“As a composer he recognises no boundaries – musical, commercial, geographical, or cultural. His is a way of thinking and composing that is perfectly in tune with the spirit of the times.” Classic FM
Sir Karl Jenkins, one of the world’s most performed living composers, is set to celebrate his 80th birthday in February 2024 with an array of events that showcase the enduring impact of his evocative, memorable and emotionally powerful music on music lovers around the globe.
The milestone year celebrates a musical legacy that has resisted categorisation, moving through jazz with Soft Machine, to film and advertising to large-scale choral and orchestral works which have graced historic occasions ranging from the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in New York to the King’s Coronation in May 2023. His career boasts 17 gold and platinum albums, over 1 billion streams, high prominence in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame and nearly 3,000 performances worldwide of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, a work that has remained in the UK Classical Chart for more than 18 years.
As well as an opportunity to reflect on a truly inspiring career, the year also features world and UK premiere performances of new works by Sir Karl. Sir Karl conducts the world premiere performance of his latest work One World at Brucknerhaus, Linz, on 19 November. The work, commissioned by World Orchestra for Peace and World Choir for Peace who lead the performance, brings together more than 600 performers from more than 30 countries. Sir Karl has dedicated the work ‘to UNESCO - in recognition and appreciation of more than 75 years of advocacy, through culture, for dialogue, peace and reconciliation.’ In keeping with the themes of the work, the concert has been designated UNESCO Concert for Peace 2023 and will be available to watch worldwide via livestream and the Classic FM website. The performance also includes world-class soloists such as soprano Ruby Hughes, as well as mezzo-soprano Kathyrn Rudge and baritone Roderick Williams who both featured on the One World recording which reached Number One in the UK Classical chart.
March 2024 sees the UK premiere of his saxophone concerto Stravaganza, written for and performed by star saxophonist Jess Gillam. The piece was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and explores themes of carnival and extravagant fantasy, inspired by Gillam’s experience of learning the saxophone at a carnival. Gillam gave the world premiere performance of the work in June 2023 in Berlin. Due to be performed in Cardiff with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under conductor Nil Venditti on St David’s Day [1 March - tbc], the concert also features Sir Karl’s work Dewi Sant, performed by the BBC National Chorus of Wales and National Youth Choir of Wales.
Another brand-new work from Sir Karl, Fragile Earth, receives its world premiere performance on 6 April 2024 from the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, of which Karl is an Honorary Fellow. The centrepiece of Sir Karl’s 80th birthday year celebrations is a major 6-date UK concert tour, conducted by the composer himself. Touring across the UK in March and April 2024, the concerts feature some of his most beloved works including The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, Adiemus and Palladio, as well as the UK premiere of music from One World. Starting at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 10 March with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Crouch End Festival Chorus, the tour then travels to Glasgow [17 March], Birmingham [30 March], Nottingham [6 April], Cardiff [13 April] and Manchester [14 April].
The opening event of the 80th birthday year at Carnegie Hall in New York encapsulates Sir Karl’s truly international reach and his power to bring people together. The Music of Sir Karl Jenkins (80th Birthday Celebration) takes place on 15 January 2024 (Martin Luther King Day), featuring choirs from all over the world to perform his music and to meet the composer. Organised by Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY), performances of Sir Karl’s music have taken place on Martin Luther King Day in New York every year since 2008, excluding the pandemic.
Classic FM, which has long championed Sir Karl and his music, is planning to celebrate the birthday with exclusive programming in 2024 and, for the first time Sir Karl will be the subject of BBC Radio 3’s flagship programme ‘Composer of the Week’ in February 2024.
Further performances, recordings and events will be announced in due course.