Mary-Jannet is a Scottish instrumentalist, researcher, and teacher. As a recorder player, she is fascinated by the potential which her instrument has for bridging artificial boundaries between musical ‘genres’. It is her strong belief that truly excellent music often eludes definition, and that it is the communication of emotion and feeling to an audience which should be the aim of a professional musician. Although Mary-Jannet’s formal musical training is primarily in Historical Performance, she is also an exponent of the vast contemporary and electronic repertoire for the recorder, and works regularly with emerging composers and other artists on cross-disciplinary projects. Mary-Jannet enjoys a busy freelance portfolio career in West London, where she lives with her husband and harpsichordist Thomas Allery, and their growing collection of aloe vera plants.
Mary-Jannet Leith initially studied for a BA in Ancient and Modern History at Trinity College, University of Oxford, followed by a Master in Philosophy in Roman History, also at Oxford. Her Masters dissertation, which focused on reception of the Classics in 17/18th century Britain, was awarded the Ancient History prize for the highest mark in the Classics Faculty. In 2011, she received a scholarship to study for a Master in Performance at the Royal College of Music, and moved to London to pursue a career in music. During her studies at the RCM, she was awarded the McKenna Prize for Baroque music, and subsequently the Earl of Dalhousie Prize for all-round excellence and commitment, as well as a Distinction in her Masters degree. With her former recorder consort ‘Audite Nova’, she won first prize at the 2012 Sir Anthony Lewis Memorial Competition. While at the RCM, she also won the Audience Prize at the Fenton House Early Keyboard Ensemble Competition with ‘Ensemble Hesperi’, and the Richard III and Century Fund prizes at the RCM Early Music Competition. In 2011, she also performed with BBC Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’ with the RCM Historical Department, and appeared with her trio ‘TritonE’ on BBC Radio Leicester in 2013, as part of celebrations surrounding the discovery of Richard III.
Since graduating from the RCM, Mary-Jannet has continued to perform widely throughout the UK and further afield, both as a soloist and a keen chamber musician. In 2014, she reached the Section Finals of the Royal Overseas League Competition, one of very few recorder players to do so. More recently, in 2016, she was delighted to be selected, with Ensemble Hesperi, for the Brighton Early Music Festival’s young artists’ scheme, BREMF Live! for 2016-17. Mary-Jannet was also selected to compete in the live rounds of the International Schmelzer competition in Melk, Austria, in 2017; she was grateful to receive a grant from the Walter Bergmann Fund to support her travel and expenses throughout the competition. In November 2018, she won first prize in the ‘Solisten Instrumental’ category of the Internationaler Gebrüder-Graun-Wettbewerb, Bad Liebenwerda.
Over the past few years, Mary-Jannet has been delighted to perform throughout UK and abroad with her own Early Music group, Ensemble Hesperi, which she has managed since 2016. Selected performances include the London Handel Festival, Stroud Green Festival, and the ‘Future Baroque’ series at the London Festival of Baroque Music at St John’s Smith Square, alongside appearances on BBC Radio 3's 'Early Music Show' and 'In Tune', as well as recording in studio for Classic FM. She was also selected, with Ensemble Hesperi, to perform at the fringe festivals of both Bruges and Utrecht Early Music festivals in 2017. In Utrecht, Ensemble Hesperi won the coveted audience award, selected from more than 70 young ensemble performances throughout the festival. The ensemble returned to give a ‘Fabulous Fringe’ concert in 2018 in the Grote Zaal, Tivolivredenburg. With Ensemble Hesperi and a Highland dancer, she embarked on a UK tour of Scottish Baroque music in 2019, supported by a Lottery grant from Arts Council England. This project also created educational resources based on Scottish composer James Oswald’s ‘Airs for the Seasons’, a collection of 96 airs, each named after a flower.
In 2016, Mary-Jannet embarked on research of Scottish composers, performers and publishers in eighteenth century London, and commenced a PhD on this topic in September 2019 at the University of Southampton. Here she is supervised by Dr Jeanice Brooks and Dr Jackie Collier, and supported by an AHRC scholarship awarded by the SWWDTP consortium. For more information, see 'Research'.
For more from Ensemble Hesperi, head to www.ensemblehesperi.com