Stephen Cleobury has for over quarter of a century been associated with one of the worlds most famous choirs, that of King’s College Cambridge. His work at King’s has brought him into fruitful relationships with many leading orchestras and soloists, among them the Academy of Ancient Music and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He complements and refreshes his work in Cambridge through the many other musical activities in which he engages.
At King’s, he has sought to maintain and enhance the reputation of the world-famous Choir, considerably broadening the daily service repertoire, commissioning new music from leading composers, principally for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, and developing its activities in broadcasting, recording and touring. He has conceived and introduced the highly successful annual festival, Easter at King’s, from which the BBC regularly broadcasts, and, in its wake, a series of high-profile performances throughout the year, Concerts at King’s. One of the most exciting innovations in this context was the first ever live simultaneous transmission of a concert (Handel Messiah) direct to cinemas across Europe and North America.
Between 1995 and 2007 he was Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers and since then has been Conductor Laureate. During his time with the Singers, he was much praised for creating an integrated choral sound from this group of first-class singers, all of whom are professional soloists in their own right. With the Singers he relished the opportunity to showcase challenging contemporary music and gave a number of important premieres, including Giles Swayne Havoc, Ed Cowie Gaia, and Francis Griers Passin, all these with the distinguished ensemble, Endymion. His many recordings with BBC Singers include albums of Tippett, Richard Strauss and Bach.
From 1983 to 2009 he was Conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society, one of the UK’s oldest music societies, a role in which he has not only conducted many orchestral works, but most of the major works for chorus and orchestra. Highlights have included Mahler Symphony No. 8 in the Royal Albert Hall and Britten War Requiem in Covertry Cathedral on the 50th anniversary of its bombing. His recordings with CUMS include Verdi Quattro Pezzi Sacri and Goehr The death of Moses. As part of the 800th anniversary celebrations of Cambridge University he gave the premiére of The Sorcerer’s Mirror by Peter Maxwell Davies.