The compositional sine qua non seems to always have been the String Quartet with its elaborate issues of contrapuntal voice-leading and classical form. Helps' early essay technically pre-dates his official opus one, the Fantasy for piano, but he has made this work available to the public.
Already apparent in this youthful work is Helps'obsession with long, taut melodic lines. Although there would be no “String Quartet no. 2” to follow the promise of the original enumerated title, Helps composed a gorgeous Nocturne for the same historically-weighted ensemble of two violins, viola, and ‘cello in 1960.
String Quartet (no. 1) is dedicated to Helps' great mentor, Roger Sessions