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Helen Bishop

Born in Wales Helen started playing the clarinet at the age of eight. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music before returning to Wales for postgraduate study at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where her interest in Welsh Music inspired composer David Nevens to write her a piece for solo E flat clarinet entitled Gwyn ab Nudd. Following this she studied at the National Centre for Orchestral Studies, Goldsmiths College, London. 

Helen began her career playing clarinet and bass clarinet in West End musicals before being drawn towards opera and symphony orchestras. Currently she freelances, playing clarinet and bass clarinet with Welsh National Opera, Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva and, since moving back to Wales in 2003, the Bristol Ensemble. 

She also plays the basset horn, the clarinet’s big brother, and an instrument much loved by Mozart. Playing the basset horn in the Bristol Ensemble’s 2023 performance of Mozart’s Gran Partita for 13 wind instruments was a particular treat.

As someone whose own childhood was enriched by involvement in music Helen believes that all young people should have easy access to musical activities. She has taken part in numerous WNO projects providing musical opportunities for young people, people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, as well as dementia sufferers. In one concert for young people she even performed on a clarinet made out of a carrot! 

When not playing the clarinet Helen and her husband, Roger, who also plays flute in the Bristol Ensemble, are keen walkers and enjoy spending time in the mountains of Wales and the Lake District.