Top musician Emma Johnson hails Harrogate Sunday Series

Emma Johnson, Britain's 'favourite clarinettist'. (Picture by Tim Kavanagh)
Emma Johnson, Britain's 'favourite clarinettist'. (Picture by Tim Kavanagh)

Harrogate and the Dales are alive with the sound of classical music - according to Britain’s ‘favourite clarinettist’.

She may be a resolute Londoner but Emma Johnson has declared the area to be her second home as she prepares to headline Harrogate International Festivals’ Sunday Series, which begins in January.

Now in its 22nd year, the series has built a formidable legacy of showcasing world-class talent, partly through its support for musicians such as Emma, writes Ann Chadwick.

Emma said: “I was first in Harrogate as a Young Musician just after I won the BBC Young Musician of the Year in ’84.”

“I’ve been back there a lot to play at the festival, in fact, more so than any other town in the UK. I love Harrogate, and I’m lucky they’ve asked me to come back and keep playing there.”

The Harrogate arts charity has always put classical and chamber music on a strong pedestal.

And the international reputation of Harrogate, built over the decades, ensures it’s firmly on the classical calendar alongside Paris, New York and Berlin.

It’s something Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals is proud of.

“Sunday Series an opportunity to discover music from the greatest composers in history, brought to life by internationally-acclaimed artists. We’re incredibly proud to be delivering, once more, such a sensational international line up in Harrogate. ”

A great collaborator, Emma has worked alongside other Harrogate stalwarts including Julian Lloyd Webber and Lesley Garrett – both of whom also launched their careers in Harrogate as Young Musicians.

Emma said: “It’s terribly important when you’re starting out to have something as prestigious as Harrogate Festival to ask you to play. These sort of things really build experience and you learn a lot playing in front of a very knowledgeable, friendly and welcoming audience.”

The 2015 Sunday Series will open and close with two previous winners of the Leeds International Piano Competition.

The South Korean born Sunwook Kim, who won just aged 18 in 2006 and has gone on to global acclaim, will perform January 25.

The Badke Quartet – recognised as one of Britain’s finest string quartets - play Haydn, Stravinsky and Schubert on February 8.

Dutch violinist, Simone Lamsma, who is currently a judge on a major X-Factor style Dutch TV show for classical musicians, performs Schuman’s brooding Sonata in F and Janacek’s intensely emotional Violin Sonata on March 1.

And the 2012 winner - young Italian, Federico Colli, will close the Series on April 12.

Such is the standard of the line-up, it impresses even Emma herself who will be performing a crowd-pleasing programme designed to appeal to all the family with Beethoven, Brahms and lighter jazz and swing pieces.

Emma said: “The Sunday Series is remarkable. Harrogate is not a massive town but supports an internationally renowned festival delivering these great artists.”

Sharon Canavar said: “If you’re going to make one resolution this Christmas as we start a New Year, opening your heart to classical music is one of the greatest gifts.

Harrogate International Festivals’ Sunday Series presents Emma Johnson with pianist Finghin Collins, Sunday, March 29, 11am at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate.

Ticket packages or tickets for individual shows are available in person from Harrogate Festivals’ office in person at 32 Cheltenham Parade, Harrogate or call 01423 562 303 or email or

To see the full Sunday Series line up, visit