It’s the busiest time of year for musicians, says Cork conductor

Conductor Elaine Kelly chats to us ahead of Cantate’s Live at St Luke’s concert this week
It’s the busiest time of year for musicians, says Cork conductor
Cork conductor Elaine Kelly.

Conductor Elaine Kelly chats to us ahead of Cantate’s Live at St Luke’s concert this week

TELL us about yourself;

My name is Elaine Kelly and I am a conductor.

I am currently the musical director of Monkstown-based choir Cantate and conductor of the University of Limerick Orchestra.

I am also assistant conductor and chorus master on a number of Irish National Opera productions this season and have been appointed studio artist conductor of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio for 2019/20.

I also teach violin in both Kinsale Music Academy and Centre Stage School, Mallow.

Where were you born?

In the South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, Cork city.

Where do you live?

I’m currently based between both Cork and Dublin for work. My job entails spending a lot of time on the road.


I have one younger sister, Grace. She is studying for her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology in Queens University, Belfast and in her second year. We’re very close and always have been so I found it difficult when she moved to Belfast — even though it’s only a few hours away.

She’s incredibly good at what she does and I’m so proud of what she has achieved so far and the work she has done. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for her.

Best friend?

I have some truly wonderful friends, one of whom I’ll be bridesmaid for in a few months.

My sister, Grace, is certainly my best friend — she knows me the longest and we’ve shared so much together.

I would also have to say my boyfriend, Conor. We met while studying in the CIT Cork School of Music and he’s a conductor also. Both being in the same industry helps us as we have a mutual understanding of the demands of our job, the unusual hours that are involved, and the pressures one can be under. He is wonderfully supportive and great for advice. We share the same interests and when we finally both get time off we really enjoy it by taking trips!

Earliest childhood memory?

I remember running along the corridor of the hospital towards my mother’s room the night my sister was born. We’re three years and three days apart — our house was full each year for our joint birthday party!

Person you most admire?

I’m lucky to have always been surrounded by amazing women. My mother, Bridget, is definitely the person I most admire. She is the strongest person I know, brave, loving and hard-working. She’s the best role model I could ask for and if I’m half as brilliant as she is I’ll be delighted.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

Probably my aforementioned mother! She’s an accountant and I completely trust her with anything to do with finances. I don’t think she’d take the job though!

Where was your most memorable holiday?

I’ve had some wonderful holidays and been to some beautiful places. One holiday that stands out was when a group of friends and I were on our J1 in San Francisco and towards the end of our time there we travelled along the west coast, spending time in places like Yosemite, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego before flying to New York for a week.

Other friends came out from home to join us on the trip and we had the best time and made some brilliant memories.

Favourite TV programme?

Anything to do with building houses or home improvements. I love Dermot Bannon’s Room To Improve! I also really enjoy The Crown and am looking forward to season three, which is released in mid-November.

Favourite radio show?

Marty in the Morning on RTÉ Lyric FM. Always puts a smile on my face!

Your signature dish if cooking?

I don’t do a lot of cooking, I’m mostly grabbing something fast to eat on the road or late at night when I get home from work.

When I get a chance, I do love cooking bolognese, which I serve with potatoes rather than spaghetti. It’s great comfort food and nobody has complained so far!

Favourite restaurant?

Jacobs on the Mall or Greenes Restaurant are always top of my list for an enjoyable evening, wonderful atmosphere and the best food experience.

Last book you read?

I’m currently reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. He explores the factors that lead to high levels of success examining musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs and how it actually comes down to where you are from and your history — your culture, family, upbringing and generation.

Best book you read?

The Silent Musician — Why Conducting Matters by Mark Wigglesworth. It’s a great read for anyone — musician or not — giving an insightful and brilliant understanding of what a conductor actually does and the role they play.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Rossini La Cenerentola album conducted by Claudio Abbado, one of my favourites conductors, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Favourite song?

I couldn’t possibly choose one! My Spotify is filled with the most random collection of music, it’s bizarre. I’ve different playlists depending on the type of mood I’m in.

One person you would like to see in concert?

Unfortunately not possible now, but I would like to have seen Carlos Kleiber and Claudio Abbado conducting — two of my favourite conductors. Or, I would love to have seen Queen in concert!

Do you have a pet?

Not at the moment. We lost our beautiful golden retriever, Mel, during the summer and it was a horrible heartache us all. She was a huge part of our family and we still miss her everyday.

Morning person or night owl?

Definitely a night owl! My working hours have led to this.

Your proudest moment?

It was probably when I won the ESB Feis Ceoil Orchestral Conducting Competition in its inaugural year. There were some wonderful conductors participating that year.

It has lead to some wonderful conducting opportunities since, including my professional debut and returning visits with the RTÈ Concert Orchestra, lessons with reputable teachers and a lot more. It helped in launching my career.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

Currently the traffic on the M50, it adds hours of travelling to my day.

What makes you happy?

Spending time with family and friends, relaxing with good food and wine. Holidays!

Or doing a job that I really love, concerts can take months of planning and preparation and when they go well it’s the best feeling of accomplishment.

How would you like to be remembered?

Hopefully, by having made a positive impact on the lives of those I meet, be it family and friends, or through my work in helping to make people’s days that bit better and happier through music.

Cantate, just after competing in the Mixed Open competition at the 35th AIMS Choral Festival held in New Ross earlier this year.
Cantate, just after competing in the Mixed Open competition at the 35th AIMS Choral Festival held in New Ross earlier this year.

What else are you up to at the moment?

November is an incredibly busy month! Alongside preparing for Cantate’s upcoming concert on November 15 in St Luke’s, which I’m very excited about, I’m also working with Irish National Opera on Rossini’s La Cenerentola, which opens the same week in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin.

I started my position as assistant conductor and chorus master with INO back in October and I’ve hugely enjoyed the entire experience.

And I am currently preparing the University of Limerick Orchestra for their approaching concert on November 30 in the University Concert Hall, where we will perform Dvorak Symphony No.8 amongst others. This time of year is generally the busiest for musicians.

An Evening Of Song with Cantate takes place on Friday November 15, tickets €15. 8pm. See https:// for more

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