“England’s Britannia” : Dame Clara Butt (1872-1936)
Jacqueline Edwards ARCM, LRSM (Mezzo Soprano)
discusses and illustrates the life and career of her distant ancestor, the celebrated Edwardian contralto for whom Sir Edward Elgar composed a number of works including his song cycle ‘Sea Pictures’ and ‘The Dream of Gerontius’.
Three reviews of “England’s Britannia”:
"Thank you for the magnificent presentation yesterday. Everyone agreed that it was at the top of our recent meetings. Not only was the content fascinating, but I particularly liked the way you spoke freely of Clara's idiosyncrasies, but conveyed to us her immense impact and your personal affection for her.
Your performance was brilliant, with you enjoying it as much as we did."
(Geoff Scargill is Chair of the North-West Branch of the Elgar Society)
‘Dame Clara Butt – the very name conjures opulence and grandeur; and opulent and grand she could certainly be. She was a British Emblem, a National Treasure before the phrase was coined. Her rich contralto voice has never been matched.
Jacqueline Edwards’ engrossing talk for the Elgar Society, entitled “England’s Britannia ~ Dame Clara Butt (1872-1936)”, tells the story of the life and career of Dame Clara with great enthusiasm, affection and humour; and a starry career it was. For example, Elgar composed his Sea Pictures and Dream of Gerontius with Butt’s voice in mind and her recordings from both works are included in the talk, as are duets featuring her baritone husband, Robert Kennerley Rumford.
Butt was admired not only in Britain but throughout the world. Her international tours were a sensation. As a distant relation of Dame Clara, Jacqueline, herself a professional opera and concert mezzo- soprano who has performed Elgar’s works across the UK, has a personal interest in her subject, and her research has uncovered much fascinating material.
Remembered best as ‘The Voice of Empire’, Butt’s singing of Land of Hope and Glory could bring an audience to its feet, as did Jacqueline’s recent talk to members and friends of the Yorkshire and North East branch of the Elgar Society in York.
This is a highly entertaining and fascinating presentation, and any admirer of Edward Elgar – let alone of Clara Butt – will rejoice at learning more about both her personality and her music.’
(Paul Campion is a Past Master of The Worshipful Company of Musicians, The Royal Society of Musicians, The National Trust and English Heritage)
‘The mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Edwards – well-known as a concert and opera singer, teacher and vocal coach - was our guest speaker for a presentation entitled ‘England’s Britannia: Dame Clara Butt’.
The topic was thoroughly prepared, highly enlightening and superbly delivered, with a wealth of information about Dame Clara’s life, education, rise to stardom, professional partnership with her husband, the baritone and pianist Kennerley Rumford, and connection with Elgar.
Much helpful context was offered, such as how she compared with other notable contraltos of the age, especially Muriel Foster. We were delighted to discover the relatively large number of recordings which are still available, from which we can marvel at the expressive quality and power of Clara Butt’s voice, and appreciate how radically vocal technique, style and taste has changed from her time to the present.’
(David Young is Chairman of Yorkshire and North-East Branch of The Elgar Society)