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Monday, November 19, 2012

Philip Ledger dies

Ledger was best-known to most of us as conductor of the King's College Choir from 1974-82, following Sir David Willcocks.

He had a distinguished career, as one can see from his Wikipedia post:

Sir Philip Stevens Ledger CBE (12 December 1937 – 18 November 2012) was a British classical musician and academic, best known for his tenure as director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge between 1974 and 1982 and as director of Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982 until his retirement in 2001. He was also a composer of choral music and an organist.

Sir Philip was born in Bexhill-on-Sea in 1937 and educated at King's College, Cambridge.[1] When appointed Master of the Music at Chelmsford Cathedral in 1961, he became the youngest Cathedral Organist in the country.[1] In 1965 he took up the post of Director of Music at the University of East Anglia where he was also Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Music and responsible for the establishment of an award-winning building for the University’s Music Centre, opened in 1973.[1] In 1968 he became an Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, conducting at the Snape Maltings on many occasions including the opening concert after its rebuilding, and playing in first performances of works by Britten.[1] He appears as continuo player on Britten's recordings of Bach and Purcell.

He was Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge from 1974–1982 and Conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society from 1973-1982. During his years in Cambridge, he directed the Choir of King’s College in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, made an extensive range of recordings and took the Choir to the USA, Australia, and Japan for the first time.

He was subsequently Principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982-2001 where in 1988 new premises for the Academy were opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Since that time Ledger has appeared as a conductor throughout the United Kingdom, North America, and Asia.

He is also an organist and keyboard player and has conducted many leading orchestras. He has made numerous recordings with artists such as Benjamin Britten, Dame Janet Baker, Paul Tortelier, Pinchas Zukerman and Robert Tear.


Ledger is also noted for his original compositions and arrangements, particularly for choir. After succeeding David Willcocks as director at King's, he wrote a number of new descants and arrangements of Christmas carols, as well as new settings of popular texts such as Adam lay ybounden and A Spotless Rose. His arrangement of "This joyful Eastertide" for mixed voices and organ has been widely performed and broadcast. Many of his compositions and editions have been published by Oxford University Press, Encore Publications, The Lorenz Corporation (USA), and The Royal School of Church Music. His Requiem (A Thanksgiving for Life) is written for soprano and tenor soloists with mixed choir and may be performed with either orchestra, or with chamber ensemble or with organ.

The first recording devoted entirely to his choral compositions, including his Requiem - A thanksgiving for life was recorded on 7 and 8 December 2008 by Christ's College Chapel Choir, Cambridge, directed by both David Rowland and Sir Philip Ledger. The album (Regent Records) was released 16 November 2009.

Ledger has also composed an Easter cantata with carols entitled "The risen Christ". Published by Encore Publications, his new work is composed for soprano, tenor and baritone soli, choir and chamber ensemble. The words of have been compiled from various sources including original texts by Philip Ledger, Robin Morrish and Robert Woodings. The piece also contains words by anonymous authors, two settings that have been adapted from texts by G.R.Woodward and Christopher Wordsworth, as well as a short extract from a poem by Olivia Ward Bush-Banks. The cantata portrays three appearances of the risen Christ. The first of these is to Mary Magdalene at Christ's tomb, the second to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, and the third to Simon Peter at the Sea of Tiberias. The US premiere took place at Washington National Cathedral on 7 May 2011 in a concert by Cathedral Voices, conducted by Jeremy Filsell. The first UK performance was given at Canterbury Cathedral on 8 May 2011 during Evensong sung by the cathedral choir, conducted by David Flood.

In 2012, Ledger composed another cantata, "This Holy Child", which is a setting of the Christmas story with five original carols, "Jesus Christ the apple tree", "The voice of the angel Gabriel", "In the bleak mid-winter", "Hush! my dear, lie still and slumber" and "A little child there is yborn". The words have been compiled from various sources including poems by Selwyn Image.

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