Helen Neilson

Double bass

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"The percussion and the bass.....function as the central heating system of the orchestra."  Stravinsky


The Double bass came into Helen's life somewhat by accident at a later stage in her musical journey!  She enjoys playing with orchestras and in chamber music projects on a regular basis, and has also given solo recitals exploring the repertoire for unaccompanied bass and for bass with piano. She has studied with Cathy Elliott, who is also an ongoing mentor to her ever evolving bass journey.   She recently enjoyed some intensive periods of study with Jurek Dybal, co-principal of the Vienna Philharmonic at the Prades Festival.  Helen holds a diploma in performance on the double bass.

She has enjoyed travels to as far afield as Mumbai and China with the bass, and much enjoys more local UK excursions to places including Brighton, Cornwall, Somerset and Eastbourne.......anywhere she can swim in the sea as well as play the bass always tends to favour a positive response!! In addition to her professional freelance engagements, she also much enjoys supporting groups of young musicians with her bass wherever she can - especially cello orchestras!


 One of her favourite books is "The Double Bass" by Patrick Suskind: "A monologue by a bass player about what it is like to be a dirty worker in a glorious profession."!

"I didn't take it up out of choice.  It was more by accident, like the virgin's pregnancy......Come to mention it, I can't think of any others becoming a double-bassist by choice either.  Makes sense really.  It's not exactly a manageable instrument.  It's more of an obstacle than a musical instrument.  It's not possible to pick it up and carry it, so it just has to trail along behind you everywhere, and if it ever falls over, then it's had it......If you have friends around, it always hogs the limelight.  Noone will talk about anything else........No, you really aren't born to be a bass-player.  You get there by all kinds of detours, accidents and disappointments." Patrick Suskind

After some fairly accidental life events led Helen to the bass, and brought her to the very roots of the orchestra, it was an instant love affair, which has continued to flourish and develop, and is an ever evolving and much enjoyed part of her life. She is convinced that she has found the best seat in the orchestral house, and is willing to deal with (almost!) any level of bass logistics plotting to get there.

This unexpected voyage has provided an opportunity to experience as an adult some of the feelings of pure joy of discovery and raw excitement of developing new abilities and experiences, as her students frequently do.  She has likewise had to deal with some of the issues of the challenges and potential obstacles which can fall in the path of any student learning an instrument.  This all helps her to have a better understanding of what her students are often going through during their paths of learning and helps her to be able to relate to them more closely.


Chamber Music repertoire includes:

Schubert: Octet

Prokofiev: Quintet

Piazzolla: Fuga e Misterioso

Schubert: Trout Quintet - with various friends and colleagues including the Paulina Quintet, faculty of St Paul's Girls' School

Schubert: Gesang der Geister unter den Wassern - performed at St Endellion Festival with singers including Marc Padmore, Roderick Williams, Peter Hoare, Robert Davies.

Stravinsky: Soldier's Tale - performed with the Simon Callaghan Ensemble narrated by Timothy West

Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals - performed at the St Endellion Festival with players including Charles Owen and Lowri Porter.

Bach: Cantata "Ich will den Kreutzab gerne tragen" - performed at the St Endellion Festival with Matthew Brook

Various programmes with groups including Ensemble Suavis; The Colour House Ensemble; The Marmara Trio and friends

Orchestral playing 

Helen is known for being a strong and reliable musical foundation point for the orchestral repertoire in a variety of settings.  She has covered a wide range of orchestral repertoire on double bass in concerts, and has done many of the main principal bass solos from the repertoire in concert. Repertoire covered includes a broad collection of the symphonic repertoire, concertos, overtures, choral works and some opera.  She has worked under a range of conductors and enjoys helping out various communities and meeting an interesting array of people along the way!

She has played as principal bass for orchestras including St Paul's Sinfonia; Paradisal Players; Corinthian Chamber Orchestra; Haydn Chamber Orchestra; St Endellion Festival Orchestra and the Amadeus Orchestra. She has built repertoire experience on a regular basis over several years with these orchestras and many more. Mostly available for weekend circuit concerts and holiday period festivals.

Orchestral fixers can email Helen on: lownotesenquiries@gmail.com.




                                                                                Photo by Irena Pechon