Harpist - Elizabeth Jane Baldry
Elizabeth Jane Baldry was born in Hampshire and from her earliest years begged her parents to let her play the harp. She finally began at the age of fourteen with the dynamic Ann Hughes-Chamberlain at the Hindhead School of Music. Later she read music at Exeter University, travelling to the Royal College of Music in London for lessons with Fiona Hibbert, another inspiring teacher.
She has been a full-time professional harpist since 1994, supporting herself and her two young sons by giving almost one hundred performances a year nationwide on the concert platform as well as regular television and radio appearances including Breakfast TV andThe Afternoon Shift. She has released a successful solo CD of Victorian fairy harp music, and has taken part in a CD of chamber music by the composer Paul Lewis. This latter achieved worldwide distribution with Koch International. In August 1998, she recorded a solo library disc for Studio G. Music from this recording has been used by ITV, the BBC and in Japan.
In 1998 she was the soloist in the premiere of Lewis’s ‘Devonshire Dances’ for Harp and Orchestra with the South West Sinfonietta. She also took part in the much publicized exhibition of Victorian Fairy Paintings at the Royal Academy of Arts, including appearing on stage with actor Simon Callow at the Criterion Theatre Piccadilly, in a show for which she also composed the songs. In February last year the BBC twice broadcast a half-hour Radio 4 documentary on her rediscovery of Victorian fairy harp music, creating widespread interest. In May, she was involved in the filming of a Canadian TV documentary. Other highlights for last year included an open-air gala performance of ‘Devonshire Dances’, an appearance at St John’s Smith Square, London, recording the soundtrack for thirteen episodes of ITV’s children’s series, Bernard’s Watch, and an extensive West Country Recital Tour.
Elizabeth Jane divides her time between the seaside at Brighton and her cottage in the Dartmoor National Park. Her two sons are choristers at Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Elizabeth Jane is always happy to be invited to play for weddings and parties, finding them to be an oasis of celebration in a busy performing life.
The harp works brilliantly at weddings. It is both romantic and unusual. During the civil ceremony - which can so easily be short and soulless - guests are often profoundly moved by the music, saying it lifts the event into an entirely different league, adding grace and dignity to the occasion. This is wonderfully rewarding for everyone. During the reception the music creates just the right relaxing ambience, cushioning the conversation so there are no awkward silences, and generally enhancing the atmosphere. Guests hear a huge cross-section of musical styles from light classical to popular songs, so there is something for all of them to enjoy. It also works well to have the harp in the church whilst the registers are being signed.