New Berkeley works this year

This is a busy year for Michael and his music: Following a very successful concert on Good Friday at Blythburgh Church as part of the Aldeburgh Easter Music Festival, Touch Light and the Lennox Berkeley Stabat Mater move 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 comes 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 will again be heard but with different players). For more details of these and several other dates and the artists involved please go to our Events page.

Piano in the Afternoon

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

Piano in the Afternoon takes place at St. Andrew's Church, Broad Street, Presteigne, Powys, LD8 2AF, Wales on Friday 26 August 2016 at 2.00PM.

Tickets available from Presteigne Festival, Tel: 01544 267800.

Touch Light released by Delphian Records

Michael's Touch Light is an exquisite meditation on Monteverdi and Purcell. In a concert at Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh, Suffolk on March 25, it 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

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

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.

Tango!

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."

Three Cabaret Songs receive UK and US premieres

On 20 May at 8pm, Angela Hewitt and baritone Russell Braun gave the American Premiere of Three Cabaret Songs (words by Ian McEwan) at the 92Y in New York in a programme celebrating Ian's love of music in his work and life.

On 31 May 2015 at 7.30pm, Angela introduced the Trasimeno Festival's special atmosphere to the Wigmore Hall in London, partnering fellow Canadian Gerald Finley in Three Cabaret Songs, and joining the Remona Quartet for Franck's Piano Quintet in F minor.

Listen online:

Ten years have passed since Angela founded the Trasimeno Festival, a jewel in the cultural crown of Magione, Italy.

Laetentur coeli in King's evensong

Laetentur coeli, No. 5 of Eight Motets, was performed by the Choir of King's College Cambridge at the 5.30pm Evensong in King's College Chapel, Cambridge on 19 May 2015.

London Festival of Contemporary Church Music

Ego dilecto meo from Three Motets was performed by the internationally-renowned vocal ensemble the Marian Consort in a programme of British sacred music influenced by the music of the Renaissance, at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music in St Pancras Church, London, on 16 May 2015. From the austere beauty of Lennox Berkeley’s Mass for Five Voices to Gabriel Jackson’s alternatim Magnificat setting for Truro Cathedral, the programme was conceived as part of the liturgy of today, while capturing the essence of the past.

Berkeley works in David Malouf honorary concert

On Friday 30th April at the Michael Tippett Centre at Bath Spa University the Australian novelist, David Malouf, was given an Honorary Doctor of letters and to celebrate the occasion there was a concert featuring settings of Malouf by Michael including a scene from a possible opera based on The Winter's Tale (now the final song in the cycle, Winter Fragments) and Two poems for Mezzo and Cello. Malouf and Berkeley collaborated on two operas, Baa Baa Black Sheep and Jane Eyre. The University Choir also sang Michael's ever popular anthem, Listen, Listen, O My Child, written for the Enthronement of the current Archbishop of Canterbury.

Private Passions celebrates 20th anniversary

Michael has presented one of BBC Radio 3’s most popular and successful programmes, Private Passions (Sunday at 12 noon), for over 20 years. 2015 sees the show's 20th anniversary, with a special edition broadcast on 19th April. Read more...

Three Rilke Sonnets at Wigmore Hall

On 14 March at 6.00pm, Claire Booth (soprano) and the Nash Ensemble performed Three Rilke Sonnets at the Wigmore Hall. Nash Commissions preceded Turina and Falla at 7.30pm, when the Nash Ensemble performed a programme centred around the ballet music of Falla.

Berkeley Ensemble performs Berkeley, Beethoven and Schubert

On 12 March at 6.30pm in the Lindsey Suite, University of Hull, the Berkeley Ensemble presented two of the most famous chamber works of the First Viennese School together in one concert. Michael Berkeley follows Beethoven’s instrumental plan in Clarion Call and Gallop, written for the Ensemble in 2013. Schubert's ever-popular Trout Quintet and Beethoven's Septet both broke new ground in their unusual scoring.

Archbishop chooses Listen, Listen, O My Child

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.

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:

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

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 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

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.

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.

Tickets available from Royal Opera House.

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

2013

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).