Born in Manchester, the English mezzo-soprano, Clare Wilkinson, grew up in a home full of music (her father is the conductor Stephen Wilkinson). She gave her first solo concert at the age of 17 with Musica Antiqua of London on the invitation of Alison Crum, with whom she has enjoyed regular music-making ever since. She went on to read Classics with a choral scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, followed by postgraduate vocal studies with Hazel Wood at Trinity College of Music, London, where she won numerous prizes.
Now enjoying a busy concert career, and much in demand particularly for her interpretations of J.S. Bach, Clare Wilkinson has appeared with many distinguished conductors and ensembles, at many of the world’s major halls: the Wigmore Hall, the Barbican, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Hong Kong Cultural Center, Washington National Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, Bozar Brussels, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Cité de la Musique, the Bridgewater Hall, Köln Philharmonie and Lincoln Center amongst many others.
In 2004 Clare Wilkinson worked for the first time with John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, and has since performed all the major works of J.S. Bach (St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), St John Passion (BWV 245), Magnificat (BWV 243), B Minor Mass (BWV 232), Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248)), and much other repertoire, under his baton. Particularly special moments for Clare have been J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 170, Vergnügte Ruh, at the Spiegelsaal in Köthen, Johann Christian Bach’s alto lament Ach, daß ich Wassers g’nug hätte at the Cadogan Hall, London and the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. She has also sung with them George Frideric Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Purcell’s The Tempest.
Clare Wilkinson has also sung with, amongst others, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Laurence Cummings (G.F. Handel’s Messiah at the Lincoln Center and the Royal Festival Hall), The English Concert/Harry Bicket, Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset (J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) at the Theatre des Champs Elysées, Paris), the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Ian Tracey, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Reuss, the Feinstein Ensemble/Martin Feinstein, Israel Camerata Orchestra Jerusalem/Charles Olivieri-Munroe (J.S. Bach’s solo alto cantatas, 2011), Octopus Ensemble/Bart Van Reyn, The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman, The Hanover Band, Florilegium (St Matthew Passion (BWV 244)), the Dunedin Consort/John Butt (St Matthew Passion (BWV 244)), the Orquesta Filarmonica de Malaga and Orquesta Ciudad de Granada/Salvador Mas Conde, the Little Baroque Company, the Manchester Camerata/Nicolas Kraemer (J.S. Bach’s St John Passion (BWV 245) at Sheffield City Hall), the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Markus Stenz (St John Passion (BWV 245) at the Köln Philharmonie), the Swedish Baroque Orchestra (J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass (BWV 232) and St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in Sweden and Norway), Margaret Faultless (Antonio Vivaldi’s cantata Cessate, omai cessate and J.S. Bach's cantata BWV 54 Wiederstehe doch der Sünde), and Ensemble Amarcord & Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens. She was delighted to join Dame Emma Kirkby for a duet programme in July 2010.
Clare Wilkinson is equally at home with viols. She appears regularly with Fretwork, with whom she performs a mix of early and contemporary repertoire. Several new works have been written for Clare; songs by John Joubert, Duncan Druce and Stephen Wilkinson all received premières at the Wigmore Hall with Fretwork. A wide ranging CD, "The Silken Tent", was launched at the Wigmore Hall in February 2009. With The Rose Consort of Viols, the focus is mostly on Renaissance music, particularly William Byrd. She performs with them around the UK and Europe, and a CD, "Four Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal", has recently been released.
