Frederick Septimus Kelly. Composer, pianist, diarist, Olympic rower, socialite, a decorated war hero who was cruelly taken at the age of 35 in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. A gifted composer with the potential for greatness, a musical icon of the Twentieth Century.
Or at least he deserves to be.
I first came across the music of ‘Sep’ Kelly in my solo piano project ‘The Banks of Green Willow’ – a musical tour that has taken me around the UK in commemoration of the First World War centenary performing the works of composers who were lost in battle. Shining a light on some wonderful music written by composers who died too young.
Of the repertoire I have explored in this project, the piano music of F.S.Kelly has particularly captured my imagination. Harmonically rich and adventurous, melodically lyrical and fiercely virtuosic, this is music quite unlike anything I have performed before and I am eager to share these works with as many people as possible.
Who was ‘Sep’ Kelly?
Kelly was a leading figure in pre-war musical life, finding his home amongst the eminent musicians of the day following his education at Eton and Oxford. He played his own piano works in the largest venues in London, as well as in his native Australia, and performed with legendary pianist Pablo Casals and violinist Jelly D’Aranyi.
‘I read about 70 pages of Professor Hamer’s Talks on Psychology and Life’s Ideals. I was particularly struck by a passage ‘if only you care enough for a result, you will almost certainly attain it.’ I thereupon decided to be a great player and a great composer.’
(extract from Kelly’s diary: 4th Dec 1907)
Kelly joined the Royal Naval Division at the outbreak of war, serving alongside poet Rupert Brooks, composer William Denis Browne and the PM’s son Ock Asquith as part of the Latin Club. He fought at Gallipoli and continued to write music in the trenches, finishing his ‘Somme Lament’ just two weeks before his death at Beaumont-Hamel on 13th November 1916, aged 35.
The excellent Australian organisation ‘The Flowers of War’ have been ardently promoting and recording Kelly’s vocal, chamber and piano music over the last few years, but as yet no complete recording exists of his two most substantial piano works ’24 Monographs’ and ’12 Studies’. Two collections, 36 pieces (well, 37 if you also include Study 12A, the 13th in the set...)
I have permission to make the debut recordings of these wonderful, complex, diverse works. I have spent 100’s of hours in the practice room and in April I head to Wyastone Concert Hall in Monmouth for three days of recording. I am very grateful to be working with top producer Michael Ponder on the recording and record label Toccata Classics are ready and waiting to release and distribute the finished disc. Then will come the CD launch concert and party at Schott Music Shop in London later in the year!
I will be performing highlights from the 24 Monographs and 12 Studies in concerts at Southwark Cathedral in London (3pm, Friday 1st February) and Sidholme Music Room in Sidmouth, Devon (3:30pm, Friday 8th February – a concert that will also feature the excellent baritone Alex Poulton). Both concerts are free entry and you are very welcome to come along, although I will post highlights from the concerts here for those who are unable to attend.
How can you help?
The recording is all set up and ready to begin – now I just need your help in making it happen! You can pick from a whole range of rewards for your involvement, from a digital or hard copy of the recording to a personal recital from me in a venue of your choice.
My commitment to the music of Sep Kelly is long lasting: I will continue to perform his music in the years to come as I believe he deserves to be remembered for so much more than his wartime connection. I want people to learn about the achievements of this fascinating man and experience his wonderful music, and by support my Kickstarter you will help me in my mission!
More about me
In my performing career so far I have developed a passion for the unusual, new and unexplored. I have interests ranging from cutting edge new music to fascinating repertoire by forgotten composers, with a concert tour ‘The Banks of Green Willow’ that has received large audiences and critical praise. I have performed across Britain and Europe as a soloist and chamber musician, from the Wigmore Hall to the Rachmaninov Hall in Moscow. I am a former British Contemporary Piano Competition finalist and Park Lane Group Young Artist and I trained at York University and the Royal College of Music in London, graduating with distinction following tuition from Andrew Ball. I live in Devon, England where I perform extensively – when I am not being bossed around by my 20 month old daughter that is!
With thanks to Julie Mullen for photography, Mike and Wendy Gluyas for sound recording and Chris Latham and The Flowers of War for their expertise.
Risks and challenges
The record studio and producer is already booked and the launch concert date will follow shortly once the release date for the CD is confirmed. This project is a complete labour of love that has been years in the making, and I really believe that this recording will make a positive contribution to the public perception of this wonderful composer.
For this project to succeed I need a total of around £8000. I have raised some money already through the generous support of the Finzi Trust, but I still need help in paying for the recording studio, producer fees and record label fees. With your donations and support in spreading the word I am confident I will raise all the funds that I need to make the recording a reality. Should the completely amazing happen and my campaign is over-funded, I will use any extra money to fund further performances of Kelly’s wonderful music.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)