Biography

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

“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 internationally acclaimed 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 outstanding instrumentalists and artists.

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 commissioned works for Kora and choir with the BBC Daily Service Singers for a live broadcasts on Radio 4 and given many solo concerts across the UK.

Holly is a founder member (kora/vocals) of Manchester International Roots Orchestra, a fusion ensemble supported by RNCM and Community Arts Northwest who were given a five star review for their debut performances at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She also performs with Mysterious Collective (kora, hang, violin, vocals, double bass, balafon) who recently played to great critical acclaim at Womad 2017 and Devizes Arts Festival 2017.

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 were recently invited to perform live on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune (June 2017) in order to promote their forthcoming concert at RNCM, much to the delight of Suzy Klein.

They have 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 perform in notable venues in the North West and appear 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. They have recently been appointed as Ethnomusicology Artists in Residence at Salford University where they will offer mentoring and tuition to students as part of a collaborative research project. This will result in a number of new studio recordings and Holly’s debut solo album.

Holly specialises in commissioned compositions for Kora and choir, including an extended work for Manchester Cathedral Choir and various pieces for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She aims to bring the Kora and traditional West African modes of playing to new and diverse audiences as her music uniquely bridges world, folk and classical styles.

Holly recently composed an Oratorio (large scale choral work) “So Many Beauties” which premiered at Manchester Cathedral on 6th April 2017 and was funded through Arts Council England. This work was written by Holly alongside people with dementia in care homes and hospitals in order to highlight and celebrate their creativity.

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.

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. She is currently undertaking a 7 month sabbatical to practise kora and compose music for her debut solo album, generously funded by Katherine McGillivray Get a Life Fund.