Having been named in Opera Now magazine’s Who’s Hot listing, Clare Wilkinson also enjoys stage work; roles include Venere in Monteverdi’s Ballo dell’Ingrate (St John’s, Smith Square, the BBC Proms), Galatea in both G.F. Handel’s Acis and Galatea (Trigonale Festival, Austria) and his Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (Laurence Cummings, London Handel Festival 2008), Second Witch in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Jonathan Cohen, Dijon Opera), Ariel in The Tempest (John Eliot Gardiner, Far East tour), Zinnia in Chabrier’s L’Etoile (John Eliot Gardiner, Opéra Comique and Théâtre de Nîmes) and Penelope in Guido Morini’s L’Odissea with Accordone (Schwetzingen Festival). She is a member of I Fagiolini (winners of The Royal Philharmonic Society Ensemble Award 2006, a Gramophone award and Diapason d’Or de l’Année for thir recent Striggio recording) and with them has been part of John La Bouchardière’s ground-breaking ‘secret theatre’ opera project The Full Monteverdi, which clocked up nearly 90 performances, including a run at the Lincoln Center, New York (now out on DVD, trailer at youtube.com), and Tallis in Wonderland directed by Henk Schut, as well as Ed Hughes’ newly commissioned opera The Birds in which she took the illustrious role of Second Pigeon and the group's trademark staged madrigal comedies. Other roles include Messagiera in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. In 2009 she participated in a new theatre project with John la Bouchardière, based around Dowland songs, alongside Fretwork and two dancers.
Recent engagements have included J.S. Bach’s B minor Mass (BWV 232) at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC, Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) with the English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner, G.F. Handel's Messiah with The English Concert/Harry Bicket, J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) at the Bridgewater Hall with the Manchester Camerata/Nicholas Kraemer and also at the Sage Gateshead and Guildford Cathedral, a tour and recording of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the Purcell Quartet, two USA tours, an Israel tour and numerous concerts with Fretwork, and many varied projects with I Fagiolini, from Luciano Berio to Byrd. Another recent highlight has been a pair of J.S. Bach projects with Andrew Parrott - the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) and a recording of Andrew Parrott’s own reconstruction of the Trauermusik for Prince Leopold.
Current and future engagements include J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Richard Egarr, Messiah with the Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr and with the Nederlandse Bachvereniging/Jos van Veldhoven, J.S. Bach cantatas for Capella Augustina/Andreas Spering in Brühl, the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) for the Bachkoor Holland/Gijs Leenaers, Speranza in Andrew Parrott’s new production of Orfeo, Haydn’s Nelson Mass for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Adam Fischer, David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Little Match Girl Passion in a new, critically-acclaimed staging on tour with Cryptic Theatre Company, and a mixed recital with Fretwork, ‘The Year’s Midnight’, with readings by Sir Courtenay, at King’s Place.
Clare Wilkinson features on numerous CD recordings. Most notable among them are: "Fire and Ice" and "A Songbook for Isabella", both with Musica Antiqua of London. She has recorded Josquin chansons with Andrew Lawrence-King (harp) and Verdelot chansons with Lynda Sayce (lute), both under the banner of Alamire/David Skinner. Recent CD’s include: "Cruel Amour" (airs by Sebastien le Camus) with the Maresienne Consort.; “Welt, Gute Nacht”, music by J.C. Bach with the English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner; “Trauer-Music, music to mourn Prince Leopold by J.S. Bach” with the Taverner Consort & Players/Andrew Parrott, chosen as Critics’ Choice in Gramophone; and J.S. Bach’s reconstructed St Mark Passion (BWV 247) with Ensemble Amarcord & Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens. Notable also are the Gramophone award-winning Messiah and the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), both with The Dunedin Consort/John Butt (Linn), and ”Four Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal” (Deux-Elles) with The Rose Consort of Viols which attracted much critical acclaim (including excellent reviews in Gramophone and International Record Review;). A mixed recital disk with Fretwork, “The Silken Tent”, featuring two songs of Byrd never before recorded (thanks to Richard Turbet for drawing them to our attention!) has already sold over 900 copies in Japan and is available for download on the Fretwork website.
Clare Wilkinson is a fan and enthusiastic advocate of her father Stephen Wilkinson’s choral music and songs. Two songs, for mezzo-soprano and viols, feature on “The Silken Tent”, and she has performed his songs at The Wigmore Hall and King’s Place. She also organised a CD of his choral music, “Dover Beach”, out soon on Deux-Elles.