Nocturne: Music & Poetry Recital in Barnes

Madeleine Mitchell
Madeleine Mitchell

Violinist Madeleine Mitchell, described by The Times as 'one of the UK's liveliest musical forces', created this wonderful programme together with distinguished Barnes poet and librettist, David Harsent, on the theme of Night. Included is Berkeley's 'Veilleuse' and the world premiere of a piece for violin and narrator celebrating nocturnal Barnes. Evocative music for violin and piano alternates with Harsent reading poems from his award-winning collection Night, plus the exquisite 1917 '3 Pieces' for violin and piano by Howells, including a Russian Lament. BMF regular Marc Verter is the pianist.

Nocturne: Music & Poetry Recital in Barnes took place at St. Mary's Church, Church Road, Barnes, London, SW13 9HL on Monday 13 March 2017.

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Michael Berkeley at the Christmas Eve recording of This Endernight in King's College Chapel
Michael Berkeley at the Christmas Eve recording of This Endernight in King's College Chapel

Michael Berkeley was commissioned to write a new Carol for 2016's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. It was broadcast around the world on Christmas Eve from King's College, Cambridge.

The anonymous C1400 text, This Endernight, is unusual for a carol in that it articulates the voice of the infant Jesus in dialogue with his mother. Ender or Endris means past or recent. Maternal feelings of tenderness are in abundance but there is also a knowingness about the importance of the event that is unfolding. It is an upbeat lullaby which looks forward to heavenly bliss and so culminates in a radiant cadence.

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols recorded at King's College Cambridge, King's Parade, Cambridge, CB2 1ST broadcast on Saturday 24 December 2016.

The choir sang This Endernight again on January 22 2017, and Michael delivered the sermon.

A digital download of This Endernight is available to download from iTunes.

New Berkeley works in 2016

2016 was a busy year for Michael and his music. Following very successful performances of Touch Light and the Lennox Berkeley Stabat Mater on Good Friday at the Aldeburgh Easter Music Festival, Typewriter Music received its public premiere in Australia, performed by Jenny Duck-Chong (mezzo-soprano) and Geoffrey Gartner (cello). Touch Light and Stabat Mater then moved to the Spitalfields and Cheltenham Festivals with Michael's Catch Me If You Can in the London concert and his Clarinet Quintet at Cheltenham. Next came the World Premiere of his Violin Concerto at the Proms and then in August new piano pieces, Haiku, for the Presteigne Festival (where the Clarinet Quintet was again heard but with different players). For more details of these and several other dates and the artists involved please see our Events page.

Touch Light is 'Beautifully created rapture'

Writing in Gramophone magazine, Marc Rochester described Touch Light, performed by the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble, as "a deliberate attempt to evoke the 'rapturous love duets' of Monteverdi and Purcell and 'a homage to these masters of early opera'. The musical language is far removed from the 17th century but the sense of great – almost erotic – rapture is beautifully created by Zoë Brookshaw and Rory McCleery in a performance of shimmering intensity." Read the full review here.

In a concert at Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh, Suffolk on March 25, Touch Light was partnered with Lennox Berkeley’s stark and affecting Stabat Mater – the setting of the medieval poem reflecting on the suffering of Christ’s mother by the Cross – commissioned by (and dedicated to) Britten, who conducted its UK premiere in the church nearly 70 years ago. Also on the programme was Lennox Berkeley’s a cappella Mass, Britten’s own settings of medieval poetry and the quicksilver exuberance of his youthful Sinfonietta. Performed by the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble, conducted by David Wordsworth.

After the performance the ensembles moved to Snape Maltings to record the Stabat Mater and Touch Light, together with Lennox Berkeley's Mass for five voices for Delphian Records, released on 22 July 2016.

"Commissioned by Britten as a "touring" companion piece to the first performances of The Rape of Lucretia in 1948, Stabat Mater shows Lennox Berkeley at his most beguilingly austere, with quasi-medieval vocal writing - Rory McCleery's alto solo is outstanding - fastidiously embroidered by chamber ensemble. His a cappella Mass and Judica Me are followed by a beautiful piece for soprano, alto and string quintet written for a wedding by his son, Michael." — Hugh Canning, Sunday Times

"Michael Berkeley's Touch Light (2005) looks back to the love duets to be found in the operas of Monteverdi and Purcell. His response is a rapturous one, richly expressive. The use of a soprano (Zoë Brookshaw), a countertenor (Rory McCleery) and a string quintet ravishes the senses. It’s a wonderful way to end an enlightening and enriching release, which is also excellent in terms of recording and presentation." — Colin Anderson, MusicWeb International

Stabat Mater: Sacred Choral Music by Lennox & Michael Berkeley is available from Presto Classical.

