Meet the RPO: Helen Storey heads to Bromley

Helen Storey has been playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for sixteen years as Sub-Principal Bassoon. She has toured with the RPO to destinations as far afield as Korea, the USA and China, but now she has the opportunity to perform in her hometown of Bromley on Friday 31 March, as the Orchestra makes its long-awaited return to the Churchill Theatre. We took the opportunity to ask about her time at the RPO and the thriving musical scene on her doorstep.

How did you become involved with the RPO?

I was initially asked in as a guest, which is when I found out that the Second Bassoon position was vacant. Over the next eighteen months I was asked to play with the Orchestra more regularly until I was offered the job in 2001. Previously I had been freelancing and was very excited by the prospect of a more full-time position.

What inspired you to become a musician as a child?

Having learnt the recorder at school I spotted a publicity photo of an orchestra on an open top bus. I pointed to the french horn and told my mum that this was what I’d like to do. She slightly misinterpreted my comment and took me on another bus ride, but eventually, I got my wish of playing an orchestral instrument!

If you could only play music by one composer, who would you choose and why?

I think I’d plump for Brahms as the bassoon writing is so idiomatic, challenging and rewarding.

Are you looking forward to performing at the Churchill Theatre in March?

With the current refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, it will be great to play in a local venue. Last time I was at the Churchill it was to watch the pantomime, so I’m thinking it will be very interesting to see it as a concert hall!

What is the musical scene like in Bromley?

It’s a thriving scene, with amazing opportunities for all aspects of the performing arts. The local music trust has a deservedly amazing reputation and introduces music, drama and dance to all ages and abilities. Our children are very involved with the local music scene, so when we’re not performing ourselves (my husband is also a member of the Orchestra) we’re very often transporting them to various rehearsals and shows!

Do you think there are enough opportunities available to inspire young musicians today?

I imagine that this is somewhat dependent on whereabouts within in the country, but opportunities for young people to access live music are probably better than ever thanks to the many schemes helping to offer subsidised tickets to young audiences, as well as streaming of live concerts from around the world. 

What are the most important lessons your life in music has taught you?

Playing an instrument is a life-long challenge, there’s never a box to tick to say you’ve achieved your goal. It’s definitely a case of ‘only being as good as your last performance.’ Frustrating but true! 

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Helen Storey and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley on Friday 31 March, 7.30pm. The programme includes music by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven conducted by Courtney Lewis.

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