Chelys take their name from the ancient Greek word which referred to a bowed lyre, said to have been invented by the god Hermes. The same word was borrowed by the renowned English violist Christopher Simpson on the title page of his treatise 'The Division Viol'. It is perhaps particularly apt then that the group made the world premiere recording of Simpson's Airs for 2 trebles and 2 basses, a disc called Ayres and Graces, which was enthusiastically reviewed by early music publications and wider classical reviewers alike, including four stars in the Guardian.
The members of Chelys are leading exponents of the viol, particularly as a consort instrument, and their consort viols are strung entirely in gut (not strings overwound with metal) as would have been the case historically, which lends a particularly distinctive sound to the group. They frequently collaborate with other period instrumentalists and singers.
The members of Chelys are active in the wider Early Music world, playing with ensembles such as the Rose Consort of Viols, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Fretwork. They teach on courses around the UK and abroad, including the Benslow Trust, NORVIS, Dartington, the Irish Recorder and Viol Summer School and the Easter Early Music Course.
The consort are very much looking forward to the release of their next CD, Dowland consorts and songs with renowned soprano Emma Kirkby, which was recorded in the chapel of Girton College Cambridge earlier this year.
As well as their expertise in viol playing, the consort are connoisseurs of tea and cake, both vital ingredients at all rehearsals and concerts.