“Britain’s favourite clarinettist” takes to the stage of the Theatre Royal, Dumfries, on 12 August in the second concert of Absolute Classics 2017 Festival.
Emma Johnson is one of the few clarinet players to enjoy a successful solo career. Winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 17 set her on a journey to become one of the UK’s biggest selling classical artists with a diverse repertoire. She was awarded an MBE in 1996 and was the first woman to be made Honorary Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Her career as a solo performer has taken Emma to major European, American and Asian venues as well as to Africa and Australasia. She said: “I’ve been lucky to have played in some great places, Tokyo, New York, Paris, Geneva. It has also been a thrill to premiere new concertos written for me by people like Will Todd and Paul Reade and also to have had the chance to make CDs that have reached many people.”
Emma is one of the UK’s biggest selling classical artists, having sold over half a million albums worldwide, and says her desire to make music always came from “inside” while her versatility has helped her reach the top of her league.
She explained: “To be a top clarinettist you need to be very versatile. I have found it important to be able to play in different styles and to be able to arrange and compose music for clarinet in many formats. You also need to be quite fit to cope with the travel and the stresses of performance.”
Emma is equally as comfortable playing jazz pieces as she is with classical music. She said: “It’s great to play both classical music and jazz because they do require a slightly different mindset.
“I find that playing jazz has made me freer when I perform classical pieces as well as more confident at adding the occasional improvised detail. I love both types of music. In jazz I can really excite the audience but in the end classical is, for me, the more profoundly moving of the two genres.”
Emma, who will be playing some of the real classics for clarinet and piano alongside some shorter, popular items, says she is looking forward to performing in Dumfries and hopes her music will inspire people, especially younger members of the audience, who do not have free access to musical instrument tuition.
“I think it is a great shame that instrumental music is no longer a priority in a lot of primary schools because of cuts to music budgets. I was lucky to benefit from a time when music was a major part of the curriculum in state schools – I even had free clarinet lessons to start with – and this was key in stoking my enthusiasm and making me think of music as a career.
“It would be really great if young people attending my concert in Dumfries and Galloway came out feeling inspired to practise music.”
The performance begins at 7.30pm and Emma will be accompanied on the night by John Lenehan on piano.