About Holly

Holly promo pic

‘beautiful and mesmeric and very charming too’…’Love the fact she has no airs and graces…just talent!’ (audience feedback, Embryo Feb 13)

“Our curator was in tears during the Kora performance in the Africa Gallery.” – David Ferguson, Head of Adult Programmes, British Museum, RNCM Sound Histories event, July 2013

“We thank you Holly for sharing your talents with us while you were here. The patients and staff loved Holly’s performance. One of the patients remarked, “what a wonderful thing for someone to do for us.” – Music that Heals, New York, Kora Tour of NYC Hospitals, December 2013

Holly is rapidly gaining a reputation as a unique and exciting kora player, combining the authentic rhythms and songs of West Africa with her own compositions and collaborating with a culturally diverse range of instrumentalists and artists (including Sidiki Dembele on Camel Ngoni, Abel Sealacoe on Cello and Howard Jacobs on percussion).

Recently, Holly has performed as Kora soloist with the band Delphic at Manchester International Festival, played with string quartet at the British Museum as part of a large scale RNCM event, toured New York performing in a variety of hospitals and healthcare settings, arranged and performed settings for Kora and choir with the BBC Daily Service Singers for a live broadcast on Radio 4 and given many solo concerts across the UK.

Holly plays Kora with Manchester International Roots Orchestra, a fusion ensemble who were recently given a five star review for their performances at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014. She has also performed with the group Testimony alongside Lis Murphy and Emmanuela Yogolelo.

She has done several recording projects with Dominik Johnson, an expert in recording acoustic instruments from around the world and composer for EMI, including recording Kora solos for Sony’s Bollywood film soundtrack Amarakaaviyan which was No 1 in India for weeks.

Holly plays alongside Michael Cretu (double bass) in Stringboxes, a dynamic new kora/voice and double bass duo performing an exciting mix of West African, Gypsy, Folk, Contemporary, Classical and Jazz.

They have recently recorded a live EP, which clearly demonstrates the quality of their playing live on stage. You can access this from the iTunes Store here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/mystic-bird-single/id845382937

Stringboxes are gaining widespread acclaim for their work, performing in notable venues in the North West and appearing regularly as artists in residence at Central Manchester University Hospitals as part of the Lime Music for Health concerts series. They also work for the long established charity Music in Hospitals, bringing high quality interactive performances into a range of healthcare settings.

In 2015 Holly is working on a number of commissioned compositions for Kora and choir, including an extended work for Manchester Cathedral Choir and a piece for broadcast on Radio 4 in March.

Holly has a First Class BA hons degree in Popular Music and Recording from Salford University as well as an MA in Community Music Therapy (Nordoff Robbins) from City University in London.

A freelance professional singer, Holly performs weekly with Radio 4’s Daily Service Singers and regularly participates in broadcasts, concerts and recordings as a soloist and choir member. She has performed with the Britten Singers, Halle Orchestra, Lancashire Sinfonietta, Goldberg Ensemble and many other notable groups. Holly is also a member of the early music trio, the Accordes, as a singer, recorder player and lutenist as well as performing with an award winning larger ensemble, Partita.

Holly is passionate about the connections between music and wellbeing and set up the Music for Health programme at Central Manchester University Hospitals in response to a burgeoning global interest in the relationship between music, health and wellbeing. Based at LIME Arts, the Music for Health programme now stands as a beacon of good practice in the UK and internationally, providing training and support for student and professional musicians from across Europe who are interested in working in health and social care settings.

In 2009, Holly was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to explore the different uses of music with older people in New York and Paris. In 2012, she was awarded a Finzi Scholarship to study the Kora with Muhammed Saho, an extraordinary griot from the Gambia with whom Holly spent 7 weeks.


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