Britten Sinfonia perform Re-inventions

Re-inventions, based on the famous two-part Inventions of J S Bach, were included in a series of lunchtime recitals given by the Britten Sinfonia:

  • St Andrew's Hall, Norwich, Friday 28 November at 1pm
  • West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, Tuesday 02 December at 1pm
  • Wigmore Hall, London, Wednesday 03 December at 1pm

Also on the programme were works by Crawford Seeger, Patrick John Jones and Nielson.

New Paddington film warmly received at premiere

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

The new family film Paddington received its premiere at the Leicester Square Odeon on 23 November.  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 opens across the UK on Friday 28 November.

Michael talks about Private Passions at Hampstead Arts Festival

Michael presents one of BBC Radio 3's most successful programmes, Private Passions (Sunday at 12 noon), in which guests discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives. In conversation with Piers Plowright, Michael talked about his own private passions at Burgh House, New End Square, London NW3 1LT at 7.30 on Monday 17th November.

Sing a Song of Praise performed again at King's

Sing a Song of Praise (Build This House) was again performed at Choral Evensong on Sunday, November 16th by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, directed by Stephen Cleobury. You can hear the performance here - click on 'Evensong: Sunday 16 November 2014', then on 'Introit - Build This House'.

Michael leads young composers' masterclass

Michael led a Masterclass for young composers for the Berkeley Ensemble at The Forge, Camden Town in London on Sunday, November 9th.

Michael gives lecture in Aberdeen

In a lecture on Thursday 30 October at King's College Chapel, University of Aberdeen Music Department, Michael talked about the role and power of music in society. This followed a concert in which Paul Mealor conducted Listen, Listen, O My Child and students performed a variety of pieces by Michael and his father, Lennox.

St. Paul's Sinfonia perform Fantasia Concertante

Greenwich-based St. Paul's Sinfonia performed Michael's Fantasia Concertante as part of their concert on Friday 17 October 2014, at St Stephen's Church, Granville Grove, Lewisham SE13 5AF. Also on the programme was Richard Strauss Horn Concerto No. 2 (with Timothy Jackson, French horn), Piazzolla's Oblivion and Haydn's Symphony No. 104 'London'.

Joyful Company of Singers perform works by Lennox and Michael Berkeley

This concert was given by the Joyful Company of Singers to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Lennox Berkeley. On the programme was Listen, Listen, O My Child and Three Motets by Michael Berkeley, Mass for Five Voices and Three Motets by William Byrd and Three Latin Motets, Mass for Five Voices and Sonatina by Lennox Berkeley. Tickets £15 (£12 concessions).

The concert was preceded by an interview with Michael and his brother Julian, who were choristers at Westminster Cathedral when Lennox wrote his Mass for Five Voices for the choir. Tony Scotland, author of the biography Lennox and Freda, talked to them about their father's sacred music and the faith that inspired it.

Saturday 18 October, Church of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, Holborn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2DQ

BBC Singers' 90th Birthday Concert

On Monday 22 September on BBC Radio 3, Verity Sharp introduced the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in recent performances and recordings, and celebrated the BBC Singers' 90th birthday. Michael was Composer in Association with BBC NOW in the early 2000s. The orchestra performed Michael's Gregorian Variations along with a rare chance to hear Lennox Berkeley's unaccompanied choral work The Hill of the Graces, commissioned by the BBC Singers in 1975. Also featured was Merseyside Echoes by the British composer Peter Dickinson, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year.

Michael Berkeley works at Presteigne Festival

The Presteigne Festival programme included several works by Michael.

In Dances, Fierce Tears and Conversations, Ilid Jones (oboe) and Richard Uttley (piano) performed Fierce Tears I and Fierce Tears II on Saturday 23 August at 2pm at St Andrew's Church, Presteigne, LD8 2AF, Wales.

In Joyful Company A Cappella, The Joyful Company of Singers conducted by Peter Broadbent performed Listen, Listen, O My Child on Saturday 23 August at 4.30pm at St. Mary's Parish Church, Pembridge, HR6 9EA, Wales.

In To a Poet, Christopher Foster (baritone) and Chris Hopkins (piano) perform Hollow Fires on Monday 25 August at 11:30am at Assembly Rooms, Presteigne, LD8 2AD, Wales.

Enniskillen Beckett Festival

Michael recently took part in the acclaimed Enniskillen Beckett Festival 2014, Happy Days, where he was in conversation with Alfred Brendel.

Fierce Tears I 'On This Island'

James Turnbull (Oboe) and Elizabeth Burgess (Piano) performed Fierce Tears I on Saturday 23 August at 1pm at The Tabernacle, Heol Penrallt, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 8AJ, Wales. 'On This Island' was one of a series of concerts in the 2014 Machynlleth Festival, a week of inspiring music making, lunchtime, evening and late night concerts, talks, interviews and masterclasses.

