Kenneth Leighton

A recent discovery of mine is the music of this man. I performed a piece of his, and my first thought was, "this sounds like music from the planet of the apes!" but I was to grow more fond of the piece as time past and now I wnat a recording of it.. but alas, he it's well known enough to have his music widely recorded. He died in 1989, after having taught at the University of Edinburgh for most of his life.

Reid Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh 1970-1988
With the death of Kenneth Leighton in 1988 the world lost a composer of great distinction. He was born in Wakefield on October 2 1929, was a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral and educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. In 1946, while still at school he gained the LRAM Piano Performer's diploma.
In 1947 he went up to The Queen's College, Oxford, on a Hastings Scholarship in Classics; in 1951 he graduated both BA in Classics, and BMus. (having studied with Bernard Rose). In the same year he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship and went to Rome to study with Petrassi.
Kenneth Leighton was Professor of Theory at the Royal Naval School of Music 1952-1953, and Gregory Fellow in Music at the University of Leeds 1953-55. In 1955 he was appointed Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh where he was made Senior Lecturer and then Reader; in 1968 he returned to Oxford as University Lecturer in Music and Fellow of Worcester College.
In October 1970 he was appointed Reid Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh, the post which he held until his death in 1988.
Kenneth Leighton was one of the most distinguished of British post-war composers; over 100 compositions are published, many of which were written to commission, and his work is frequently performed and broadcast both in Britain and abroad.
Among the many prizes for composition awarded to him were the Busoni Prize (1956), the National Federation of Music Societies Prize for the best choral work of the year (1960), the City of Trieste First Prize for a new symphonic work (1965), the Bernard Sprengel Prize for chamber music (1966) and the Cobbett Medal for distinguished services to chamber music (1967).
In 1970 he was awarded the Doctorate in Music by the University of Oxford, and in 1977 was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of St Andrews for his work as a composer. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1982.
As a pianist Kenneth Leighton was a frequent recitalist and broadcaster, both as soloist and in chamber music. He recorded his piano music for the British Music Society and conducted many performances and broadcasts of his own music. His discography is extensive and expanding.
It is hoped that with the formation of The Kenneth Leighton Trust interest in and appreciation of his music will continue to grow.
(from the U. Edinburgh Leighton site)

