If not for a dare from her husband, Mrs Kathleen Wilson would not have entered the 1937 Carlisle Festival’s singing competition. Wilson had already signed up for the Festival’s piano competition when Bert bet her a shilling she wouldn’t dare try her hand at the vocal division too. She couldn’t resist, and with a rendition of Quilter’s  To Daisies, won not only the bet, but first prize as well. Offers of professional singing engagements soon followed, and within a few years Kathleen Wilson – now known as Kathleen Ferrier – was emerging as one of Britain’s brightest singing stars.

Born in April 1912, the daughter of a Lancashire village schoolmaster, Ferrier was always musically inclined. Both her parents sang, and Kathleen too was involved in choirs. But the piano was her forte: from the age of 12, she was entering piano competitions and at just 14, passed the final grade of the Associated Board of the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music. Financial woes, however, dashed her hopes of attending a music college, and she was obliged to leave school and take up work at the local telephone exchange....