Oxford University Encaenia
June 18, 2008
Dame Carolyn Emma Kirkby, DBE
Degree of Doctor of Music
Soprano and Proponent of Early Music
Public Orator's speech introducing the honorand
(Latin followed by English)
Ecquid facere nequeunt qui litteris humanioribus Oxoniae bene studuerunt? Abhinc tres annos virum honestavimus qui eis studiis perfectis ad physicam se contulit praemiumque Nobelianum nactus est; et hodie feminam ad gradum doctoris extollimus quae non omnino in musicam prius incubuit quam scripta Graeca et Latina satis perscrutata erat. Illa aetate Eduardus Fraenkel, vir doctissimus et formidolosus, discipulos docuit vel terruit; quem ea dicitur ut Orpheus lyra bestias ita lepore domare potuisse. Certum est ex eo tempore vix minus quam Orphea ipsum eam homines arte sua fascinavisse. Existimator musicae quidam haud ineptus est arbitratus optimam eam esse ex omnibus cantatricibus quae numquam opera Iosephi Verdi cecinerint. Vocis pulchritudinem quis nescit? Quam alii (stulte, ut opinor) sono puerulorum, alii campanae, alii argenti liquidi rivo comparaverunt. Sed laudem etiam maiorem meo iudicio meruit quia huic dono a Deo dato peritiam scientiam doctrinam addidit.
Apud poetas deae saepius ut invidae et petulantes repraesentantur: ita Iuno in Vergilii Aeneide adfirmat se cum optata impetrare nequeat ipsum Acheronta esse moturam. Quare haudquaquam sine causa, ut puto, cantatrices quae magnum nomen adeptae sunt divae saepe nuncupantur. A quibus haec omnino discrepat, quae cum gloriari potuerit, comitatem et verecundiam usque servavit. Ipsa dixit eo honore quo nuper donata est serenitatem et liquiditatem vocis et cantantium inter se cohaerentiam potius quam magnitudinem vel ostentationem celebrari. Concordiam non solum sonorum sed et musicorum fovet; quare cum ab omnibus laudatur tum permultorum suscitat amorem.
Praesento philomelam Anglicam, decimam Musam, Carolinam Emmam Kirkby, Excellentissimi Ordinis Imperii Britannici Dominam Commendatricem, Collegii de Somerville et alumnam et sociam honoris causa adscriptam, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Musica.
Admission by the Chancellor
Cantatrix lepidissima, quae et permultos arte tua delectavisti et pulchritudinem musicae inprimis antiquae aperuisti, ego auctoritate mea et totius Vniversitatis admitto te ad gradum Doctoris in Musica honoris causa.
Is there anything that those who have read Greats at Oxford cannot do? Three years ago we honoured a man who after completing this degree turned to physics and won a Nobel Prize for it, and today we confer a doctorate on a lady who did not devote her whole time to music until she too had made this thorough study of Greek and Latin texts. In those days the vastly learned and formidable Eduard Fraenkel was teaching (or terrorising) his pupils, but she is said to have subdued him by her charm as Orpheus subdued the beasts with his lyre. At all events, in the succeeding years her art has come close to that of Orpheus himself in its power to bewitch the world. A competent critic has described her as the best singer never to have sung Verdi. The beauty of her voice is known to all; some have compared it (quite wrongly, I believe) to a boy's voice, others to a bell, and yet others to a stream of silver. But I suggest that she deserves the greater praise for adding to this God-given talent musicality, technical mastery and historical understanding.
The poets often represent goddesses as jealous and self-assertive; thus Juno in Virgil's Aeneid declares that since she cannot get her way she will raise Hell itself. So I think that there is good reason for celebrated sopranos to be called divas. This honorand is entirely different: with ample reason to boast about herself, she has always remained easy and modest. She has herself said that her recent damehood should be taken as a tribute to the virtues of stillness, clarity and ensemble rather than volume and display. She seeks harmony not only in the music itself but also among the performers; and accordingly she has earned, besides the praise of all, the affection of many.
I present an English nightingale, a tenth Muse, Carolyn Emma Kirkby, DBE, former student and Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, to be admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Music.
Admission by the Chancellor
Delightful singer, who have charmed so many by your art and have especially revealed the beauties to be found in early music, I on my own authority and that of the whole University admit you to the honorary degree of Doctor of Music.