New feature: Focus on… Katharine Hawnt

Our musicians are a wonderful group of people and we’d love you to get to know them better, so we are starting a new feature: Focus on…

Commercia Photographer Dorset

First up is Katharine (Kate) Hawnt. Kate did her first concert with Musica Secreta in 2002, and her first recording with us in 2007. Her distinctive, rich voice became the sound of Serafina’s singing in BBC Radio 4’s dramatisation of Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts. We have asked her to sing high and low, in a field, in a habit … ‘versatile’ doesn’t even begin to cover Kate’s many musical talents.

Speaking of the 2002 concert, look what we found! Actual footage of a piece by Caterina Assandra, with Kate singing the top line with Deborah Roberts: video from the days of handheld video cameras rather than phones. Since then she has made four recordings with us, and a wonderful solo CD with her ensemble, A Garden of Eloquence. She sings in a duo with harpist Kirsty Whatley, and recently made some stunning films of English repertoire.  Kate has also recently added to the PhD quotient in Musica Secreta with doctoral dissertation on Raymond Russell, the mid-20th-century harpsichord collector.

Her formal bio will tell you about all the fabulous things she’s done, but she’s written below about what being a member of Musica Secreta has meant to her.

My first ever Musica Secreta gig was way back in 2002 when I took part in a broadcast of Cozzolani’s Vespers, from St Bartholomew the Great for BBC Radio 3.  I managed to turn up for the first rehearsal an hour late as my train from Hereford was massively delayed – it may or may not have been that journey that the train hit a herd of cows…  I was really quite nervous: still at music college; first rehearsal with my first professional ensemble, and I’d turned up so very late.  I was met with such kindness and understanding and made to feel so welcome by Deborah Roberts and Laurie Stras that all apprehension evaporated.  That kind and respectful treatment, always being treated like an equal despite my relative youth and in-experience, remained a constant and is one of the many benefits to working with this ensemble.

Almost 20 years later, the group still works in a supportive and friendly way that makes music-making together such a pleasure and a privilege.  Of course, that timespan has seen many life-changes for me and the rest of the ensemble, and today’s personnel is very different to the group that I first joined.  I had to undergo a few rounds of surgery before getting pregnant with my first child, all of which made dressing up and acting the role of a sixteen-year old nun for the Sacred Hearts programme somewhat tricky to manage.  Negotiating a singing career whilst parenting young children is complex.  Some ensembles I worked with throughout that period dropped me from their books as I‘d had to turn a few projects down.   Musica Secreta however, stuck by me, also taking on board changes to my voice and range.  When my second child was born they even arranged accommodation to enable my whole family to join me for the rehearsals and a recording, so that I could take part.  This support has not only made me feel very much a valued member, but also makes me cherish my work with the ensemble that much more.  Despite the sadness that losing past members of the group has brought, welcoming fresh faces and enjoying the new qualities that they bring to our creative process only enriches our experience and music-making together.  I count myself very lucky to be a member of this fantastic group of women.

Kate’s new website is Do have a visit to see what else she gets up to!