|A young Kathleen Ferrier|
In their thirty-seven years of marriage my parents worked very hard bringing up their five daughters, but still managed to find some time for their own interests and hobbies. One interest they shared was their love for the extraordinary voice of another Lancashire woman, who might have celebrated her 100th birthday this weekend, had her life and immensely successful career not been cut tragically short at the early age of 41.
Kathleen Ferrier was born on April 22nd 1912 and grew up in the neighbouring town of
, only a very few miles from where my sisters and I were born and grew up. Throughout my childhood I was aware of her as ‘our’ celebrity – the local girl whose name and voice were now known throughout the world. Every school class in the area had its quota of Kathleens and her premature death only added to the sense of local pride in her achievements. Blackburn
For Kathleen Ferrier had been blessed with a truly wonderful contralto voice – rich, deep, resonant without a hint of harshness, and extraordinarily expressive and moving. It shone above all in the repertoire of 18th century opera and oratorio which she made her own, but also in her much-loved recordings of British folk-songs.
Unlike my younger sisters, I’m no expert on the subject of music or singing, but I have always known that Kathleen Ferrier possessed a unique talent, which, almost sixty years after her death, continues to enrich the lives of so many people, including me. I find it sad to think of the recordings she never lived to make, but we must be grateful for the superb legacy she did bequeath to us. I will leave you with two clips, which show to perfection the breadth of her skill and the glory of her voice.