Sir Karl William Pamp Jenkins CBE (born 17 February 1944) is a Welsh musician and composer. His best known works include the song “Adiemus” and the Adiemus album series; Palladio; The Armed Man; and his Requiem.
Jenkins was educated in music at Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music, where he is a fellow and an associate. He was a member of the jazz-rock band Soft Machine. Jenkins has composed music for advertisement campaigns and has won the industry prize twice.
Karl Jenkins was born and raised in Penclawdd, Gower, Wales. His mother was Swedish and his father was Welsh. Jenkins received his initial musical instruction from his father who was the local schoolteacher, chapel organist and choirmaster. He attended Gowerton Grammar School.
Jenkins studied music at Cardiff University, and then commenced postgraduate studies in London at the Royal Academy of Music.
The Collier Septet 1967 – from L to R: Karl Jenkins, John Marshall, Mike Gibbs, GC, Harry Beckett, Phil Lee, Dave Aaron
For the bulk of his early career Jenkins was known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing 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.
In 1972 he joined the Canterbury progressive rock band Soft Machine. The group played venues including 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. The albums in which Jenkins performed and composed were Six, Seven (1973), Bundles (1975), Softs (1976) and Land of Cockayne (1981). Jenkins composed most of the tracks on Seven and nearly all of the tracks on the subsequent three albums.
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. Although Melody Maker had positively reviewed the Soft Machine of 1973 and 1974, Hugh Hopper, involved with the group since replacing bassist Kevin Ayers in 1968, cited Jenkins’s “third rate” musical involvement in his own decision to leave the band, and the band of the late 1970s has been described by band member John Etheridge as wasting its potential.
In November 1973, Jenkins and Ratledge participated in a live-in-the-studio performance of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells for the BBC. It is available on Oldfield’s Elements DVD.
Jenkins has created advertising music, twice winning the industry prize in that field. From the 1980s, he developed a relationship with Bartle Bogle Hegarty, starting with composing musics for their Levi’s jeans “Russian” series. He composed a classical theme used by De Beers diamond merchants for their television advertising campaign focusing on jewellery worn by people otherwise seen only in silhouette. Jenkins later included this as the title track in a compilation called Diamond Music, and eventually created Palladio, using it as the theme of the first movement. Other arrangements have included advertisements for the Renault Clio.
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. In 2014 Jenkins released a tribute song for the 2014 Winter Olympics, performed by his new age music group also called Adiemus.
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.
Jenkins’ choral work The Peacemakers, features texts from Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank and Mother Teresa, as well as words from the Bible and the Qur’an with some new text specially written by Terry Waite. On the 2012 record the London Symphony Orchestra is joined by different vocal forces including Rundfunkchor Berlin, the City of Birmingham Youth Chorus, and the 1000-strong “The Really Big Chorus” made up of members of UK choirs from across the country brought together in one day, in one studio, to contribute to two movements on the album. Guest artists include violinist Chloë Hanslip, soprano Lucy Crowe, Davy Spillane on Uilleann pipes, Indian bansuri player Ashwin Srinivasan and jazz musicians Nigel Hitchcock and Laurence Cottle. The album was released on 26 March 2012. The world premiere of this seventeen-movement work took place, however, in New York City’s Carnegie Hall on 16 January 2012. Jenkins conducted from the podium and John H. Briggs, Sr. conducted the Children’s Chorus from a seated position. Briggs was the Choral Arts Conductor of one of the participating schools and its two choruses: Il Bel Canto and Die Meistersingers of Gwynn Park Middle School, Maryland. Additional concerts in the UK and US took place later in the year.
Jenkins composed the music for the 2012 BBC Wales series The Story of Wales presented by Huw Edwards.
A work entitled The Healer – A Cantata For St Luke was premiered on 16 October 2014 (7:30 pm) in St Luke’s Church, Grayshott, Hampshire, and was recorded and broadcast on Classic FM. The Healer received its US premiere at Carnegie Hall, New York on 19 January 2015. In September 2015, the recording of the premiere of The Healer was released on CD by Warner Classics as part of the 8 disc boxed set Voices.
A compilation CD, Still With The Music, was also released in September 2015, coinciding with the publication of his autobiography of the same name.
On 8 October 2016 Jenkins’ choral work Cantata Memoria: For the children, a response to the 1966 Aberfan disaster with a libretto by Mererid Hopwood and commissioned by S4C, premiered at the Wales Millennium Centre. The concert was broadcast the following evening on S4C and was released as an album by Deutsche Grammophon.
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 had fellowships at Cardiff University (2005), the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthen, and Swansea Metropolitan University.
In 2008 Jenkins’ The Armed Man was listed as No. 1 in Classic FM’s “Top 10 by living composers”.
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 an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2005 New Year Honours and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours. In 2015 he was made a Knight Bachelor.
Jenkins is joint president of the British Double Reed Society and Patron of the International Schools Choral Music Society (ISCMS).
In 2016 Jenkins received the BASCA Gold Badge Award for his unique contribution to music. (by wikipedia)
Tracks on the album ‘This Land Of Ours’ are all special arrangements by Karl Jenkins and range from classical favourites and choral classics to traditional Welsh tunes and pop standards – all performed in that unique brass band style. (prestomusic.com)
This wonderful recording grabbed me at the first note and excepting for one track (“Delilah”, whose inclusion I did and do fail to understand). I was in turn moved to tears, exalted, enchanted and in all, delighted by this recording. Given the nationality of the composer, it’s not surprising that the land referred to in the title is Wales. The original songs by Karl Jenkens, performed in Welsh are gorgeous, showing a genuine affection for the music, and musicians of his homeland. The all male group, Cantorion are splendid. Some all-male (and-all female choruses, for that matter) can bring a sameness to their performances, but not Cantorion.
The blend is awesome and the range of color of which this group is capable is nothing less than astounding. And as far as the instrumental ensemble, Cory Band, is concerned, the review who opined that this was ‘not a good recording for them’ must have been listening to something else entirely. First of all, the combination of male chorus and band is an ancient and honorable one in Wales. Also, the performances here are nothing short of awesome — in every sense of the word. The final selection ends with an extended cadenza for the band that absolutely takes my breath away every time I listen to it. And every time I play it on my radio program, “Sunday Evening Songfest” (on WMNR Fine Arts Radio — wmnr.org) I get calls from listeners who love what they hear and can’t wait to get this recording. (Annie Schwaikert)
It seems slightly unfair to label this as a ‘Karl Jenkins’ album, as the performers here are the multi-award-winning brassists Cory Band and male voice choir Cantorion. Of course, fellow Welshman Jenkins is the arranger and producer of the material included on this EMI Classics debut, and it’s his name that looms largest on the cover.
Jenkins’ powerful use of surging vocal arrangements infused with drama, and the sprinkling of modern touches into classical structures is here in abundance – it’s a Jenkins work and no mistake.
The inclusion of the Cory Band generates a clean, brass sound and an almost-Christmassy atmosphere.
Some lesser-known Welsh-language pieces such as Cysga Di (Go To Sleep) vie with age-old favourites (Delilah, Abide With Me, Pie Jesu) but Jenkins’ skill comes in its own, allowing each to breathe; not one piece overwhelms another.
He’s on top form with this interperative collection, aided by some of the UK’s very best musical and vocal performers. (James McLaren)
Recorded at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 31 August, 1 & 2 September 2007
Cantorion (chor; musical director: Tim Rhys-Evans)
Cory Band (brass band; musical director: Robert Childs)
David Childs (euphonium)
Conducted by Karl Jenkins
01. Cantilena: Ysbryd y Mynyddoedd (Spirit Of The Mountain) (Davies/Jenkins) 3.29
02. Cysga Di (Davies/Dvořák) 2.56
03. Delilah (Mason/Reed) 2.26
04. Abide With Me (Monk) 2.43
05. Suo Gan (Traditional) 3.23
06. Danny Boy (Traditional) 4.16
07. Son Of Maria (Barratt/Traditional) 3.03
08. Pie Jesu (From Requiem) (Jenkins) 4.34
09. Hyfrydol (Traditional) 3.38
10. Evening Prayer (Kelley/Humperdinck) 3.47
11. In These Stones Horizons Sing (Jenkins) 4.22
12. Flower Duet (Delibes) 1.41
13. Myfanwy (Parry) 4.16
14. Agnus Dei (From The Armed Man) (Jenkins) 3.39
15. Benedictus (From The Armed Man) (Jenkins) 7.38
16. Lle Cana’r Eryrod (Where Eagles Sing) (Lovatt-Cooper) 3.58