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Biography of

Karl Jenkins

17 feb 1944 (Penclawdd) -
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Karl Jenkins

Karl William Pamp Jenkins, CBE (born 17 February 1944) is a Welsh musician and composer.


Early life and education

Jenkins was born and raised in the Gower village of Penclawdd which is in Wales. His father, who was a local schoolteacher, organist, and choirmaster, gave him his initial musical instruction. Karl Jenkins attended Gowerton Grammar School in Swansea.

Jenkins began his musical career as an oboist in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. He went on to study music at University College, Cardiff, and then commenced postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where he also met his wife and musical collaborator, Carol Barratt. He studied notably with Alun Hoddinott. [1][2][3]

Career overview

For the bulk of his early career, he was known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing variously: baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards, and oboe, an unusual instrument in a jazz context. He joined jazz composer Graham Collier's group and later co-founded the jazz-rock group Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970. He joined the Canterbury progressive rock band Soft Machine in 1972 and co-led their very last performances in 1984. The group defied categorisation and played venues as diverse as The Proms, Carnegie Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival. The album on which Jenkins first played with Soft Machine, Six, won the Melody Maker British Jazz Album of the Year award in 1973. Jenkins also won the miscellaneous musical instrument section (as he did the following year). Soft Machine was voted best small group in the Melody Maker jazz poll of 1974. After Mike Ratledge left the band in 1976 Soft Machine did not include any of its founding members, but kept recording on a project basis with line-ups revolving around Jenkins and drummer John Marshall. Balanced against Melody Maker's positive view of the Soft Machine of 1973 and 1974, Hugh Hopper, involved with the group since replacing bassist Kevin Ayers in 1968, cites Jenkins's "third rate" musical involvement in his own decision to leave the band,[4] and the band of the late 1970s has been described by band member John Etheridge as wasting its potential.[5]. In November 1973, Jenkins and Ratledge participated in a live-in-the-studio performance of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells for the BBC[6]. It is available on Oldfield's Elements DVD.

Jenkins has created a good deal of advertising music, twice winning the industry prize in that field. Perhaps his most-heard piece of music is the classical theme used by De Beers diamond merchants for their famous television advertising campaign focusing on jewellery worn by people who are otherwise seen only in silhouette. He later included it as the title track in a compilation of various works called Diamond Music, and eventually created Palladio, using it as the theme of the first movement.

As a composer, his breakthrough came with the crossover project Adiemus. Jenkins has conducted the Adiemus project in Japan, Germany, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as London's Royal Albert Hall and Battersea Power Station. The Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary (1995) album topped the classical album charts. It spawned a series of successors, each revolving around a central theme.

Jenkins was the first international composer and conductor to conduct the University of Johannesburg Kingsway Choir led by Renette Bouwer, during his visit to South Africa as the choir performed his The Armed Man: A mass for peace together with a 70 piece orchestra.

He is also a joint president of the British Double Reed Society.[7]

Awards and achievements

Jenkins holds a doctorate in music from the University of Wales. He has been made both a fellow and an associate of the Royal Academy of Music, and a room has been named in his honour. He also has fellowships at Cardiff University, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthen, Swansea Institute and was presented by Classic FM with the Red f award for outstanding service to classical music.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Leicester, the Chancellor's Medal from the University of Glamorgan and honorary visiting professorships at Thames Valley University, London College of Music and the ATriUM, Cardiff.

Jenkins was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2005 New Year Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[8][9]

Partial list of works


Greatest Hits collection

  • The Best of Adiemus

Other works

  • Adiemus: Live — live versions of Adiemus music
  • Palladio (1996)
  • Eloise (opera)
  • Imagined Oceans (1998)
  • The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace (composed 1999, premièred 2000)
  • Dewi Sant (2000)
  • Diamond Music (1996)
  • Merry Christmas to the World (1995) — a collection of traditional Christmas music orchestrated by Jenkins
  • Over the Stone (2002) — a double harp concerto
  • Crossing the Stone (2003) — an album featuring Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and material from the double harp concerto
  • Ave Verum (2004) — for baritone (composed for Bryn Terfel)
  • In These Stones Horizons Sing (2004)
  • Requiem (2005)
  • Quirk (2005) concertante
  • River Queen (2005) — score for the film River Queen directed by New Zealand director Vincent Ward
  • Tlep (2006)
  • Kiri Sings Karl (2006) — with Kiri Te Kanawa
  • This Land of Ours (2007) — with Cory Band and Cantorion, aka Only Men Aloud!
  • Stabat Mater (2008) — Jenkins' adaptation of a 13th Century Roman Catholic Poem
  • The Concertos (2008) — Over the Stone (a double harp concerto), La Folia (for marimba), Quirk (a concertante for flutes, keyboards, percussion), Sarikiz (a violin concerto), re-recording of the first movement of the Palladio concerto grosso
  • Stella Natalis (2009)
  • Gloria / Te Deum (2010) — with Hayley Westenra


  1. ^ University of Leicester - Oration for Karl Jenkins by Professor Gordon Campbell]
  2. ^ Press article at
  3. ^ Carol Barratt at Allmusic
  4. ^ Out-Bloody-Rageous, Graham Bennett, 2008 (ISBN 0-946719-8-5) page 246
  5. ^ Out-Bloody-Rageous, Graham Bennett, 2008 (ISBN 0-946719-8-5) page 324
  6. ^ "Mike Oldfield (with Mick Taylor, Steve Hillage and members of Henry Cow, Gong and Soft Machine) - Tubular Bells (Live BBC Video 1973)". MOG. Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  7. ^ "About the BDRS". British Double Reed Society. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  8. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59446, p. 7, 12 June 2010.
  9. ^ CBE for Zeta Jones, knighthood for Harwood

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Karl Jenkins. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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