Player Profile: Helen Keen

Helen Keen
Helen Keen playing flute with the RPO

How and when did you become involved with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra?

I started playing with RPO as a freelance musician in about 1982 (a very different-looking orchestra then!), and was appointed Principal Piccolo six years ago.

When did you decide you wanted to become a professional musician?

My first career choice was not going to be music, and I did a languages degree at Cambridge University, but I then realised what I loved doing was playing in orchestras, so I applied to Guildhall School of Music for a post-graduate course.

What is your favourite concert venue to perform in?

Most of my favourite concert halls, for their acoustic, are abroad – particularly the beautiful German spa towns like Bad Kissingen and Baden Baden, but I also love the concert hall in Cologne for its round shape where I can watch people in the orchestra that I don’t normally see when we are in a straight line. Any hall with a good canteen is a favourite; again that means mostly abroad!

What advice would you give anyone thinking about becoming a professional musician?

That would depend very much who was asking, but in general I would put the disadvantages before them, and if they were still mad enough to go for it I would hope they succeeded, because I think it is a fantastic life in spite of the drawbacks.

What music do you like to listen to in your spare time?

The music I most enjoy listening to is the soundtrack to Les Parapluies de Cherbourg by Michel Legrand, but Mozart operas and Schubert songs and string chamber music come in close behind.

What music do you most enjoy performing?

I still find Tchaikovsky symphonies exciting but I also love the repertoire we performed last season with Charles Dutoit, particularly the Ravel Piano Concerto.

Who is your favourite conductor to perform with?

A tricky question! Of the conductors I have worked with at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniele Gatti and Charles Dutoit have both been very inspiring. Playing The Rite of Spring for Pierre Boulez when I was a student was also an amazing experience.


About Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Acknowledged as one of the UK’s most prestigious orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) enjoys an international reputation for bringing audiences worldwide first-class performances and the highest possible standards of music-making across a diverse range of musical repertoire. This was the vision of the Orchestra’s flamboyant founder Sir Thomas Beecham, whose legacy is maintained today as the Orchestra thrives under the exceptional direction of its new Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Maestro Charles Dutoit.
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