Monday, 08 August 2022

Claire’s harping on Henley connection

CLAIRE Jones and Henley have a special connection, as she will prove soon when the world-acclaimed

CLAIRE Jones and Henley have a special connection, as she will prove soon when the world-acclaimed harpist returns to the Kenton Theatre.

She will not only share the stage with the man who shares her life — her percussionist and composer husband Chris Marshall — but also with a dozen or so pupils from Rupert House School for part of her performance on Thursday, May 12.

When Claire appeared at the New Street venue last year it was young harpists from the school who joined her — this year it will be members of the drumming club. It is a link of which both the school and the musical couple are rightly proud.

It started life under Nikki Gan, the previous headteacher of Rupert House, but since Clare Lynas took over as head nearly three years ago it has been developed under the guidance of Janice Ellwood, the school’s head of music and performing arts.

Clare Lynas speaks enthusiastically about the star who comes to Rupert House every week.

“We are very lucky to have such a talented musician as Claire working at the school and now Chris has started the drumming,” she says.

“Music plays a very important part in the life of the school. I really enjoy music but have not played for a while. Janice has really beefed up our music — especially public performance.

“Claire has been working here for a number of years. Her husband has joined us more recently and his drumming club has proved very popular and is distinctly a co-ed thing which appeal to both boys and girls, while the harp tends to involve the girls.

“She does a phenomenal job at enthusing them with her weekly lessons here. She is our most well known teacher and with a high profile — she has inspired many girls to take up the harp.”

Janice Ellwood was a performer herself before becoming a teacher. She trained at the Royal College of Music and later played with the Royal Philharmonic and London Concert orchestras.

She sees music as a vital part of education, saying: “Some of the quietest children love performing — their enthusiasm is fantastic. Claire was working here when I arrived at the school, but I got Chris on board to do his drumming clubs, which proved very popular.”

Life for Claire and Chris is a busy mix of performance and teaching, whether it is masterclasses at Hull University or pupils at Rupert House. Their latest show, Hands of Fire, features an array of instruments from all over the world, including the famous stunning gold harp, video screens, and dramatic lighting and production.

Pieces to be performed at the Kenton include well known favourite themes from the world of film and classical music.

Born in Wales and proud of her heritage, Claire Jones became a household name when she performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace in April 2011.

Chris Marshall is recognised as one of Wales’s most promising and exciting composers. He has composed music for radio, TV and film, both in the UK and the US. As a performer he is in demand as a percussionist in the West End, and on recording sessions.

Together, they have released several chart-topping albums, including Girl with the Golden Harp and Journey.

Claire said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to the Kenton and am really excited to present Hands of Fire alongside Chris. It’s my most diverse and exciting show to date — it’s very energetic, fresh, original, and such a different platform for the harp.

“People might not think of the harp and percussion together, but it works wonderfully. In fact they sit together in an orchestra — which is where Chris and I met.”

Kenton theatregoers will get a preview of pieces from Claire’s new album Screen Serenade, which is released on Friday, May 13.

“We will include music from films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Superman and The Notebook,” said Claire. “There is something for everyone in what is a family show — not forgetting the Rupert House drummers.”

Claire clearly relishes her teaching role, saying: “I think it is something about musicians who have been taught themselves. I have been lucky enough to work with people like James Galway and Bryn Terfel, who were extremely helpful to me, and I can pass on what they taught me.”

Her last Henley show was called Journey, inspired by her fight against illness. She is now recovered, but the journey continues very successfully with Henley playing a key role in her life.

Tickets for Hands of Fire on Thursday, May 12, at 7pm are available from the Kenton box office on (01491) 575698 or online at

Callers in person can book at the box office from 11am to 3pm on weekdays and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.

The director of Henley Drama Festival says she is looking forward to this year’s event, which starts on Tuesday (May 3) and runs until Saturday, May 7, at the Kenton Theatre.

As reported last week, the Saturday is a gala night aimed at showcasing the best of the festival. Tickets for the gala evening will be just £5 and it is hoped it will help draw larger audiences.

Festival director Ann Dayton said: “The gala night is a new idea, to try and update the festival. I hope people manage to come at least one night to get the flavour and see how much enjoyment the societies have performing in a real very old theatre.”

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