Remembering Isobel Baillie and Kathleen Ferrier in Selsey

Jacquelyn Fugelle
Jacquelyn Fugelle

Isobel Baillie and Kathleen Ferrier: Their Lives in Words and Music is offered by Arts Dream Selsey on Sunday, November 17 at 3pm at Selsey Town Hall, 55 High Street, Selsey, PO20 0RB.

Chichester-based soprano Jacquelyn Fugelle, who devised the piece, will sing the Isobel Baillie parts; contralto Hilary Platts will sing the Ferrier parts; and Sylvia Rota will accompany them on the piano.

Hilary and Sylvia are former pupils of Jacquelyn’s, and between them they will celebrate two figures who have played an important part in Jacquelyn’s life. Jacquelyn’s entertainment will comprise a selection of their classical solos and duets, interspersing a short history of the two.

Dame Isobel Baillie (March 9 1895-September 24 1983) was a Scottish soprano, popular in opera, oratorio and lieder. Kathleen Ferrier (April 22 1912-October 8 1953) was an English contralto singer who achieved an international reputation as a stage, concert and recording artist. She died from cancer at the height of her fame. Her death was a shock to the general public. Her illness had been kept private. Among her many memorials, the Kathleen Ferrier Cancer Research Fund was launched in May 1954. The Kathleen Ferrier Scholarship Fund, administered by the Royal Philharmonic Society, has made annual awards to aspiring young professional singers since 1956.

“Isobel Baillie was a little bit older than Kathleen Ferrier, but they were both well known in the 30s, 40s and 50s,” Jacquelyn says. “Isobel Baillie was a soprano and was best known for singing The Messiah, but the two of them collaborated and did recitals of duets.

“They also recorded together… until Kathleen Ferrier died at a sadly young age.

“I did actually meet Isobel Baillie. She lived in Selborne and adjudicated me in Chichester in 1972. I was at music college at the time. She awarded me a cup and I have still got the adjudication.

“I remember her as quite a strict and firm person. She knew her stuff, obviously. But she wasn’t the sort of person to adjudicate by just saying ‘Oh yes, you have got a lovely voice.’ But she was quite down to earth and was very nice and very pleasant. But really the two singers kept coming into my life in a way. When I was at music college, I entered the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Award and Kathleen’s sister was one of the adjudicators.

“Right back in the 70s, when I was at music college, I used to buy recordings of Isobel Baillie and Kathleen Ferrier and I remember being very interested in their careers… and really that’s how this lecture recital idea started. I am pretty well retired now, and I just thought that this would be a good way for Arts Dream Selsey to raise money.

“I wrote this programme about the two of them, and when I wrote it, it was just books and biographies. But now, with the internet, you can google anything. There is so much more information around, so I have revamped and revised the piece and now I am doing it for Arts Dream Selsey with some friends

“I suppose Isobel Baillie has faded a bit (from memory); she was a few generations ago, but I think older people who perhaps would remember Kathleen Ferrier would probably also remember Isobel Baillie.”

Tickets £10 to include tea and cakes are available from Highhouse Insurance Services, 101 High Street, Selsey and The Crab Pot, 145 High Street, Selsey.

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