Champagne with Kathleen Ferrier - World Premiere

Submitted by Pat Napier on Thu, 23 Aug '07 12.28pm
Rating (out of 5)
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Music, The voice of Kathleen Ferrier; Narrators, Elayne Sharling and Paul Campion

Everybody loves a story. So here's one about a man who had a passion strong
enough to bring Britain's greatest singer back to life in the 60th year of the
world's first, greatest and best festival. He knows how to charm his audience
and treat it with style (a champagne breakfast to while away the waiting time)
then tell this story in an elegant, intimate setting.

Once upon a time, there was a feisty Lancashire Lass, full of rollicking humour
and possessed of a decidely clear idea of what she wanted to do in the world.
An untrained lass without the breaks given to others but blessed with a unique
and unforgettable voice. She wanted to sing, sing all that music ideally suited
to her warm luscious voice. Everyone said she was a joy to work with and she
enchanted the greats of the music world. But in the way of many fairy stories
this heroine died far too young. But her legend lives on and is still going
strong more than half a century later.

She lived through critical times for her country and the world. Her career lasted
little more than a dozen years from her first professional engagement, singing
Handel's Messiah in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in December 1940. The Messiah was also to be her farewell to the Edinburgh International Festival in September
1952. In all, she sang at every one of the first six Edinburgh Festivals but
never made it to the planned seventh. She is still the brightest star in UK
vocal music.

© Paul Campion

© Elayne Sharling

Who is she? None other than our own Kathleen Ferrier, revered
in her day by all who saw and heard her, even more revered by all those too
young to have been there but have mostly heard her singing a few songs or arias on radio
or listen to her recordings. Does a sneaking doubt creep in that our memories
are not quite accurate or that recording techniques of the Fifties didn't give
a true picture? Maybe.

Enter Paul Campion and Elayne Sharling to to tell Klever Kaff's
tale in as haunting and striking a manner as as KK's voice itself weaves its
unique spell from its very first notes. It's KK's own story, drawn from the
letters and diaries, her own words and, an especial treat, rare archive recordings
of her voice in action. More than half of the extracts are from 'live' performances
at her six Festivals.

EIF Usher Hall 7 Sep 1952

The tale opens with Kathleen herself telling us about Edinburgh
and what it meant to her, then it swings straight in to a couple of minutes
from the 1952 Brahms Liebeslierder-Walzer. Suddenly she's in the room
with us and it's very hard not to feel a sense of inhabiting her world. Paul
Campion narrates her story while Elayne Sharling speaks her words. But make
no mistake, the very first voice we heard is Kathleen Ferrier herself.

For one glorious hour we were priviledged to walk with Kathleen, Katie to her
good friend Sir John (her Tita) and Lady Barbirolli. Amazingly we heard her
good wishes for Barbirolli's debut conducting performance of the Messiah just some nine months before her own farewell one to Edinburgh! And that they
presented her with her 40th birthday cake - the first one she'd ever had.

In this hall, we began to know Bruno Walter, Sir Malcom Sargent, Sir John Barbirolli,
the music of Mahler and Brahms, the things she liked and disliked and oh, so
much more.

Most of all, there was that very rare and wonderful privilege of hearing the
young Kathleen Ferrier's voice mature and open up into that glorious haunting
sound world full of shadings and tones to enchant the listener. And to hear
it via recordings of her voice both live and studio-based. Mahler truly took
Bruno Walter by one hand and Klever Kaff by the other to say that most haunting
of farewells: Das Lied von der Erde's magical Ewig... Ewig,..Ewig...
of May 1952 recorded in Vienna.

This gorgeous hour ended with Kathleen's voice, as it had begun. Not only have
we seen and heard Kathleen in the full vitality of life but also her beloved
Edinburgh International Festival's birth and early years sprang vividly to life
in this, its 60th birthday year.

For all who love music this is a 'must see' event; to hear, in context, that
unique voice grow through its finest six years is to know that Kathleen Ferrier
really is the brightest star in the British firmament. It is also to know that
the Edinburgh International Festival sat on the pinnacle of music's marvellous
mountain - from Day One. No doubts!

You only have a few days to do that.

This multimedia event is dedicated to the memory of the broadcaster and music
writer Alan Blyth who died on 14 August 2007

Dr Bruno Walter and Kathleen Ferrier,
Usher Hall
7 September 1949
© Norward Inglis

© Pat Napier 20 August 2007 Published on
© Images Norward Inglis, Paul Campion, Elayne Sharling and
* Liebeslier-Walzer Performers: Clifford Curzon and Hans Gal (piano),
Irmgard Seefried, Kathleen Ferrier, Julius Patzak and Horst Günter, Soloists.
All images by kind permission of Paul Campion

Run 19-27 August 2007