Thora Ker was born in Kelso, her father being William Ker,
Watchmaker and Jeweller. Thora attended the Infants
School in Inch Road and then Kelso High School. Her highest
achievements were in Art and Music. She was greatly
influenced by her art teachers and music teachers-all
very fine artists. Her ambition was to be an actress,
appearing in plays at school from as early as
primary school. However, in those days one
was encouraged to be a teacher or a nurse so
Drama School was not an option. Her first stage
appearance, for Kelso Operatic society at Kelso
Tait Hall, was at the age of five as one of the little
children in the King and I.
Influenced greatly by her mother and her Auntie Ruth who were heavily involved with Kelso Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Societies, Thora continued to perform in plays at high school, sing locally in churches and also in a pop group at school. Her musical talents shone through as she played the organ in the country churches for St. John’s Parish and performed in three operas at school with Fergus Malcolm and Grace Payne (music teachers). The third being in her final year at school when she sang the role of the mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Thora then studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and St. Andrew’s College, Glasgow, winning several major prizes and scholarships. She made her operatic debut with Scottish Opera, performing the role of Selina in Weber’s OBERON, receiving the John Scott Award and being selected for the National Opera Studio, London. Since then, Thora has become recognised as a consumate actress and highly musical singer performing principal mezzo roles with most of the major British Opera Companies and working with Britain’s leading producers and conductors.
Her operatic roles include Pitti-Sing The Mikado (English National Opera), Blanche The Gambler (ENO), Minerva and Love Return of Ulysses (ENO) and Kate Pinkerton Madame Butterfly (ENO). Siebel Faust (Opera North), Cherubino Marriage of Figaro (Scottish Opera), Schoolboy/ Groom Lulu (SO), Dorabella Cosi Fan Tutte (Garsington Manor and Orleans Festival, France), Second Lady The Magic Flute (Dublin Grand Opera), Serafina Il Campanello (Les Azuriales Opera, France), Elisetta Il Matrimonio Segreto (Les Azuriales Opera), Phoebe Yeoman of the Guard, Tessa The Gondoliers, Iolanthe, Pitti- Sing The Mikado and Lady Angela Patience, for the Carl Rosa Opera. Other performances include the lead mezzo roles in the world premiere of Kenneth Leighton’s Columba, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, The sixty minute Cinderella (The Royal Opera), Carmen, Don Giovanni, The Beggars Opera, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, Riders to the sea, The rape of Lucretia, Mrs MacMotherly and Dame Cherry Maybud Ages Ago at the Linbury Studio, Covent Garden, and for Opera à la Carte, Welsh National Opera and the Royal Opera Education Programmes.
Thora is a founder member of the new D’Oyly Carte Opera and sang Phoebe, Yeoman of the Guard, the title-role Iolanthe, and Pitti-Sing, which she has recorded with TER Records, Sony Classical’s The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan, and performed in Los Angeles.
Her versatility and wide ranging repertoire across the fields of opera, operetta, oratorio, lieder, Scots song, ballad and the musicals has been highlighted in her guest appearances, on peak-time entertainment programmes, with BBC Television, Scottish Television. She performed in a special New Year’s Eve edition of ‘Highway’ with the late Sir Harry Secombe for Border and other ITV Networks, in Hogmanay and Christmas Specials for Border and Central ITV, on BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Forth and BBC Radio 2’s ‘Friday Night is Music Night’. She has recorded a selection of songs on CD: ‘Festival of Music 1999’ and ‘100th Anniversary of the RAF, 2008’ with the world famous Central Band of the RAF, and has her own solo album of popular favourites entitled ‘Thora’.
Thora’s international solo career has taken her on two extensive tours of Canada and America, to Italy and the Low Countries. In concert and oratorio she has made solo guest appearances in auditoriums and theatres such as the famous Hollywood Bowl, the Willshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles; Hamilton Place, Ontario; the Jubilee Auditoriums in Calgary and Edmonton; the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver; the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican and in most of the major theatres and concert halls in the UK. She has given a series of solo recitals at the Royal Opera House, the Schubert Society, and for the Friends of the Royal Opera and Scottish Opera.
Find out about the contribution people from Kelso have made through the ages. Biographies of characters with Kelso connections who have made their mark throughout the world.View Storyboard: Thora Ker