Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities
(023) 8059 6048

Professor Elizabeth Kenny 

Emeritus Professor

Professor Elizabeth Kenny's photo
Related links
Personal homepage

Professor Elizabeth Kenny is the Head of Early Music and Professor of Musical Performance in Music at the University of Southampton.

I am a Professor of Music Performance and Head of Early Music at Southampton. This means I work closely with students from across our programmes, including those who play modern instruments as well as those who wish to explore our collection of baroque keyboards, strings and winds.

My teaching week is hugely varied, which is how I like it. I go from working with singers and players as individuals, to working with keyboard players in small groups on continuo practice and helping students who wish to mount larger performance projects. As a twenty-first century performer I am alert to the huge importance of music education, and have worked on projects with groups such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in local schools with Southampton students. In 2013 I worked with 360 ukulele-wielding children in London and York, connecting blues with early music. This interest feeds into my university work. I run a module on Performance Teaching for students on the Masters programme, and supervise post-graduate research projects on topics in performance practice (including two lute-related PhDs) and music education.

Recent Early Music projects at Southampton have included a fully staged performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, a semi-staged performance of Venus and Adonis, and performances of works by Marc-Antoine Charpentier for oboe band, Italian madrigals and sacred vocal works, and French cantatas. I have also collaborated with a range of distinguished visiting fellows in works such as Vivaldi concerti led by Adrian Chandler (La Serenissima), as well as Roman sacred music with Erin Headley. In all of these situations I engage in a side-by-side approach, playing with students as a crucial part of their professional development.

I joined the Music Department in 2005 as an Arts and Humanities Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts. I have also been a Professor of Lute at the Royal Academy of Music, London, since 1999, and taught at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, from 1999–2001. I combine my half-time university life with an active performing career, which takes me all over the world and keeps me in touch with the music industry into which students will be launching themselves. I am currently devising new programmes for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, planning performances of seventeenth-century masque music as well as solo lute recitals, and am contemplating another foray into the ukulele world with a tour in 2015: Lutes & Ukes: The Wolves of St Elvis.

Research interests

My research interests have led to critically acclaimed recordings of Blow, Lawes, Purcell and Dowland, and to national and international touring projects such as the Masque of Moments and Venus and Adonis. My writing on lute song and on English lute tablatures focuses on the traces left by performers on texts, an area that complements the composer-oriented research of the existing historical performance practice movement.

I regularly give lecture-recitals and papers on aspects of performance practice and theatrical improvisation at universities and conservatoires across Europe.


Affiliate research group

Music Performance Research

Sort via:TypeorYear


(as guest editor), Early Music 41/2, ‘Dowland Anniversary Issue’ (2013).

‘Revealing their Hand: Lute Tablatures in Early Seventeenth-Century England.
’ Renaissance Studies 26 (2012): 112–137.

‘Beyond the Golden Age.’ Early Music 36 (2008): 179–180.

‘The Uses of Lute Song: Texts, Contexts and Pretexts for ‘Historically Informed’ Performance.’ Early Music 36 (2008): 285–300.


Select Discography

Projects Originated and Devised by Elizabeth Kenny:

John Blow Venus and Adonis (WHLive0043). Theatre of the Ayre. Recorded 3 May 2010.

Flying Horse – Music from the ML Lutebook (Hyperion CDA67776). Released September 2009.

Purcell: Dido and Aeneas (Chandos Records Chaconne CHAN0757). Directed Kenny/Devine, with Sarah Connolly et al. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. 
Recorded June 2008, released January 2009.

Dowland Lute Songs, Britten Nocturnal (Hyperion CDA67648)
. With Mark Padmore, Craig Ogdon.
 Recorded 2007.

Songs by Henry and William Lawes (Hyperion CDA67589). 
With Robin Blaze, Rebecca Outram, Rob Macdonald, Bill Carter, Frances Kelly.
 Recorded 2006.

Henry Purcell: Victorious Love (BIS-SACD-1536). 
With Carolyn Sampson, Anne-Marie Lasla, Laurence Cummings.
 Recorded 2006. (Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice for December 2007.)

Move Now with Measured Sound: Music by Thomas Campion (Hyperion CDA67268)
. With Robin Blaze, David Milller, Mark Levy, Joanna Levine.
 Recorded 2001.

English Lute Songs (Hyperion CDA67126)
. With Robin Blaze.
 Recorded 1999.