Clare Hammond (left), Robert Saxton (middle) and Michael Berkeley after the Haiku premiere

Piano in the Afternoon

As part of the Presteigne Festival, this concert featured the world premiere of Haiku, performed by Clare Hammond and commissioned especially for the festival. Also on the programme were works by Henri Dutilleux, Robert Saxton and Igor Stravinsky.

Piano in the Afternoon took place at St. Andrew's Church, Broad Street, Presteigne, Powys, LD8 2AF, Wales on Friday 26 August 2016.

Violin Concerto world premiere is highly acclaimed

Michael's new work, the Violin Concerto, has been received enthusiastically at the Royal Albert Hall on 27 July. It is dedicated to the memory of Michael's late wife, the literary agent Deborah Rogers, who died in 2014. It was performed by Chloë Hanslip and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Jac Van Steen. The concert also included excerpts from one of the most dramatic and colourfully scored of all ballets, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, in a highlight of the BBC Proms series marking 400 years since the death of Shakespeare.

Michael Berkeley, Chloë Hanslip and Petroc Trelawny at a Proms rehearsal

The Violin Concerto has been widely acclaimed by critics.

"Brittenesque in its haunting bareness and acerbic touches... [Berkeley] works like a master chef, seeking out ever more arresting combinations of flavours... Everything about it — perhaps especially the lacerating sound of the electric violin — paints a vivid, yet never over-sentimentalised, portrait of grief" —Hannah Nepil, Financial Times

"It certainly moved me, especially when the 25-minute structure finally reached its melodic core with the violin, lightly accompanied, echoing the theme of his earlier memorial piece, At a Solemn Wake. I cherished too those passing radiant textures, all the more precious for the minefield of explosions around." —Geoff Brown, The Times

"Hanslip takes up the raw electric violin for the finale, a ferocious outpouring of rage and grief, though a quiet coda in which she reverts to the standard instrument brings the work to a close in a mood of resignation. Her performance can only be described as a tour de force." —Tim Ashley, The Guardian

You can read more reviews here.

The Violin Concerto is published by Oxford University Press and is available for hire.

Julia Donaldson and the origins of The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson began her working life busking and writing songs, and when one of her songs became a children's book, her phenomenally successful career as an author was born. She's been the biggest selling author in Britain for the last six years. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has anything to do with young children, who adore her vibrant and funny rhyming picture books - which include A Squash and a Squeeze, The Snail and the Whale, and the tale of that much-loved monster, The Gruffalo.

Michael Berkeley and Julia Donaldson

On BBC Radio 3's Private Passions, Julia talks to Michael Berkeley about the origins of The Gruffalo - which has sold an astonishing 10 million copies - and the secret of writing for children. She remembers her student days busking with her husband-to-be in Paris and how much they enjoy singing and performing her stories together today.

Julia's music choices reflect her intensely musical background - her father's cello playing, her mother's love of lieder, and her own piano playing in pieces by Schubert, Haydn and Handel. Her love of storytelling is reflected in songs by Georges Brassens and Flanders and Swann.

'Odd Man Out' in Marylebone Edgelands exhibition

Edgelands is a cross-arts exhibition at St. Marylebone Parish Church Crypt, running from 14 April to 30 June 2016.

With six artists, twelve dancers, one viola player and the roar of the Marylebone Road traffic, the line-up is one of the more unusual cross-arts performances in London this spring.

The exhibition works explore and document the wastelands and neglected environs found on the margins of urban living. The dancers explore the spaces in and around the steps of the magnificent St. Marylebone Parish Church portico during the evening rush hour, with the accompanying sound of Michael's solo viola piece 'Odd Man Out'. The music provides a powerful, edgy soundscape. Moving down to the crypt there is a quiet coming together of sound, space and paintings.

Edgelands is a name dreamt up some 20 years ago to describe aspects of the changing face of Britain. The dance performance, choreographed by Lizzi Kew-Ross, is a realisation of the visual artists’ work and Kew Ross’s three-dimensional interpretations of mark and content.

