Karl Jenkins 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 70’s. Through many incarnations, ‘Softs’ defied categorization playing venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, the classical ‘Proms’ at the Royal Albert Hall, 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 a classical base with ethnic vocal sounds, ethnic percussion and an invented language, topped classical and ‘pop’ charts around the world, gaining 17 gold or platinum album awards while performing in Tokyo, Madrid, London, Helsinki, Munich etc.
The Armed Man; A Mass For Peace, commissioned by the Royal Armouries for the millennium and premiered at the Royal Albert Hall, London has had over four hundred performances recent years while the CD, featuring the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, has gained “Gold Disc” status in the UK.
Works include the harp concerto ‘Over The Stone’ commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales for the Royal Harpist, Catrin Finch, the concertante, ‘Quirk’, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Colin Davies 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 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
Recent CD releases include Requiem, which went to No1 in the UK classical charts, “Kiri Sings Karl” with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. and This Land Of Ours, a musical celebration of Welsh culture featuring the Cory Band [winners of the 2007 British Open Championship] and the male choir, Only Men Aloud. Stabat Mater was released by EMI Classics on March 9th prior to the premier at Liverpool Cathedral on March 15th, while Quirk, a collection of concertos, will be released on Oct 4th 2008.
Karl has been subject of the ITV South Bank Shows by Lord [Melvyn] Bragg as well as being a ‘castaway’ on ‘Desert Island Discs’.
In 2004 he entered Classic FM’s ‘Hall of Fame” at no 8., the highest position for a living composer and has been the highest placed living composer since, as well as, in 2006, no. 4 amongst British composers.
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, 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 recently awarded an honorary doctorate 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.
He was awarded an OBE, by Her Majesty The Queen, in the 2005 New Years Honours List “for services to music”.
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