A global survey in 2011 showed Karl Jenkins to be among the most performed living composers. Raised in Penclawdd on the Gower Peninsula, and educated at Gowerton Grammar School, he read music at Cardiff University (B.Mus) and the Royal Academy of Music, London (LRAM).
Together with the global ‘cross-genre’ phenomenon Adiemus, The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace is perhaps his best-known work, approaching 3000 performances since its millennium premiere, while his recording of the piece has the unique status of having been in the UK Classical charts for 18 years. Personal highlights include his commemorative performances in New York on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the 2000th performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 2016.
Resisting categorization, his style and integrity has transcended musical boundaries over the years: recording sessions with Elton John, George Harrison & Andrew Lloyd Webber; jazz at Ronnie Scott’s Club; jazz-rock-fusion with Soft Machine; award-winning ad soundtracks (Levis, Boots No7, Audi.); scoring a Kiefer Sutherland movie; ‘cast-away’ on the iconic BBC “Desert Island Discs”; featured by Melvyn Bragg on the seminal ITV South Bank Show; awarded the Freedom of the Cities of London and Swansea.
Adiemus (1995) and The Armed Man (2000) were pivotal to his future oeuvre in that he continued to progress ideas seen in these works; peace, multiculturism and the use of indigenous or ethnic text and instrumentation, alongside the traditional sacred Latin text and western orchestra: Requiem, Stabat Mater, Gloria, Te Deum, Miserere, The Peacemakers.
Other works include the popular piece for strings orchestra, Palladio, Quirk, Cantata Memoria (for the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster) and Miserere. All the works above, now available on Decca, attained number one status in the UK Classical chart. He has 17 ‘gold and platinum’ discs for his output overall.
He has been invited to compose music for HRH The Prince of Wales, Sir Bryn Terfel, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Lesley Garrett CBE, Rolando Villazon, Milos and the London Symphony Orchestra.
He has released albums on all major classical labels and is currently a Decca Records artist, while he has performed regularly with major UK orchestras (LSO, LPO, RPO, Philharmonia) and The World Orchestra For Peace. His music has taken him to such far flung venues as: The Royal Albert Hall, London; Zaryadye Concert Hall, Moscow; Carnegie Hall, New York; The Forbidden City Concert Hall, Beijing; The National Centre of Performing Arts; Mumbai; Buckingham Palace.
A Doctor of Music (D.Mus), he has held Fellowships, Honorary Doctorates and Professorships at five universities or conservatoires, including the Royal Academy of Music (FRAM), where a room has been named after him.
Among the many honours he has received, in the UK and internationally, are: OBE 2005, CBE 2010, two BAFTA Cymru awards. The Hopkins Medal (St. David’s Society of the State of New York), Cymru For the World, and he has been personally decorated by the Presidents of Hungary and Kosovo. He received a knighthood in The Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours List.
In 2004 he entered Classic FM’s ‘Hall of Fame” at No8, the highest position for a living composer, as well as in 2006 ranking No4 amongst all time British composers. In 2015, he was confirmed as the most popular living composer in Classic FM’s ‘Ultimate Hall of Fame’.
“As a composer he recognises no boundaries – musical, commercial, geographical, or cultural. His is a way of thinking and composing that is perfectly in tune with the spirit of the times” – citation on receiving CFM’s ‘Red f ‘award for ‘outstanding service to classical music’
2014 saw the inaugural ‘The Arts Club - Sir Karl Jenkins Music Award in association with Classic FM’, established to help young musicians entering the profession.
In 2019 he was sculpted live by the Royal Sculptor, Frances Segelman, as a charity event for the RAM.
Karl has recently completed a saxophone concerto for Jess Gillam (yet to be premiered due to COVID) and during the pandemic, highlights from The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace and Adiemus were performed by the virtual ‘Stay At Home Choir’ with over seven thousand singers drawn from 73 countries.
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