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Farewell Concert at King’s

On Friday 28 June, Sir Stephen conducted his final concert as Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge. Appropriately, this was the last of this season’s Concerts at King’s, the highly successful series he founded some twelve years ago in the wake of the Easter at King’s festival. The programme featured groups of musicians with whom he has long had a close relationship: the Choir of King’s College, which he has directed for 37 years; the BBC Singers, of which he was Chief Conductor for twelve years and is now Conductor Laureate; the Britten Sinfonia, with whom he has enjoyed a close relationship from its earliest days, and with whom he has made a number of well-received recordings; and sopranos from King’s Voices, the mixed-voice choir at the College he was instrumental in founding over twenty years ago. The BBC was present to record for broadcast on Thursday 5th July the concert (which featured Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music, Howells Magnificat Collegium Regale (superbly orchestrated by John Rutter), Elgar Give unto the Lord, and Britten Saint Nicolas.

      Lifetime Achievement Award from the
      Worshipful Company of Musicians

         On 26 June Sir Stephen was given a lifetime achievement award from the      
Worshipful Company of Musicians. He said he felt very honoured to be the first
         recipient of such an award for choral music and to be recognised in this way by
         one of the oldest music organisations in the world, whose mission is to promote
​         the highest standards of music-making.

Farewell Events at King’sThe Easter Term 2019 saw a number of wonderful farewell events for Sir Stephen at King’s. These included a dinner for all Sir Stephen’s first group of (1982) choral scholars; a surprise concert by distinguished King’s musicians, featuring pianist
Roy Howatt, violinist Krysia Osostowicz, baritone Christopher Purves and composer Sir George Benjamin; a dinner for Sir Stephen’s former organ scholars; an organ recital by seven of the King’s choristers, dedicated to Sir Stephen; and an Evensong to which c.140 former choristers and choral scholars returned to sing.

Sir Stephen’s final concert (28 June), featuring four groups with whom he has had significant contact over the years – King’s College Choir, the BBC Singers, Britten Sinfonia and King’s Voices – and his final Evensong (7 July) will also be celebratory events.

​Top to bottom:

The massed choir of c.140 former members of King’s College Choir (plus wives); 

The seven choristers who played an organ recital dedicated to Sir Stephen;

The sixteen former organ scholars who attended the dinner in Sir Stephen’s honour.
​(Left to right: Robert Quinney (1995 – New College), Peter Barley (1987 – Limerick), James Vivian (1993 – St George’s Chapel, Windsor), Ashley Grote (2001 – Norwich), Parker Ramsay (2010 – freelance harpist), Christopher Hughes (1989 – Eton), Henry Websdale (2016), Dónal McCann (2017), Sir Stephen Cleobury, David Briggs (1981 – freelance organist), Ben Bayl (1997 – Hanover Band), Richard Farnes (1983 – Opera North), Stephen Layton (1985 – Trinity College, Cambridge, David Goode (1991 – freelance organist, composer and Eton), Tom Winpenny (2003 – St Alban’s), Richard Gowers (2014), Daniel Hyde (2000 – King’s College, Cambridge).

Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019

Stephen Cleobury was created a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. He says:

​”I am profoundly honoured to have received this award. I have sought to nourish and support the precious choral tradition that we have in this country, and to be an advocate for the innumerable benefits of singing and choral music. Nothing I have achieved would have been possible without the outstanding singers with whom I have been so fortunate to work. It has been, truly, a privilege.”The Provost of King’s College, Professor Michael Proctor, commented on the award:

“The College is delighted and deeply proud that our distinguished Director of Music, Sir Stephen Cleobury, has been recognised in this way. In his 37 years in this post, Stephen’s outstanding musicianship has not only maintained and enriched the College’s own international musical reputation, but has made an invaluable contribution to the musical life of the United Kingdom and, indeed, the world.”

Honorary Doctorate from the University of York

Stephen Cleobury was delighted to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of York on 25 July 2018. He moved to York full time in September 2019, two months before his death.

Retirement from King’s after 37 Years

Stephen Cleobury CBE retired at the end of September 2019, after 37 years of outstanding service to the College and the Choir. During his distinguished tenure of the post he not only maintained but significantly enhanced King’s world famous choral tradition. He was delighted to hand over to one of his former organ scholars, Daniel Hyde.The Provost, Professor Michael Proctor, said:

The College owes a huge debt of gratitude to Stephen Cleobury for his distinguished service and tireless efforts and we shall be celebrating his unique contribution in due course. We are seeking someone of the highest calibre as his replacement, and look forward to seeing the music and Choir of King’s thrive long into the future.The Dean, the Revd Dr Stephen Cherry commented:

Choral musicians around the world look to King’s for example and inspiration, and the pressures of the post are considerable. The Choir has developed its repertoire, and the extent of its touring and recording activity, very considerably in recent decades but the core of its life is the choral worship in Chapel that takes place every day in term. As we look to the future, the continued integrity and excellence of the music in Chapel will be a major priority.

Stephen will be moving to York, where his youngest daughter is a probationer chorister at the Minster. From there he will make continue his freelance work in the UK and all over the world.

Royal Visit

On 29 November 2016 the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited King’s and heard the Choir rehearse Parry’s I was glad and the carol, Gabriel’s Message.

Appointment as President of the Herbert Howells Society

Stephen was delighted to have been appointed president of the Herbert Howells Society. He succeeded its founding president, Sir David Willcocks, who served from 1987 until his death in 2015.
Stephen was a vice-president of the Society for many years, and hosted events in King’s College Cambridge for the Society on a number of occasions. He was active in performing and recording choral, organ and orchestral music by the composer, and recently produced a new edition of Howells’ Stabat Mater.

The Society aims to promote a wider appreciation of Howells’ music and to support and publicise the performance, publication and recording of his works.

Appointment as Conductor Laureate of Cambridge University Music Society (CUMS)

Following his final performance as Conductor of the CUMS Chorus on 11 June 2016, it was announced that Stephen had accepted the role of Conductor Laureate of this, one of the oldest and most distinguished music societies in the world. Stephen was Conductor of the CUMS Chorus since 1983, following in the footsteps of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir David Willcocks and Sir Philip Ledger. Stephen’s 33-year long tenure was the longest in Society’s history, during which time he has nurtured the careers of many generations of young musicians.

Appointment as President of the Friends of
Cathedral Music

On 25th June 2016 Stephen took up the position of President of the Friends of Cathedral of Music. He was the organisation’s sixth President, following Martin Shaw, Herbert Howells, Edward Kemp (Bishop of Chichester), George Guest and
Christopher Robinson.

On becoming President-elect, Stephen said “I first became involved in cathedral music on becoming a chorister at Worcester Cathedral in 1958, and it has been my privilege to have worked in this field, among others, ever since. I am honoured to have been asked to be President of the FCM, an organisation which does so much wonderful work to support music in our cathedrals, churches and colleges at a time when there are increasing financial pressures on choral foundations. Not the least of my pleasure in accepting this position, is to be the successor of Christopher Robinson, an outstanding musician who has done so much for the cause of cathedral music, and to whom I, personally, owe so much.”