Some of Leighton's works:up

  • A Christmas Carol Opus 21 (1953) Bar Solo/SATB/Org
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Madgalenae Oxonienses) (1959) SATB/Org
    Commissioned by Bernard Rose and the choir of Magdalen College, Oxford.
  • Crucifixus pro nobis Opus 38 (1961) T or S Solo/SATB/Org
    Composed for David Lumsden and the Choir of New College, Oxford.
  • Alleluia, Amen (Festival Anthem) (1961) Bar Solo/SATB/Org
    Commissioned for the 50th anniversary of St Nicholas Parish Church, Coventry 1962.
  • Give me the wings of faith Opus 21 (1962) S & Bar Soli/SATB/Org
    Commissioned for the Patronal Festival of the Church of St John the Baptist, Leytonstone, London in June 1962.
  • Missae Sancti Thomae Opus 40 (1962) Soli/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and dedicated to St Thomas Beckett to mark the 800th anniversary of his consecration as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162.
  • O leave your sheep(1962) S Solo/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by Novello for the collection Sing Nowell.
  • Te Deum laudamus (1964) S and Bar Soli/SATB/Org
    Commissioned for the Festival Service in honour of St Cecilia at the Church of St Sepulchre, Holborn, London on November 24 1964.
  • Communion Service in D Opus 45 (1965) Uni or SATB/Org
    Commissioned by the Church Music Society.
  • Let all the world in every corner sing (1965) SATB/Org
    Commissioned for the Church of St Matthew, Northampton.
  • Jubilate Deo (1966) SATB/Org
    Commissioned by OUP.
  • Morning Canticles (Jubilate Deo, Te Deum, Venite) (1966) Uni &/or SATB/Org
    Commissioned for the Centenary Thanksgiving Service of Monkton Combe School.
  • O God enfold me in the sun (1967) SATB/Org
    Commissioned by the Church of St. Philip & St. James, York.
  • Solus ad victimam (1968) SATB/Org
    Commissioned by OUP for Book 1 of Anthems for Choirs.
  • An Easter Sequence Opus 55 (1958) SS/Org/Trpt
    Commissioned by the Berkshire Boy Choristers.
  • Hymn Tunes (1969-70)
    Commissioned for the Church Hymnary 3rd Edition.
    • Dunoon
    • Mayfield
    • Colinton
    • Blackford
    • Headington
  • Gloria in excelsis (1969) Uni/Org
    Commissioned for the Church Hymnary 3rd edition.
  • Advantante Deo (1970) SATB/Org
    Commissioned by David Patrick and the Choir of Barnet Parish Church.
  • The Second Service (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis)Opus 62 (1971) SATB/Org
    Commissioned by the Cathedral Organists Asssociation in memoriam Brian Runnett.
  • The Sarum Mass Opus 66 (1972) Soli/SSATB/Org
    Commissioned by the Southern Cathedrals Festival 1973.
  • Sanctus, Benedictus and Memorial Acclamation (1973) Uni/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by Geoffrey Chapman for Sing the Mass.
  • Mass for Ampleforth Opus 67 (1973) Uni/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by Ampleforth Abbey.
  • O Sacrum Convivum (1975) S Solo/SS/Org
    For the boys of Ampleforth.
  • Sequence for All Saints Opus 75 (1977) Bar Solo/Uni/SATB/Org
    • Introit
    • Gradual
    • Offertory
    • Communion
    • Finale
    Commissioned by the West Riding Cathedrals Festival with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain.
  • Awake my glory (Festival Anthem) Opus 79 (1980) S Solo/SATB/Org
    Commissioned for its centenary by the St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, with the aid of funds provided by the Scottish Arts Council.
  • Missa Cornelia Opus 81 (1979) SSA/Org
    Commissioned by St Leonards-Mayfield School.
  • These are Thy wonders Opus 84 (1981) Org
  • Fanfare on Newtoun (1983) 2 Br. Qrts./SATB/Org
    Commissioned by the University of Edinburgh for its 400th anniversary.
  • The world's desire (A Sequence for Epiphany) Opus 91 (1984) Soli/Uni/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by the BBC.
  • Missa Sancti Petri (1979) STB Soli/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by Peterborough Cathedral for its 750th anniversary with funds provided by the Eastern Arts Association.
  • Missa Christi (1988) STB Soli/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis for its 150th year.
  • The beauty of Holiness (Festival Anthem) (1988) Mez-S Solo (op. S Chorus)/SATB/Org
    Commissioned by the Presbyterian Association of Musicians for the Bicentennial Celebration of the Presbyterian Church in America.
  • Pater Noster (1948) SATB
  • Three Carols Opus 25 (1948-56) S Solo/SATB
    • The Star Song Opus 25a SATB
    • Lully, lulla Opus 25b SATB
    • An Ode on the birth of Christ our Saviour Opus 25c SATB
  • Nativitie (1956) SATB
  • God's Grandeur (1957) SSAATTBB
  • A hymn of the Nativity (1960) S Solo/SATB
  • Wassail all over the town (1964) S Solo/SATB
  • Preces and Responses (1964) SATB
    Written for Dennis Townhill and the choir of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh.
  • Mass Opus 44 (1964) Soli/SATBSATB/(Org)
    Written for Herrick Bunney and the Edinburgh University Singers.
  • 2 Single Chants for Psalm 99 (1965) SATB
    Written for the Borders Cathedrals Festival.
  • Lift up your head O ye gates (1966) SATB
    Commissioned by Christ's Hospital, Horsham for a Service of Thanksgiving.
  • Quam Dilecta! (1967) S Solo/SATB
  • Missa Brevis Opus 50 (1967) SATB
  • Three psalms Opus 54 (1966) Soli/Male Chr.
  • London Town (part-song) (1968) S & T Soli/SATB
    Commissioned by the New London Singers.
  • Of a Rose is all my song (1970) S Solo/SATB
  • Laudes Animatium Opus 61 (1971) SAT Soli/ATB/SATB/Boy's Chr.
    A Sequence of animal poems.
    • Prelude
    • