Karl Jenkins is one of the most performed living composers in the world. The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace alone has been performed over 2750 times in 50 different countries since the CD was released while his recorded output has resulted in seventeen gold and platinum disc awards.
He was born in Wales and educated at Gowerton Grammar School before reading music at the University of Wales, Cardiff. He then commenced postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music, London.
It was in jazz that he initially made his mark. In those days of ‘Jazz Polls” he was a prolific poll winner, playing at London’s famous Ronnie Scott’s club before co-forming Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux jazz festival and appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival, Rhode Island.
This was followed by a period with Soft Machine, one of the seminal bands of the '70s. Through many incarnations, ‘Softs’ defied categorization playing venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, the classical ‘Proms’ at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Reading ‘Rock’ Festival.
In the field of advertising music he has won the prestigious D&AD award for best music [twice], the ‘Creative Circle Gold’ and several ‘Clios’ [New York] and ‘Golden Lions’ [Cannes]. Credits include Levi’s, British Airways, Renault, Volvos, C&G, Tag Heuer, Pepsi as well as US/global campaigns for De Beers and Delta Airlines and Bafta ‘gongs’ for his scores for the documentaries The Celts and Testament.
After this period as a media composer, his return to the music mainstream was initially marked by the success of the Adiemus project. Adiemus, combining the ‘classical’ with ethnic vocal sounds and percussion with an invented language, topped classical and ‘pop’ charts around the world.
His output includes the harp concerto Over The Stone commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales for the Royal Harpist, Catrin Finch, Euphonium Concerto for David Childs, the concertante Quirk, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Colin Davis as part of its 2005 centenary season, Tlep written for virtuoso violinist Marat Bisengaliev and based on Kazak themes and In These Stones Horizons Sing, featuring Sir Bryn Terfel, Catrin Finch with the WNO Orchestra & Chorus which was premiered at the Royal Gala opening of the Welsh Millennium Centre in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.
In the summer of 2005 he scored the feature film, River Queen starring Kiefer Sutherland & Samantha Morton, the soundtrack of which won the Golden Goblet award for best score at the Shanghai Film Festival.
CD releases include Requiem, “Kiri Sings Karl” with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, This Land Of Ours with the Cory Band [winners of the 2007 British Open Championship and Only Men Aloud], Stabat Mater, Quirk, a collection of concertos which includes La Folia, commissioned by Dame Evelyn Glennie, Stella Natalis, a new Christmas work which spent the last four weeks of 2009 at No1 in the British Specialist Classical Chart, and The Peacemakers which similarly reached No1 in 2012. Releases on Deutsche Grammophon include Adiemus Colores with a Latin theme and guest artists including tenor Rolando Villazón and guitarist Milos Karadaglic, Motets featuring a collection of choral arrangements sung by Polyphony conducted by Stephen Layton and Cantata Memoria, a reflection on the tragic loss of children in disasters such as that at Aberfan. His most recent recordings on Decca are Symphonic Adiemus, a new SATB version with orchestra of the classic work, which reached No1 in the Classical Artist Albums Chart, a Piano Album with the composer at the keyboard released to celebrate his 75th birthday in 2019 and Miserere featuring Iestyn Davies, Polyphony and Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Layton.
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 British composers. Karl Jenkins was in 2015 confirmed as the most popular living composer in Classic FM’s 'Ultimate Hall of Fame'. During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, highlights from Karl's The Armed Man: a Mass for Peace and Adiemus were performed and recorded by over 6000 members of the Stay at Home Choir from 72 countries.
As a conductor Karl has appeared on the rostrum in the Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall in London, the Welsh Millennium Centre and St David’s Hall in Cardiff, and Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, as well as conducting performances of his music as far afield as Johannesburg, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo.
He has been the subject of the ITV South Bank Show by Lord [Melvyn] Bragg as well as being a ‘castaway’ on ‘Desert Island Discs’. Karl is a Freeman of the City of London and current plans include, in association with the Worshipful Company of Musicians, the setting up of a foundation to help young players entering the music profession.
Karl holds a D.Mus [Doctor of Music] degree from the University of Wales, has been made both a Fellow and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, where a room has been named in his honour, and has fellowships at Cardiff University, Swansea University, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthen, Swansea Metropolitan University and was also presented by Classic FM with the ‘Red f ‘award for ‘outstanding service to classical music’. Further awards include an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Leicester, the Chancellors Medal from the University of Glamorgan and two Honorary visiting Professorships, one at Thames Valley University/London College of Music and the other at the ATriUM, Cardiff.
In November 2009 he was given the Cymru For The World Award and in March 2010 was honoured with the Hopkins Medal given by the St. David’s Society for the State of New York.
Karl Jenkins was awarded a Knighthood in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours for "services to composing and crossing musical genres". His autobiography Still with the Music was published by Elliott & Thompson in September 2015. His music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.
Karl Jenkins is one of the most performed living composers in the world. Educated at Gowerton Grammar School, Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music, London, The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace alone has been performed over 2750 times in 50 different countries since the CD was released while his recorded output has resulted in seventeen gold and platinum disc awards.
His style and integrity has transcended musical boundaries encompassing jazz-rock with Soft Machine, the global ‘crossover’ phenomenon Adiemus, soundtracks for Levis and British Airways, while stopping off along the way to score a Kiefer Sutherland movie, be a castaway on BBC “Desert Island Discs”, be featured by Melvyn Bragg on the ITV seminal South Bank Show and be awarded the Freedom of the City of London. Recordings include Requiem, Stabat Mater, Quirk, Stella Natalis and The Peacemakers, on Deutsche Grammophon Adiemus Colores, Motets and Cantata Memoria, and on Decca Symphonic Adiemus, a Piano Album and Miserere. He has composed music for HRH The Prince of Wales, Sir Bryn Terfel, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Evelyn Glennie and the London Symphony Orchestra amongst many others.
A Doctor of Music, he holds Fellowships, Honorary Doctorates and Professorships at five universities or conservatoires, including the Royal Academy of Music, where a room has been named in his honour. In November 2009 he was given the Cymru For The World Award and in March 2010 was honoured with the Hopkins Medal given by the St. David’s Society for the State of New York.
In 2015 he was confirmed as the most popular living composer in Classic FM’s ‘Ultimate Hall of Fame’ and holds the Classic FM ‘Red f’ award for ‘outstanding service to classical music’. He was awarded a Knighthood in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours for "services to composing and crossing musical genres" and his autobiography Still with the Music was published by Elliott & Thompson. His music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with the following credit: Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes