The BBC Singers, conducted by Robert Quinney, are are giving a concert in memory of Sir Stephen Cleobury, to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Afternoon on Three’ at 2pm on Friday 20 November, shortly before the anniversary of his death. The concert will include interviews with Robert Quinney, a former organ scholar of Stephen’s, Bob Chilcott, who was one of Stephen’s commissioned composers at King’s, and Edward Price, a member of the BBC Singers who formerly sang in King’s Choir, and will be presented by Emma Cleobury. The music includes Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia, on whose feastday Stephen died last November.
Peace on Earth
Stephen Cleobury’s recording of Errollyn Wallen’s ‘Peace on Earth’ (digital EP) has been released today on the Choir of King’s College Cambridge label. The three tracks, Peace on Earth, See that I am God and Pace, were recorded with the Choir of King’s College in the presence of the composer last June.
Available as an mp3 download and up to 96kHz/24bit (Studio Master).
Bruckner’s E Minor Mass and a selection of his profoundly beautiful motets were selected by Sir Stephen Cleobury as his last album at King’s, recorded only a few months before his death. Perhaps the deepest and most spiritual of Bruckner’s masses, the Mass in E minor is unusual in its scoring for choir, wind and brass. It is recorded here by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in King’s College Chapel.
The album is accompanied by a specially-commissioned appreciation for Sir Stephen,
written by Professor Iain Fenlon.
”What Cleobury gets so effectively from this choir is the sense that everyone’s singing their socks off. As a valedictory farewell, that’s incredibly moving. … All in all, its the perfect final recording from the late Stephen Cleobury with his choir of King’s College Cambridge.”
BBC Radio 3 Record Review
Sir Stephen Cleobury died in York, the city to which he and his family had recently retired, on St Cecilia’s Day, 22 November 2019, after a long battle with cancer. He remained active until a few months before his death and received his knighthood from the Queen on 10 October. His funeral took place in York Minster on 6 December, the Feast of St Nicholas – to whom King’s College Chapel is dedicated. The memorial service planned for 2 May this year had to be postponed owing to the COVID situation, but will be held in King’s College Chapel at a date, yet to be announced.
“The death of Stephen Cleobury last November, two months after he had ended his 37 years as Music Director of King’s College, Cambridge, can without fear of exaggeration be described as the end of an era.” Gramophone
“If for nothing else, Stephen Cleobury should go down as the man who really recharged the writing of contemporary choral music – not just the Christmas carol, but the fact that his commissioning has affected how people write choral music. In all four corners of the globe people switch on the radio on Christmas Eve and hear a new piece of music.” Jeremy Summerly, CD Review, Radio 3, 1 December 2018
Stephen Cleobury was for thirty seven years been associated with one of the world’s most famous choirs, that of King’s College, Cambridge. His work at King’s brought him into fruitful relationships with many leading orchestras and soloists, among them the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Philharmonia, Britten Sinfonia, the BBC Concert Orchestra, and the distinguished ensemble, Endymion, and he worked with many artists – singers and instrumentalists – of international repute. He complemented and refreshed his work in Cambridge through the many other musical activities in which he engaged.
“Yet the quality of this choir may result not just from the innate character of boys’ voices but also from the approach to vocal training and music-making the ensemble has preserved … On this night, Mr. Cleobury coaxed singing of great vigor, color and character from the choristers … [who] made every word crisp and clear and sent the phrase soaring.” New York Times, April 2019
“Presiding over the lengthy and well-chosen program was the choir’s genial music director, Stephen Cleobury, who occasionally offered some charming informal commentary on the music. And what music! … The singers have mastered the music so completely that many of them glanced only occasionally at their scores, focusing instead on Cleobury’s expressive hands and clear indications.” Seattle Times, March 2017
“The restrained and precise, but passionate leadership of Stephen Cleobury, one of the world’s most highly regarded choral directors, always kept the music itself centre stage.”
Review of concert in Hong Kong, August 2016
“There was a deserved five-minute standing ovation at the end of the performance, and especially for Stephen Cleobury who responded with characteristic modesty.” Dream of Gerontius, Cambridge Evening News, June 2016
“Stephen Cleobury – minimum fuss but maximum impact at Seattle Symphony’s ‘Baroque and Wine’ concert.” Seattle Times, February 2016
“Stephen Cleobury is on peak form… These are outstanding performances by a great musician.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2015
Ophelia Redpath’s painting used for the cover of the
Cambridge Summer Music Festival in 2015, which
featured prominent Cambridge characters from
Henry VIII to Sir Stephen Cleobury.