A U.K. wide tour of the Edgelands exhibition will take place during 2016/17.

'Odd Man Out' in Marylebone Edgelands exhibition took place at St. Marylebone Parish Church, 17 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LT.

Musical Chairs selected for Brussels concert

Conducted by Thomas Van Haeperen, an ensemble from the European Contemporary Composers Orchestra (ECCO) performed six 21st century pieces by different European composers selected by the ECCO Artistic Committee, including Michael's Musical Chairs. Aiming to establish itself as a pan-European 'body of sound' dedicated to the performance, circulation and promotion of contemporary art music, ECCO had two very successful concerts in 2015 featuring ensembles such as Sturm und Klang and the BBC Singers.

The concert took place at the Flagey Cultural Center, Flageyplein, Brussels, on Tuesday 16 February 2016.

Angela Hewitt performs Cabaret Song in Vienna

Ian McEwan reads from his current book 'The Children Act' ('Kindeswohl'), from the German translation by Christiane von Poelnitz. Also on the programme Michael's song 'In love with the Nurse' (one of Three Cabaret Songs) and works by Bach, Britten, Mahler and Berlioz. Wiener Konzerthaus, Lothringerstrasse 20, Vienna, A-1030, Austria, Wednesday 9 December 2015.

St. Andrew's story told in new anthem

Wells Cathedral showcased new music from Sunday 11 to Thursday 15 October 2015. As the featured composer, Michael has written a new anthem which was premiered at Evensong in the Cathedral on Thursday 15th October. St Andrew is the patron saint of Wells Cathedral and The Tale of Andrew tells his story to words by Bishop Ken.

The anthem was performed again on 1 December 2015.

Re-Inventions performed by Britten Sinfonia on BBC Radio 3

The Britten Sinfonia performs works by Michael Berkeley, Nielsen and Patrick John Jones as part of their award-winning 'At Lunch' series in Cambridge. Michael Berkeley's Re-Inventions are based on the two and three-part inventions of J S Bach, whilst Uncanny Vale by York-based composer Patrick John Jones has pastoral influences. You can listen to the programme on BBC Radio Player until mid-November.

Listen, Listen in Dutch Premiere

Listen, Listen, O My Child was performed by Anthony Zielhorst and the Chamber Choir Ad Parnassum on November 1st 2015 in Abbey Koningshoeven Tilburg, Netherlands.

Strung with Poets' Sinews

The King's College London Centre for Modern Literature & Culture has commissioned Michael and two other composers to set to music words by contemporary poets, to be performed by the renowned Greek mezzo-soprano Angelica Cathariou.

The programme featured Michael Berkeley’s settings of David Malouf and Rainer Maria Rilke, alongside songs by Silvina Milstein, Nicola Moro and Luminata Spinu (setting poetry by John Fuller and Fiona Sampson), and Rob Keeley’s Stevie Smith songs. The recital was followed by a discussion between Silvina Milstein, Michael Berkeley and John Fuller (chaired by Lara Feigel) exploring the relationship between poetry and music.

Strung with Poets' Sinews was on October 16 2015.

Veilleuse at Venice Music Festival

On Sunday October 11, Little Venice Music Festival welcomed violinist Madeleine Mitchell and pianist Viv McLean, performing music by Beethoven and Franck along with Veilleuse (Night Watch), a haunting work by Michael Berkeley, who is Patron of the festival. Also on the programme was a virtuosic work by Bridge from Madeleine's popular album 'Violin Songs', which she played to great acclaim earlier this year at Wigmore Hall. St Saviour's is a warm, comfortable venue, easily accessible.

Madeleine also included the work in poetry and music for violin and piano at Poet in the City - a free event at Ligne Roset City on 8 October 2015.


Michael's new work Tango! received its premiere in Cardiff on 18 September at ¡Fiesta Sinfónica! Argentina. It was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by California-based Edwin Outwater, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 (you can also listen to the concert online for 30 days). The programme also included ballet music by Ginastera, and Buchardo's evocative Escenas Argentinas.

Wild Bells opens St. Paul's organ recital

Organist Tom Winpenny opened a short organ recital with Wild Bells at St Paul's Cathedral on 13th September at 4.45pm. Also on the programme was Saint-Saëns Prelude & Fugue in G and Willan's Introduction Passacaglia & Fugue.

