Kathleen Ferrier

(1912—1953) singer

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British contralto, who was awarded the CBE and the Gold Medal of the Philharmonic Society just before her untimely death from cancer.

Born in Lancashire, she won a piano competition at fifteen but worked as a telephonist until 1940, when she won a singing competition. She then began to study singing with Roy Henderson in London. During World War II she sang to troops and in factories, making her own arrangements for her accompanists. Recognition of her distinctive mellow voice and excellent musicianship soon came; at Glyndebourne she sang Lucretia in the first performance of Britten's Rape of Lucretia (1946) and Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice (1947). At the first Edinburgh Festival (1947) she sang in Mahler's Song of the Earth conducted by Bruno Walter, and in 1949 gave a recital in Edinburgh accompanied by Walter, with whom she was associated in some of her greatest performances. In the twelve years of her short career she was increasingly loved and admired by audiences and colleagues. Her last appearances, as Orfeo at Covent Garden in 1953, were curtailed after two performances by the onset of her final illness.

Subjects: Music.

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