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Carolyn Emma Kirkby
26 February 1949
|Occupation||Classical soprano in|
Her entry in The Grove Book of Opera Singers (2008) reads:
Her uncommonly pure, crystalline voice, deployed with minimal vibrato, her natural declamation, agile coloratura and her sensitivity to words have been widely admired by interpreters of early, Renaissance and Baroque music and have served as a model for many specialists in this repertory.
Kirkby did not originally intend to become a professional singer. In the late 1960s, while she was studying classics at Oxford, she joined the Schola Cantorum of Oxford, a student choir which, at the time, was being conducted by Andrew Parrott. After graduation, Kirkby went to work as a school teacher, but became increasingly involved in singing with the growing number of music ensembles that were being founded during the Early music revival of the early 1970s. She married Parrott, and sang with his Taverner Choir which he founded in 1973. Her vocal career developed throughout the 1970s, and she became noted as a soloist in performances and recordings with prominent early music performers, including Anthony Rooley and the Consort of Musicke and Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music.
Kirkby has made well over 100 recordings, including madrigals of the Italian and English Renaissance, cantatas and oratorios of the Baroque, works of Mozart, Haydn and Johann Christian Bach. Some of her most noted recordings have included a 1981 recording with the Gothic Voices of sequences of Hildegard of Bingen, A Feather on the Breath of God; the Taverner Consort's 1984 recordings of Claudio Monteverdi's Selva Morale e Spirituale and Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B minor; and her 1980 recording of Handel's Messiah conducted by Christopher Hogwood, which brought her international acclaim. The Messiah recording was later named one of the top 20 recordings of all time by BBC Music Magazine.
Other recordings include: Handel: Opera Arias and Overtures 2 for Hyperion, Johann Sebastian Bach wedding cantatas for Decca, Bach Cantatas 82a and 199 for Carus; and four projects for BIS: with London Baroque, one of Handel motets and one of Christmas music by Scarlatti, Bach and others; with the Royal Academy Baroque Orchestra the first recording of the newly rediscovered Gloria by Handel; and with the Romantic Chamber Group of London, Chanson d'amour, an album of songs by the American composer Amy Beach.
In the 2000s: an anthology, Classical Kirkby, devised and performed with Anthony Rooley, on the BIS label, 2002; Cantatas by Cataldo Amodei, also for BIS, 2004; with Fretwork, consort songs by William Byrd, for Harmonia Mundi USA, 2005.; Scarlatti Stabat Mater with Daniel Taylor, for ATMA, 2006; Honey from the Hive, songs of John Dowland, with Anthony Rooley, for BIS, 2006: and Musique and Sweet Poetrie, also for BIS, 2007; lute songs from Europe with Jakob Lindberg.
Emma Kirkby's recordings include:
In 1999 Kirkby was voted 'Artist of the Year' by Classic FM Radio listeners and in November 2000 she received the Order of the British Empire. BBC Music Magazine in April 2007 published a survey of critics to nominate "The 20 greatest sopranos", placing Kirkby at number 10.
In 2010 she became President of Dartington Community Choir.
On 21 January 2011 it was announced that Kirkby had been awarded the Queen's Medal for Music, an award funded by the Privy Purse and given to an individual who has had a major influence on the musical life of the nation.
In 2018, Emma Kirkby was awarded the REMA Early Music Award in recognition of her career as an artist and mentor to young Early Music performers.
From 1971-83 she was married to conductor Andrew Parrott. She was later in a long-term relationship with lutenist Anthony Rooley, with whom she has a son. On 30 April 2015 she married conductor Howard Williams.
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