Catch Me If You Can at Berekely Ensemble concert

Catch Me If You Can was performed by the Berkeley Ensemble at Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, on 23 August 2015 at 7.45pm. The concert also included Lennox Berkeley's Sonatine for clarinet and piano, which he composed in 1928 while a student of Nadia Boulanger.

Dartington International Summer School, Great Hall, Dartington Hall. With Libby Burgess, piano. Tickets: £18.50 reserved or £14.00 unreserved / Under 16s £9.25 reserved or £7 unreserved.

An Evening with Michael Berkeley

Friday 31 July at 8pm, The Saloon, Duncombe Park, Helmsley, North Yorks, YO62 5EB

An evening of music and conversation with Michael Berkeley. He talked about his life in music and introduced performances of some of his own ‘private passions’, including one of Fauré’s most magnificent works. The concert also included the world premiere of At a Solemn Wake – a new piece for cello and piano commissioned for the Ryedale Festival.

The programme included works by Mozart, Lennox Berkeley, Bridge, Britten, Poulenc, Fauré and Michael Berkeley:

Champagne Fanfare opens Ryedale Festival concert

The Aeðelfrìth brass ensemble performed a programme with a medieval flavour on 24 July at 11am at the Joan of Arc Hall, Botton Village, Whitby, Yorkshire. After the sparkling Champagne Fanfare by Michael Berkeley, they played a new piece reminiscing Yorkshire under Viking rule – a ‘call to arms’ featuring a pair of Danish Lurs. The programme also included Music from Chaucer, a piece inspired by Tallis and a new work by Simon Dobson to celebrate the special atmosphere of Botton’s Joan of Arc Hall and Holst’s famous evocation of the northern moorland landscapes of England.

Aeðelfrìth is a brass ensemble-based arts project, named after an ancient King of Northumbria and exploring connections between Anglian, Celtic and Nordic cultures.

Michael Berkeley is composer-in-residence of the Ryedale Festival. More of Michael's works are performed as follows. For full details, please see the Festival brochure.

How Composers Create Emotion

Michael Berkeley and Michael Trimble explored our emotional responses to music at the Holt Festival on Wednesday 22nd July at 2pm. The event was accompanied by music performed by Charlotte Tetley and Maki Sekiya, including Three Songs to Children.

Nash Ensemble accompany John Craxton exhibition

To accompany an exhibition of the work of John Craxton at Dorchester County Museum the Nash Ensemble performed Michael's Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine' on June 19th 2015. This work was written in memory of Craxton who was a close friend of the composer. Craxton's sister, Janet, the eminent oboist performed many works by both Michael and Lennox Berkeley.

Audience member Christopher Daly commented, "Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine' had a particular presence in the elegant surroundings of the museum, and its sonorities and textures clear. The Nash were of course excellent, and the music really well received by a discerning and appreciative audience. It had helped my enjoyment to have viewed the John Craxton paintings beforehand. Liz Waller chose the programme well; fine works well contrasted."

Archbishop chooses Listen, Listen, O My Child

26 December 2014

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs in December. Amongst his selection of music was Michael's Listen, Listen, O My Child, fast becoming a classic of choral repertoire. You can hear the programme on BBC Radio Player.

The Archbishop also chose Listen, Listen, O My Child alongside Christmas music from Bach and Britten when he appeared on Private Passions in December 2013.

Paddington film warmly received at premiere

November 2014

Michael Berkeley, Nicole Kidman and Michael Green
Michael Bond (right) with Michael Berkeley and
Nicole Kidman at the Paddington premiere

The family film Paddington received its premiere at the Leicester Square Odeon on 23 November 2014.  The famous series of books upon which the film is based were written by Michael's brother-in-law, Michael Bond.  Despite feeling some trepidation at the prospect of a big-screen adaptation, and the fear that Paddington might be let down, he is delighted with the result, giving the film "full marks".  It has been acclaimed by critics too – the Telegraph proclaims it "a total delight", whilst the Guardian says "as warm as an eiderdown and as fluffy as its feathers"Paddington opened across the UK on Friday 28 November 2014.

Cycle of Songs celebrates Tour de France Cambridge visit

July 2014

Michael has composed a new work Build This House for Cycle of Songs, a multi-media project devised by the award-winning Pilot Theatre and Historyworks to mark the Tour de France visit to Cambridge on 7 July 2014.

