The distinctively clear-toned voice of English soprano and early music specialist Dame Emma Kirkby can be heard on hundreds of recordings. But while she became a pioneer of historically informed performance, Kirkby forged her career not through the standard conservatory route, but almost incidentally through a love of singing in choirs and amateur groups.

When I catch up with the soprano over the phone from London ahead of her performances with lutenist Jakob Lindberg in Melbourne, Bermagui and Sydney, she...

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