Cycle of Songs celebrates Tour de France Cambridge visit

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 recently included in a BBC Radio 3 broadcast from Canterbury Cathedral. It is available to hear for a limited time on BBC iplayer.

Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine' at Grassington Festival

World famous oboist Nicholas Daniel and the Carducci String Quartet team up for an evening of high-class music making. Features Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine' by Michael Berkeley (recently recorded to rave reviews), Piazzolla's 4 for Tango and Haydn's famous Joke quartet. 17 June 2014 at 8pm, Town Hall, 1 Moor Lane, Grassington, BD23 5AA.

The same group also performed Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine' and a quintet by Arnold Bax, plus the fiery Spanish Toreador's Prayer by Turina and Haydn's Joke quartet on Friday 6 June 2014 at 7pm, Burgess Hall, One Leisure, Westwood Road, St Ives, PE27 6WU.

Three Rilke Sonnets at Wigmore Hall

Alongside Michael's Three Rilke Sonnets, this concert features the world première of Anxiety Fanfare and Variations for Voices, a new work by Jocelyn Pook commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation for 'Anxiety 2014'. A unique collaboration between the Wigmore Hall, Aurora Orchestra and the Mental Health Foundation, the première was performed on 12 June 2014 at 1pm by Aurora Orchestra with the Mind and Soul Choir at the Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore St, London, W1U 2BP.

Jane Eyre in 'Storms Rock the Air'

The National Opera Studio included scenes from Jane Eyre in their contemporary opera production Storms Rock the Air that took place on 1 and 2 April.

Veilleuse at Bangor Music Festival

As part of the Night and Day recital, Veilleuse (Night Watch) was performed by violinist Madeleine Mitchell at the Bangor New Music Festival on March 12th, 2014 in the Main Arts Building, Bangor University, Bangor, LL57 2DG, Gwynedd, Wales.

Berkeley Ensemble performs Clarion Call at album launch concert

Clarion Call album cover

On 3 March 2014, The Berkeley Ensemble performed Clarion Call and Gallop, a new work by Michael Berkeley commissioned for the ensemble, as part of a concert to launch their debut album Clarion Call. The programme also included works by Charles Wood, Howard Ferguson and John Casken alongside Beethoven's Septet. The event was kindly hosted by Bob and Elisabeth Boas at 22 Mansfield Street, London W1G 9NR. More programme details here.

“A high spirited and buoyant piece” – Planet Hugill review

The following day on 4 March, The Berkeley Ensemble performed Clarion Call on BBC Radio 3's In Tune with Suzy Klein.

The Art of Fugue credits

The Art of Fugue at Royal Opera House

In the Royal Ballet's latest production Tetractys – The Art of Fugue, Michael has 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, 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 here.

Oboe Quintet on new CD Into the Ravine

Into the Ravine CD

The Carducci Quartet is joined by oboist Nicholas Daniel for three world premieres written specially for them and premiered at the Presteigne Festival. Michael's Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine' appears with John McCabe's String Quartet No. 7 'Summer Eves' and Adrian Williams' String Quartet No. 4.

Meditations and Elegy at Britten in Oxford Festival

The third movement from the Concerto for Oboe, Elegy, was performed by the Oxford Chamber Orchestra on 30 November at the University Church Oxford.

Michael Berkeley's Meditations with the Southbank Sinfonia and Nicholas Cleobury (conductor) was performed at St. John's Waterloo on Thursday 19 September, and at Northwall, Oxford on September 20.

Michael discusses Britten and Sir John Tavener

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 introduces Britten at Ardingly College

As part of the Benjamin Britten Centenary Concert, Ardingly College welcomed Michael, Britten's Godson, to open the concert with a short talk about the composer. Lord Berkeley's own composition Listen, listen, O My Child, written for the recent Enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was also performed. The Independent described it as "a musical highlight, a soaring anthem."


Benjamin Britten: Sinfonietta op. 1
Britten: A Hymn to the Virgin
Michael Berkeley: Seven
Britten: Friday Afternoons selection


Britten: Jubilate in C
Berkeley: Listen, listen, O My Child
Britten: A Ceremony of Carols selection
Britten: Rejoice in the Lamb

Benjamin Britten Centenary Concert at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex on Thursday 21 November.

Michael joins Rayfield Allied

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.

ABC radio's Andrew Ford talks to Michael

Newly appointed to the Lords, Michael sat down with Australian radio host Andrew Ford in the House of Lords to speak of the enduring importance of the arts and music in public life, finding his own unique musical voice among the holy cacophony of his household companions, and the nature of great artistic brains. The interview was broadcast on 28 September, but you can still download and listen from the ABC website.