Collaborations with Other Artists:

Awakening Princesses: Recorders from the Bate Collection (Aeolus Records AE1086). With Peter Holtslag, Rainer Zipperling, Carsten Lohff. Released March 2012.

The Nightingale and the Butterfly: French Baroque Music (Linn records CKD 34). With Pamela Thorby, recorders. Released June 2010.

Love Bade me Welcome (BIS-CD-1446). 
With Daniel Taylor, James Bowman, Ralph Fiennes. Recorded 2004.

Biber Violin Sonatas (CD GAU 350)
. With Sonnerie. Recorded 2004.

Biber Violin Sonatas/Nisi Dominus (CD GAU 203)
. With Sonnerie. 
Recorded 2003. (
Gramophone Award Winner
; BBC Music Magazine Critics’ Choice.)

William Lawes Royall Consort Suites (CD GAUX 270).
 Recorded 1997.
 (Penguin Guide Critics’ Choice.)

Luigi Boccherini Five Sonatas for Violoncello (Cello Classics CC1001)
. With Sebastian Comberti, Ruth Alford. 
Recorded 2000.


Recordings with William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants (1992–2006):

Purcell Divine Hymns (Virgin Classics 0946 3 951 444 2 7).

Charpentier Divertissements Airs et Concerts (Erato 3984-25485-2).

Charpentier La Descente d’ Orphee aux Enfers (Erato 0630-11913-2).

Charpentier Les Plaisirs de Versailes (Erato 0630-14774-2).

Purcell King Arthur (Erato 4509-98535-2).

Monteverdi Il Combattimento do Tancredi et Clorinda (Harmonia Mundi France 901426).


Other orchestral recordings include collaborations with the Gabrieli Consort and Players, The Parley of Instruments, Collegium Musicum 90, The Symphony of Harmony and Invention, The English Consort and Concerto Vocale, and guest performances with The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, The Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the Janine Jansen ensemble.

Book Chapter

Creative Media and Artefacts

I am one of Europe’s leading lute players. My playing has been described as ‘incandescent’ (Music and Vision), ‘radical’ (The Independent on Sunday) and ‘indecently beautiful’ (Toronto Post). In twenty years of touring I have played with many of the world’s best period instrument groups and experienced many different approaches to music making. I am a principal player and initiator of seventeenth-century projects with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

My research interests have led to critically acclaimed recordings of Lawes, Purcell and Dowland, which resulted in the formation of my ensemble Theatre of the Ayre (see below). My recital CD Flying Horse: The ML LuteBook was released by Hyperion Records in 2009. In 2013 I guest-edited a Dowland themed issue of Early Music, bringing performers and scholars together in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the composer’s birth. I was also invited to join the artistic advisory team for the York Early Music Festival, where I have been involved in programme planning from 2011 to 2014.

Theatre of the Ayre is a platform for bringing dramatically-minded singers and players together to create inspirational programmes of seventeenth-century music. Our first project, The Masque of Moments, drew on research undertaken during my AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Southampton; we toured England, Belgium and Germany in 2007–8, being broadcast in all three countries. We followed this with a tour of John Blow’s Venus and Adonis, a live recording of which was released on the Wigmore Live label in January 2011. Several smaller-scale projects (Ayres and Dialogues, Dowland; Anniversary Collection and Setting the Baa High: English pastoral) toured the UK in 2013, as did a unique collaboration with members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Lutes and Ukes. Its education arm, ‘Youths, Lutes and Ukes’, involved the players teaching and performing with a total of 360 children in London and York. They finished the year with a project centred around Marc-Antoine Charpentier in which students collaborated with the ensemble in its appearance at Southampton’s Turner Sims Concert Hall.



‘a crack-squad of top instrumentalists.’ — Gramophone, October 2010.

‘Attracting audiences with the familiar is a well-worn tactic, but the Theatre of the Ayre likes to do things differently... Its weapons: a freshness of approach and a quasi-improvisatory freedom of delivery.’ — Financial Times, December 2013.

‘… this was the lutenist Elizabeth Kenny’s ensemble, Theatre of the Ayre, compellingly dramatizing the French Baroque in vocal and instrumental prowess …’ — The Times, December 2013.


For further information, news and audio and more, see

Professor Elizabeth Kenny
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 2/2057

Professor Elizabeth Kenny's personal home page
Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Google+ Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.