Helen Dell is a classically-trained mezzo-soprano with an added tang provided by her many years of experience as a folk-singer. She completed her music degree, specializing in performance, at the University of Melbourne in 1990, where she studied singing with Bettine McCaughan.
In 2000 she completed a Master of Arts (first class) in medieval music, in the area of woman’s song. In 2006 Helen graduated as a PhD with a thesis on French song of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, now published as a book. She is still a medievalist, now working as a Research Fellow at the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.
Repertoire and selected performances, reviews
Helen is passionately devoted to a wide range of musical repertoires, from the 12th to the 20th centuries and from most of western Europe. She has performed with ensembles and orchestras in Australia and overseas.
With classical guitarist Ken Murray Helen founded Encuentro, devoted to the performance of twentieth century Spanish music which she adores.
Helen has also sung this repertoire with pianist Robin Grove, with whom she has shared a long and rewarding musical journey. One such program was ‘La paloma del alma’.
She is also devoted to Lieder, especially the work of Franz Schubert, and has sung numerous Lieder recitals with Robin Grove. Helen and Robin have also collaborated in the performance of early 20th century cabaret music, including the program ‘Songs in the shadow of war’.
Another passion is for the Italian music of the early 17th century which she has performed with lutenist Geoffrey Hall in the duo they jointly founded, Duo del cuore umano.
Most recently Helen and pianist Nick Slaney have been playing early 20th-century jazz and have formed a duo: Old Sweet Song. Recently (October 2012) they have recorded a demo and are looking forward to sharing this wonderful music with all those who love it too.
Helen’s greatest love is for all things medieval, especially music. In the 1980’s she founded the first of a series of medieval music ensembles: Tre Fontane, one of whose programs, Womansong, received the following one-word review in the Melbourne Age: ‘superlative’. Another, Medieval Merriment, received praise in the Adelaide Advertiser as ‘an infectiously likeable show presented by four fine performers who think the Middle Ages is fun’.
In 1998, this group metamorphosed into its second incarnation: Carnevale.
One Carnevale program, Amor y muerte, about the troubled relations between Jews and Christians in late medieval Spain, was subsequently recorded on “Poetica” on ABC Radio National.
In 2007 Helen founded, and now sings with and directs Troveresse Medieval Music Ensemble: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~troveresse which has gathered a reputation for beautiful and inspiring performances. Her other instrument is the portative organ.
Helen has a gift for creative programming and is hopelessly addicted to bringing wonderful music to audiences in new and exciting ways.Recently Helen and the ensemble have been exploring the interweaving paths of music written in the Middle Ages and music passed down in the oral traditions of Europe and beyond. this interest has recently culminated in a recording of the music of the Spanish-speaking Jews: La vida es un pasahe: a life in Sephardic song. See the Troveresse website for more details.
Reviews for Troveresse’s program: ‘Songs from the heart’ at the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2008
“Angelic songs … voices sweet as mead… Enchanting musical arrangements … Medieval French sung in dulcet tones. The perfect pitch resounds beautifully in the acoustics of … Saint Cyprian church”
Rip It Up (06/03/2008)
“Troveresse performs with obvious enthusiasm, considerable skill and … muted passion”
Stephen Whittington, The Advertiser (01/03/2008)