A recent exhaustive survey shows that Sir Karl Jenkins is now the most-performed living composer in the world. Educated at Gowerton Grammar School, Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music, London, The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace alone has been performed over 1500 times in 20 different countries since the CD was released, while his recorded output has resulted in 17 gold and platinum disc awards.
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 and 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 the ‘classical’ with ethnic vocal sounds and percussion with an invented language, topped classical and ‘pop’ charts around the world.
His output includes the harp concerto: Over the Stone, commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales for the royal harpist, Catrin Finch; Euphonium Concerto for David Childs; the concertante Quirk, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Colin Davis as part of its 2005 centenary season; Tlep, written for virtuoso violinist Marat Bisengaliev; and In These Stones Horizons Sing, featuring Bryn Terfel and Catrin Finch with the WNO Orchestra and 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 and Samantha Morton, the soundtrack of which won the Golden Goblet Award for Best Score at the Shanghai Film Festival.
His CD releases on EMI Classics include: Requiem; Kiri Sings Karl with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa; This Land of Ours with the Cory Band (world brass band champions); Stabat Mater; Quirk, a collection of concertos that includes La Folia, commissioned by Dame Evelyn Glennie; Stella Natalis; and Gloria, premiered by a chorus of 2,500 at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2010.
In 2004, he entered Classic FM’s Hall of Fame at number eight, the highest position for a living composer, and has since been the highest-placed living composer, as well as, in 2006, number four amongst British composers.
2012 saw Karl release The Peacemakers CD on EMI Classics, a number one on the UK classical charts, and after its concert performance debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall, it was performed on a sell-out UK concert tour in Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Dublin and London’s Royal Festival Hall, with the composer conducting.
Karl is signed to Deutsche Grammophon Records in Berlin; his first release was a return to Adiemus, titled Colores, realised in June 2013. It has a Latin theme and features performances from Rolando Villazón, Portuguese Fado singer Cuca Roseta, guitarist Miloš Karadaglic ́, Pacho Flores trumpet and the Adiemus Singers from Finland. His most recent release Motets features arrangements of some of Karl’s most loved works, in motet form, sung by Polyphony and conducted by Stephen Layton. It has spent many weeks at number one on the classical music charts in the UK.
In his 70th birthday year Karl debuted two new commissions in October, a cantata Luke The Healer (recently broadcast by Classic FM), and a new orchestral piece in recognition of the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas and named after his fictitious village in Under Milk Wood entitled Llaerggub.
Karl holds a DMus (Doctor of Music) 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; has fellowships at Cardiff University, Swansea University, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Trinity College in Carmarthen and Swansea Metropolitan University; and was also presented by Classic FM with the Red F Award for Outstanding Service to Classical Music.
He has been the subject of ITV’s The South Bank Show by Lord (Melvyn) Bragg; as well as being a ‘castaway’ on Desert Island Discs; and had a BBC documentary made on his place as the most performed living composer, with endorsements from Bryn Terfel, Kiri Te Kanawa and Terry Waite, amongst many others.
Further awards include: an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Leicester; the Chancellor’s 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. In November 2009, he was given the Cymru for the World Award and, in March 2010, was honoured with the Hopkins Medal given by the St David’s Society for the State of New York.
He was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty The Queen in the 2005 New Year Honours list, a CBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours list, and in the 2015 Birthday Honours list, became the first Welsh born composer to receive a knighthood for services to composing and crossing musical genres.