17 August, 2007

Emma Kirkby, DBE

Via Goldberg, I see that British soprano Emma Kirkby (website) has been made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. It's the equivalent of a knighthood and carries with it the right to be known as "Dame". The honor was announced in the Queen's Birthday Honours in July along with knighthoods for such other luminaries as Salman Rushdie, Joe Cocker, and Barry Humphries.

In my not-so-humble opinion, Kirkby is well-deserving of such an honor. By her talent and efforts she has done much to advance the cause of early music, performing in the genre almost exclusively since her debut in the 1970's. For the next two decades, she and Julianne Baird were simply the pre-eminent sopranos singing the Mediaeval to Baroque repertoire. I can recall hearing them and other artists in the 80s (especially attending a masterclass taught by Baird) and the experience absolutely changed the direction of my musical life with early music becoming the focus of my musical education.

I have several recordings that feature Kirkby and the almost perfect, bell-like voice rings clear in every one. I don't think I've ever heard a bad performance and although some are not my favorites, every one is worth owning. I can't think of a better female singer for Purcell (with the possible exception of Baird or perhaps Sylvia McNair) and her renditions of Handel simply shine. Truly a great talent and one of Britain's musical treasures.

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