. I think modern audiences are also fascinated by the historical context of the music they’re listening to. This music was written and performed so long ago but there’s something very exciting about how it still appeals to us. It’s certainly very rewarding as a performer to feel a connection to the past.
We are incredibly lucky at Handel & Hendrix in London to host concerts with such a breadth of new talent. What does a performance at Handel House mean to young musicians?
Handel House is such a unique venue to perform in. I’ve definitely had goosebumps during a performance in the music room, imagining Handel and his favourite singers doing the same in front of a small, select audience. I really love the intimate nature of the concerts at Handel House – audience members feel able to interact with performers – I’ve often had people speaking to me and asking questions between songs, which shows how engaged they are!
Come and hear Hannah perform at our Christmas Showcase!