Dame Emma Kirkby

© Miguel Barreto

Emma Kirkby feels lucky in many ways:  that she met Renaissance vocal polyphony while still at school, that she studied Classics and sang with the Schola Cantorum at Oxford University, and, best of all, that there she encountered  “historical” instruments known to Renaissance and Baroque composers, the lute, harpsichord, early piano, wind and string instruments, whose sound and human scale drew from her an instinctive response.  Beginning as a schoolteacher and amateur singer, Emma was soon invited to perform professionally with pioneer groups, and from that time, supported by lessons with a wonderful teacher, Jessica Cash, she formed long partnerships  in Britain and abroad, with ensembles, individual players, and record companies, so that now her voice and style are recognized worldwide. In the UK she was made a Dame in 2007, and in 2011 was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music. She is astonished by this, but glad of the recognition it implies, for a way of music-making that values ensemble, clarity and stillness above volume and display; above all she is excited to see that her chosen field is now a crowded area, full of new young virtuosi, happy to be soloists or team players, in consorts vocal or instrumental. Emma is grateful for the chance to coach these people, tomorrow’s experts, and constantly delighted by their achievements.