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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Acclaimed Cumbrian singer honoured in new stamp collection

A celebrated classical singer who launcher her glittering global career in Cumbria has been honoured in a new stamp collection.

Kathleen Ferrier photo
Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier started out as a small-time festivals performer in the county before going on to be a world-renowned contralto.

When she died at the age of just 41 in 1953 she was said to be the second most famous woman in the country – second only to the Queen.

Now she has been honoured by the Royal Mail in a new stamp collection.

She is featured in ‘Britons of Distinction’ alongside nine others from the worlds of science, architecture and politics.

The stamps were released on Thursday and are already said to have generated considerable interest from collectors.

Among those delighted with the gesture are members of the Kathleen Ferrier Society, who keep her work and legacy alive.

Each of those featured on the new set of stamps reaches a milestone in 2012.

For Ferrier, this would have been the centenary of her birth.

Events to mark the occasion are already being planned in Carlisle.

Philip Parker, of the Royal Mail, said: “Britons of Distinction celebrates important yet diverse individuals, sometimes separated by centuries, but brought together by genius.

“I think the stamps create a great sense of history, and capture both the achievement and endeavour of these exceptional people.”

The stamp featuring Ferrier’s image is her as the hero Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1947, in which she sang the famous aria What is Life?

She was renowned all over the world for classic interpretations of Bach, Handel, Schubert, Brahms and Mahler, and for great performances of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.

Ferrier also sang in the premiere of Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia to great acclaim, as well as delighting audiences with her charming groups of British folk songs, including Blow the Wind Southerly.

Born in Lancashire, she was a fine pianist but only discovered her vocal talents when she won both the piano and singing sections at the Carlisle Festival in 1937.

Her career began when she lived in Silloth and Carlisle, giving her an early grounding as she headed towards stardom on the stage and airwaves.

It is hoped that a book, due to be published later this year, will fill in the gaps about her life in Carlisle.

Although Ferrier’s fame is well documented, there have been few detailed accounts of her life in Cumbria.

It is thought she moved to Cumbria in the early 1930s after she got married and became a housewife before finding her voice.

On Friday, July 13, Dr Christopher Fairfield, who edited Ferrier’s letters and diaries, will give a lunchtime lecture in the Carlisle Cathedral Fratry.

That evening, famous contralto Joan Rodgers will present a Kathleen Ferrier centenary concert.

These events are being staged as part of the 2012 Carlisle Festival, which will run from July 10 to 14.

Others honoured in the new stamp series include Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and Enigma code breaker, and Joan Mary Fry, the noted World War One pacifist and social reformer.

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