Cycle of Songs showcases and celebrates the talent and diversity of Cambridge and includes many local people of all ages sharing their voice and celebrating the city in song.

Nine pieces were commissioned from a wide range of composers and poets. They were inspired by historical research and based on words from original sources of fascinating and quirky stories at iconic locations along the Tour's route in Cambridge.

Michael writes, "My composition for Cycle of Songs is called Build This House and was performed by King's College Choristers. I've scored the work to be accompanied by primary school voices. I always enjoy finding new ways to make music and particularly with young singers. I have created a piece that will work in various contexts and with various forces. I love working at King's - great architecture and wonderful musicians. With the Anthem Listen, Listen, O My Child, which was commissioned for the Enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, I concentrated on paring things down and this new Anthem Build This House is modelled on a similar kind of skeleton."

You can hear the songs by downloading the free Cycle of Songs app. Apple users can download by clicking here and Android users can download it by clicking here.

• Michael's Listen, Listen, O My Child was included in a BBC Radio 3 broadcast from Canterbury Cathedral.

The Art of Fugue credits

The Art of Fugue at Royal Opera House

In the Royal Ballet's production 'Tetractys – The Art of Fugue', Michael collaborated with Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor to create 21st-century choreography set to Bach's 18th-century music. This exhilarating fusion took place between 7 and 15 February at the Royal Opera House as part of a mixed programme which also included the works Rhapsody and Gloria.

Michael's version uses a Mozart-sized orchestra and the piano has a prominent concertante/concerto role. On Monday 3 February 2014, Michael and Wayne spoke about their work at an event in the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House.

In summer 2014, The Royal Ballet took the production to Moscow. You can read more on the 'reviews' page of this website.

The Art of Fugue at Royal Opera House took place at Royal Opera House, Bow Street, London, WC2E 9DD on Friday 07 February 2014.

Read more about the summer 2014 Moscow production.

Michael discusses Britten and Sir John Tavener

12 November 2013

In an interview with the BBC's Newsnight, Michael reflects upon the life of his friend Sir John Tavener, who has died at the age of 69.

November 22 2013 marked Benjamin Britten's centenary. Michael, who was Britten's godson, has made several appearances in the media to discuss the composer's life and work.

On Thursday 21 November he appeared live on BBC Radio 3's In Tune at 4.30pm where he was interviewed by Suzy Klein.

BBC Four has screened the documentary Britten's Endgame where Michael talks about Britten's final years and the extraordinary creativity which led to the final opera Death in Venice.

On Sunday 24 November, BBC Radio 3's Private Passions featured Britten's music and was accompanied by a two-page interview in the Radio Times.

Michael joins Rayfield Allied

22 September 2013

Michael is pleased to announce that he has joined the Rayfield Allied agency. Established in 1971, Rayfield Allied is a highly respected independent agency for classical musicians, including conductors, singers, instrumentalists and composers. Its roster includes many distinguished artists, including the composers Harrison Birtwistle, Steve Reich and David Sawer.

New fanfare heralds Danish statue


Michael was commissioned by the town of Holstebro in Denmark to create a fanfare to accompany the the daily rising from the ground of their wonderful Giacometti statue. It descends every night for security reasons. This brought to mind the statue coming to life in Don Giovanni so the Champagne Fanfare is inspired by the opening phrase of the Champagne Aria from the opera.

Champagne Fanfare has been recorded for Holsteboro by Onyx Brass and Michael has also re-arranged it for the National Wind Youth Orchestra's summer tour to Switzerland.

Michael joins House of Lords

March 2013

Michael was introduced to the House of Lords on March the 26th as Lord Berkeley of Knighton, CBE. He will sit on the cross benches as a non-party political peer. Michael is a passionate advocate for the arts, contemporary music and music education. Commenting on the news, he said he is "very honoured" to be appointed. "I am particularly pleased that the Appointments Commission was keen to increase representation in the field of music and the arts," he continued.

The appointment, which has to be approved by the Queen, is made by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The entrepreneur and 'digital champion' Martha Lane Fox, who at 40 has become the youngest female peer, joined the House at the same time as Michael.

Michael's much lauded maiden speech can be read in Hansard (see subheading '14 May 2013: Column 284') or watched on Parliament Live TV (spool through to timecode 15:53:51).