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Karl William Jenkins OBE D.Mus. (born 17 February 1944) is a Welshmarker musician and composer. Jenkins was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year Honours list of 2005.


Jenkins was born and raised in the Gowermarker village of Penclawddmarker. His father, who was a local schoolteacher, organist, and choirmaster, gave him his initial musical instruction. Karl Jenkins attended Gowerton Grammar School in Swansea.

Jenkins began his musical career as an oboist in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. He went on to study music at University College, Cardiffmarker, and then commenced postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Musicmarker, where he also met his wife and musical collaborator, Carol Barratt.

Career overview

For the bulk of his early career, he was known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing variously: baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards, and oboe, an unusual instrument in a jazz context. He joined jazz composer Graham Collier's group and later co-founded the jazz-rock group Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970. He joined the Canterburymarker progressive rock band Soft Machine in 1972 and co-led their very last performances in 1984. The group defied categorisation and played venues as diverse as The Proms, Carnegie Hallmarker, and the Newport Jazz Festival. The album on which Jenkins first played with Soft Machine, Six, won the Melody Maker British Jazz Album of the Year award in 1973. Jenkins also won the miscellaneous musical instrument section (as he did the following year). Soft Machine was voted best small group in the Melody Maker jazz poll of 1974. After Mike Ratledge left the band in 1976 Soft Machine did not include any of its founding members, but kept recording on a project basis with line-ups revolving around Jenkins and drummer John Marshall. Balanced against Melody Maker's positive view of the Soft Machine of 1973 and 1974, Hugh Hopper, involved with the group since replacing bassist Kevin Ayers in 1968, cites Jenkins's "third rate" musical involvement in his own decision to leave the band, and the band of the late 1970s has been described by band member John Etheridge as wasting its potential..In November 1973, Jenkins and Ratledge participated in a live-in-the-studio performance of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells for the BBC. It is available on Oldfield's Elements DVD.

Jenkins has created a good deal of advertising music, twice winning the industry prize in that field. Perhaps his most-heard piece of music is the classical theme used by De Beers diamond merchants for their famous television advertising campaign focusing on jewellery worn by people who are otherwise seen only in silhouette. He later included it as the title track in a compilation of various works called Diamond Music, and eventually created Palladio, using it as the theme of the first movement.

As a composer, his breakthrough came with the crossover project Adiemus. Jenkins has conducted the Adiemus project in Japanmarker, Germanymarker, Spainmarker, Finlandmarker, the Netherlandsmarker, and Belgiummarker, as well as London's Royal Albert Hallmarker and Battersea Power Stationmarker. The Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary (1995) album sold well enough where it topped the classical album charts. It spawned a series of successors, each revolving around a central theme.

Jenkins was the first international composer and conductor to conduct the University of Johannesburgmarker Kingsway Choir led by Renette Bouwer, during his visit to South Africa as the choir performed his The Armed Man: A mass for peace together with a 70 piece orchestra.

He is also a joint president of the British Double Reed Society.

Awards and achievements

Jenkins holds a doctorate in music from the University of Wales. He has been made both a fellow and an associate of the Royal Academy of Musicmarker, and a room has been named in his honour. He also has fellowships at Cardiff Universitymarker, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthenmarker, Swansea Institute and was presented by Classic FM with the Red f award for outstanding service to classical music.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Leicestermarker, the Chancellor's Medal from the University of Glamorganmarker and honorary visiting professorships at Thames Valley University, London College of Musicmarker and the ATriUM, Cardiffmarker.

He was awarded an OBE, by the Queen in the 2005 New Years Honours List "for services to music".

Partial list of works


Greatest Hits collection

  • The Best of Adiemus

Other works


External links

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