Work at King's
"On this night, Stephen Cleobury coaxed singing of great vigor, color and character from the choristers ... the focused, shimmering sound of the choir’s collected voices — which includes older boys singing alto, tenor and bass parts — was splendid, the treble voices were especially wondrous."
New York Times, 2 April 2019
"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 and hear a new piece of music."
Jeremy Summerly, CD Review, Radio 3, 1 December 2018
"It was a delight ... to see the joy and empathy of the young choristers who, through their celebrated conductor Stephen Cleobury, became a world-class choir."
Review of a concert in Västeras, Sweden, April 2016
‘Every single piece is rendered magnificently by this ensemble that has performed under the direction of Cleobury for more than thirty years. The choir’s pristine intonation, penetrating rhythmic accuracy, and exquisite unified vowels unite for a beautiful yet robust choral tone. Outstanding solo contributions … further elucidate Cleobury’s high level of expectation.’
Choral Journal review of Carols from King's 60th anniversary DVD
Sir Stephen Cleobury was Director of Music and Organist of King's College, Cambridge from 1982 to 2019. He inherited the 500 year-old tradition of choral music at King's from four distinguished immediate predecessors, A.H. Mann, Boris Ord, Sir David Willcocks and Sir Philip Ledger, each of whom had done much to put King's at the forefront of English choral music over the course of the 20th century. For more than 35 years, Sir Stephen worked to uphold and enhance this unique tradition; he was untiring in keeping King's at the very pinnacle of choral music, by maintaining excellent standards of performance and interpretation; he ensured that the Choir of King's College was at the forefront of every new technological development, from CDs to webcasting, and that these ventures were always undertaken to the highest standards; he expanded and replenished the choral repertoire, chiefly by commissioning music for the world-famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
"Stephen Cleobury has been a fantastic advocate of new music. It would be so easy to make the Chapel and its music-making into a kind of museum culture and he's done the opposite in his commissioning. It's always possible for new ideas to find fertile territory at King's and to be welcomed in a way in which, perhaps, they might not be elsewhere."
Richard Causton, composer
With one of the finest gothic buildings in the world at his disposal, Sir Stephen in the last decade of his life founded two highly successful ventures based at King's Chapel: the festival, Easter at King's, from which the BBC continue to broadcast regularly, and a series of high-profile concerts throughout the year, Concerts at King's. To both of these, Sir Stephen succeeded in attracting musicians of international renown, from singers such as Bryn Terfel, Andreas Scholl and Gerald Finley, to instrumentalists such as Alison Balsom, Nicholas Daniel and Rachel Podger and ensembles such as the Monteverdi Choir, the King's Singers, the Vienna Boys' Choir, the Dunedin Consort and regular visitors, the Academy of Ancient Music, the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus.
One of the most exciting innovations in this context was the first live simultaneous transmission of a concert (Handel Messiah) direct to cinemas across Europe and North America. The most recent innovation at King’s is its record label. The Choir now releases four recordings a year on its own label, and broadcasts services on its website from King’s College Chapel to a growing worldwide audience.
Sir Stephen’s influence extended beyond King’s to many other choirs through the organ scholars he has trained: the choirs at Norwich Cathedral, St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Trinity College, Cambridge, New College, Oxford, St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick are all run by former organ scholars of Sir Stephen, while other choral and organ scholars who have passed through the Choir during Stephen’s time now pursue careers as conductors (such as Edward Gardner, Richard Farnes and Ben Bayl), eminent organ soloists (e.g. David Goode and David Briggs) and professional singers (e.g. James Gilchrist, Gerald Finley, Ashley Riches). In October 2019 Daniel Hyde, one of Sir Stephen's former organ scholars, succeeded him at King's. Many of his former organ scholars attended a dinner in Sir Stephen's honour in June 2019:
Left to right:
Front row: Robert Quinney (New College, Oxford), James Vivian (St George's Chapel, Windsor), Parker Ramsay (New York), Henry Websdale (Organ Scholar at King's 2016-19), Sir Stephen Cleobury, Ben Bayl (Associate Director, Hanover Band), Stephen Layton (Trinity College, Cambridge), Tom Winpenny (St Alban's Abbey), Daniel Hyde (St Thomas's 5th Avenue, New York & Stephen's successor at King's).
Back row: Peter Barley (Limerick Cathedral), Ashley Grote (Norwich), Chris Hughes (pianist and Eton), Donal McCann (current Senior Organ Scholar at King's), David Briggs (freelance organist and Organist Emeritus of Gloucester Cathedral), Richard Farnes (Opera North), David Goode (freelance organist and Eton), Richard Gowers (conductor, pianist & organist).
Daniel Hyde and Sir Stephen Cleobury at St Thomas, 5th Avenue, New York, April 2019.
Engagements for King's College Choir in recent years have included the visit of TRH The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall and a visit to
10 Downing Street to sing at the Prime Minister's Easter party.
"I would happily sit in King’s College Chapel listening to this choir sing for the rest of my days."
"A crowning glory of our civilisation."
The late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music
"Their success has a lot to do with the music directors they’ve had. After Sir David Willcocks came Sir Philip Ledger, and now it’s Sir Stephen Cleobury. Plenty of other cathedrals have the same routine but not the same results. ...
A lot of great singers have come up through that choir, including Robert Tear and Gerald Finley, and they’re always incredibly accomplished musicians. Indeed, the musical training one gets in that choir is incredible because you have to master things to an exquisite level so quickly."
Sir Andrew Davis, The Gramophone
The next Chorister auditions will
take place on Saturday 21 January 2017,
but Stephen welcomes enquiries
at all times of the year.
For more information, please contact