Camilla Kurti obituary

Other lives: Violin-maker, singer, activist and linguist

My friend Camilla Kurti, who has died aged 66 of cancer, was a violin-maker, singer, activist, linguist and friend to many. A compassionate and forthright listener, she extended a rare sympathy to all, and gave up her time generously, particularly for elderly and ill people.

Born in Oxford, she was the second daughter of Nicholas Kurti, professor of low temperature physics at the university, and his wife, Giana (nee Shipley), who, until her marriage, did wartime secretarial work for MI5. From Oxford high school for girls, Camilla went to study at the Bavarian State School of Violin-Making in Mittenwald.

Through working in violin shops in Stuttgart and Haarlem she learned to speak excellent German and Dutch, and in 1980 moved back to the UK, to Stafford, to repair instruments for the local authority.

There she eventually became self-employed, repairing first for Highfield Violins in Birmingham, then for Tim Toft in Stone. Along the way she taught English as a second language at Stoke College, and worked for a computer call centre in Birmingham, helping students and clients alike with her calm patience.

Camilla cared passionately about the environment and was a founder member of Stafford Friends of the Earth. She lived her life according to her principles: no car, but a bike; a fanatical recycler, who bought a washing machine only once she had solar panels on her roof; scrupulous about patronising local businesses rather than multinationals; and rarely buying new.

Single-handedly she established and ran a Suma wholefood co-op, and her hall was always full of boxes of organic oats or olive oil. She had a wicked sense of humour and loved writing satirical skits and spoofs for the various groups she supported. Her singing voice was distinctively warm and husky, and she sang in many choirs and workshops. The Exmoor Singers of London Tallis weekend was one of the highlights of her year. Above all she sang with Fish from Oblivion, an a cappella group she co-founded in 1996, singing a wide-ranging repertoire from Georgian table songs to early and contemporary choral music, from American Shape Note to an original song deploring Brexit.

Fish performed at celebrations in and around Stafford, most frequently at St Mary’s church. In her final year, singing was her greatest joy.

She is survived by her sister Susannah.

Jane Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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