The programme included performances from Michael's Baa Baa Black Sheep (Overture) and Concerto for Oboe (Elergy).

Touch Light appears in Danish concerts

Touch Light was performed in Rundetaarn, Copenhagen on September 15th. It was also on October 5th in Holstebro with Janne Thomsen (flute) and Michala Petri (recorder).

Wessex Graves at Gregynog

Royal harpist Hannah Stone and superb young tenor Nicky Spence performed a recital including extracts from that historic Pears/Ossian Ellis performance at Gregynog on 4 September, as well as Wessex Graves (for tenor and harp) written for Pears and Ellis by Michael Berkeley.

Ode - In memoriam at Presteigne Festival

On Tuesday 27 August, Ode - In Memoriam was performed at St Michael's Church, Discoed, as part of the Presteigne Festival.

Also on the programme in the Cello In The Afternoon concert was:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Suite in D minor, BWV1008 (Huw Watkins Prelude)
  • Jon Opstad - Distant Places (World premiere of a Presteigne Festival commission)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Suite in E flat, BWV1010

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.

Abstract Mirror at Lake District Summer International Festival

On Saturday 10 August, Abstract Mirror for string quintet was performed by the Chilingirian Quartet at the Ambleside Parish Church. Also performed was be the Beethoven Quartet in F minor and Brahms Sextet in B flat.

New Cabaret Songs debut at Trasimeno Festival

The Trasimeno Festival in Italy was the venue for the first performance of the new work Three Cabaret Songs to words by Ian McEwan. These songs were commissioned by Angela Hewitt who performed them with the renowned Canadian Soprano, Barbara Hannigan, on July 3rd 2013.

New Archbishop Anthem is well-received

Michael's new Anthem for the Enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Listen, listen, O My Child, has received widespread praise with The Independent calling it 'a musical highlight... a soaring anthem'. Fred Hiltz, the Archbishop of Canada, commented, "It began as a gentle whisper. 'Listen, Listen, O my Child, Listen carefully to your teacher's guidance. Incline the ear of your heart, Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving Father's advice.' That gentle whisper swelled into a chorus that reverberated in every alcove in that vast cathedral. And then as powerfully as it had spoken to everyone in that great congregation, it quietened to a whisper again."

You can get a good flavour of the piece from a posting on Youtube.

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).

Britten talk at Charleston Festival

Michael appeared at the Charleston Festival on 26 May with Ronald Blythe, Sir Nicholas Kenyon and Alex Jennings to talk about Britten.

Michael will also be at the Cheltenham Science and Music Festivals, the Lake District Summer Music Festival, the Trasimeno Festival in Italy (where Barbara Hannigan and Angela Hewitt will premiere the new Three Cabaret Songs to specially written words by Ian McEwan), The Oxford Britten Festival and the Presteigne Festival.

Michael and Catherine Wyn-Rogers discuss English music

On Good Friday 29 March, Michael and Catherine Wyn-Rogers met as part of the Easter at King's College Cambridge Festival. They discussed the concert that followed later in an evening of extraordinary 20th century English gems: Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, Lennox Berkeley's Four Poems of St Teresa of Avila and Howells' Stabat Mater. The concert was performed by Catherine along with John Daszak (tenor), the Philharmonia Chorus, BBC Concert Orchestra and Stephen Cleobury (conductor).

Britten's moving Sinfonia looks ahead to his monumental War Requiem. Berkeley's work centres on the love between Man and God in amatory style. Howells' masterpiece, inspired by the Pietà of Michelangelo is his last and arguably finest choral work, contrasting desolation of the spirit with supreme choral glory. For more information, download a flyer here.

Nash Ensemble give second performance of Three Rilke Sonnets with Claire Booth

Three Rilke Sonnets was performed as part of the Nash Inventions — David Matthews 70th Birthday Concert on March 19 2013 at the Wigmore Hall.

The evening began at 6.00pm with the pre-concert event Composers in Focus. The concert programme followed at 7.30pm and included:

  • David Matthews: Clarinet Quartet
  • James Francis Brown: A Dream and a Dance for flute, clarinet, harp & string quartet (Nash commission premiere)
  • Michael Berkeley: Three Rilke Sonnets
  • David Matthews: A Blackbird Sang (flute, violin, viola and cello — Nash commission premiere)
  • Julian Anderson: Prayer for solo viola
  • David Matthews: The Sleeping Lord

Performed by Claire Booth (soprano), Lawrence Power (viola), Philippa Davies (flute) and Richard Hosford (clarinet)

Fierce Tears II at Luton Music Club

James Turnbull gave a performance of Fierce Tears II at Luton Music Club on March 18 2013. Roger Wright talked to Petroc Trelawny about British Music, with music provided by The Berkeley Ensemble. James has also just recorded Three Moods for unaccompanied oboe on the Champs Hill Records Label (CHRCD051). These were originally written for Janet Craxton who gave the first performance in Knighton in 1978.

