Emma Kirkby

4 January 2009
A Look Back at 2008

They say "if you want something done, ask a busy person" - from which I conclude that I'm obviously not busy enough. When I've been away for a while, I come home delighted to see the place again and full of intentions to clear the teetering piles of papers awaiting action, but each time I leave again they teeter still.

As I think back on 2008, I'd like to mention those most in my thoughts at the moment, each one battling illness with inspiring courage and drawing strength from their many friends. One of these, Tessa Bonner, died peacefully at home on New Year's Eve. It is a shocking loss to very many people as we remember her unmistakable voice, bright, true and touching; reflecting a personality to match, kind and capable, lively and loving. For the others, I salute them and wish them a lucky outcome and a better year in 2009.

As for last year, there was too much travel but I cannot unwish the people, places and concerts I experienced. I listened to some fantastic performances:

  • "The Catherine Wheel" at Cadogan Hall, all lovely, but in particular Mozart's Clarinet Quintet.
  • In Spilimbergo, Monteverdi from the amazing Concerto Palatino, (cornets and sackbuts playing like the richest velvet) and Bruce Dickey as fresh as ever.
  • At Dartington, the Badke Quartet; Sue Sheppard and John Holloway each playing unaccompanied Bach; Walter Reiter's incredible directing of Rameau; and Keith and Julie Tippett improvising late at night.
  • And, wonderfully in East Finchley just down the road from home, the Endellions celebrating their 30th anniversary with Haydn, Janacek and late Beethoven - sorry, the only word is "transcendental".

Special places:

Laenna Church in Sweden

St Petersburg at midnight

Toronto in October
  • St Luke's Church, Battersea (nearly in Clapham) - magical acoustics for lute; I had a great evening there with Jakob Lindberg. Another church that proved perfect for this was St Martin-in-the Fields, newly refurbished, gleaming and beautiful.
  • It was a special thrill to come back to Forde Abbey in June to sing a few notes in the Hall and realise why we raved about the acoustics there for so many years. It is really one of my top places, along with Laenna in Sweden, where I was twice last year recording again for BIS.
  • I had midsummer night in St Petersburg, after a lovely few days with Musica Petropolitana, including a boat trip starting at midnight!
  • In Toronto, at North York - I had a glorious fortnight there in October singing six concerts with Tafelmusik. They played like angels in a programme featuring rich orchestrations - only one in the North York hall, the other five in their home, Trinity St Paul's, which, though less good acoustically than North York, has a great atmosphere and very lively listeners. Even in the middle of the city the fall colours were amazing.
  • And just last week I was with Anthony Rooley in a Dowland programme, proving again that The Sage Gateshead has some of the best halls in the country.

A few other things stick in my mind:

  • A short course in February in Amsterdam, where the students, lucky to have Fred Jacobs' inspiration and lots of theorboes to sing with, made a brilliant job of mid-17th century English song - a great credit to Valerie Guillorit and David Wilson-Johnson.
  • Two excellent vocal ensembles I heard for the first time - one live, Vox Luminis with Domenico Scarlatti's 10-part Stabat Mater, and one on CD, Scherzi Musicali in Caccini's opera 'L'Euridice" - their director sings and also plays theorbo, organ and triple harp! There are other new groups now in the UK and elsewhere, and in time, there will be yet more as Anthony Rooley starts his course this month in Basel, an M.A. called "AVES" - Advanced Vocal Ensemble Studies.
  • Bach Chorale Variations orchestrated by Bell'Arte Salzburg for violins, gambas, violone and organ - late works that Susanne Ryden and I heard night after night in our Christmas tour programme and enjoyed more and more every time.
  • The Oxford University Encaenia in June
  • The Oxford University Encaenia in June, where I received an honorary doctorate, along with seven others - what a very impressive lot they were! The ceremony was fun, with speeches in fine and witty Latin, and a very funny oration in English. This photo is nearly perfect, except for the poor German philosopher whose head is just hinted at behind that of the Public Orator. As you can see, I brought up the rear; and as you can also see, the D.Mus. gown is a very particular shade of pink! Next to me is an Israeli lady who has worked wonders developing targeted antibiotics.
  • Snow in London one Sunday morning in April!
  • An unseasonal experience - snow in London one Sunday morning in April. It looked bizarre on the blossom but melted within the morning, so it didn't stop the broom, wisteria and apples, which all had a good year.

I hope you've had a lovely, peaceful Christmas, and wish you health, joy and fulfillment in 2009.