Michael works with young composers on new string quartets

Michael and members of the Berkeley Ensemble were joined by young composers as they worked on new works for string quartet. The event followed the Ensemble's concert at The Forge, Camden on 10 February 2013 at 11am. Composers were invited to submit works for string quartet of up to eight minutes, preferably accompanied by a recording of either a live performance or electronic realisation. For more details, please download a flyer here.

Your hearing!

Calling all musicians and music lovers, not to mention everyone else who wants to retain their hearing. Michael has made a programme for Radio 4, broadcast on Tuesday December 4 2012 at 16:00 showing how the misdagnosis of a virus from a common cold can lead to permanent hearing loss.

How the 9 million people in this country (yes – that's 9-10% of the population) who wrestle with hearing problems but do not get amplification could be risking other cognitive impairment and even dementia, according to the latest research.

How (yes, you have guessed) the level at which we listen to music (particularly on ear buds and particularly distorted pop sounds) is, according to the leading researcher in the field) "a time bomb of hearing loss".

Michael made this programme purely because if he can help stop just one person from undergoing the hearing loss he suffered (through GP ignorance of the subject) it will have been worthwhile.

It is ultimately a redemptive, if frightening, programme because composers can write from their head but also because the brain has the plasticity to re-wire, re-process the hearing of music and filter out distortion and especially if its owner is a musician.

Moray Welsh performs Iberian Notebook in Hay

Moray Welsh performed Iberian Notebook along with two of Bach's cello suites at Richard Booth's Bookshop in Hay on Wye on Sunday 25 November 2012. The concert was preceded by a screening of the inspiring Rostropovich film by John Bridcut which features Moray.

Oboe Quintet at Nicholas Daniel birthday concert

Continuing his birthday celebrations, Nicholas Daniel was joined by the Carducci String Quartet to perform Michael's new Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine'. The line-up of artists and repertoire also included harpsichordist Maggie Cole, who joined Nicholas for Bach, and the Haffner Wind Ensemble who performed Ravel's enchanting Mother Goose Suite.

Nicholas wrote, "In addition to the fabulous pieces already programmed, a number of composers are writing me musical birthday cards to play. It will also be a family occasion as I'll be welcoming my two sons Alastair and Patrick on stage to perform some West End stage songs."

Nicholas Daniel & Friends was on Thursday, 4 October 2012 at King's Place.

Berkeley Ensemble
Berkeley Ensemble

Fierce Tears in Berkeley Ensemble 'Stealing, Borrowing and Remembering' concert

On 19 September 2012, the Berkeley Ensemble launched a series of five concerts at the Forge, Camden with an evening of music that included Fierce Tears II. Also on the programme was Poulenc (Sonata for clarinet and bassoon), Lennox Berkeley (Quintet for piano and winds), Woolrich (Favola in Musica) and Mozart (Quintet for piano and winds).

The Stealing, Borrowing and Remembering series of concerts explores how two twentieth-century masters, Igor Stravinsky and Lennox Berkeley, responded to the music of the past, re-working it in their own compositions before ultimately becoming historical figures themselves for the generation that followed. Download a flyer here.

The Berkeley Ensemble is named after Michael and Lennox Berkeley. It champions British music and unfairly neglected works alongside the standard chamber music repertory.

New Oboe Quintet at Leicester International Music Festival

The new Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine', premiered in August at the Presteigne Festival, was next performed at the Leicester International Music Festival by the Carducci String Quartet. The concert took place on September 13 2012 at the New Walk Museum. The programme also included Haydn's String Quartet No. 63 in Bb. There was also a screening of Collision.

Michael Berkeley works at Presteigne Festival

Several of Michael's works have been performed at the Presteigne Festival in Wales.

Firstly, Michael's new Oboe Quintet 'Into the Ravine' for Nicholas Daniel and the Carducci String Quartet was premiered on Sunday 26th August at 7.30pm in St. Andrew's Church (read review here).

The following day (Monday 27th August 2012), Gillian Keith, with Simon Lepper at the piano, sang Nettles, also in St. Andrew's Church. Later that day at 7pm Nicholas Daniel performed Snake for Cor Anglais. Later in the evening in a concert at St. Michael's Church, Discoed, Gemma Rosefield played Ode - In Memoriam.

Learn more from the Presteigne Festival brochure.

Michael Berkeley at Buckingham Palace
Michael Berkeley is appointed a CBE at Buckingham Palace

Michael Berkeley appointed a CBE

Michael Berkeley was appointed a CBE for services to music in the Queen's Birthday Honours published on June 16th 2012.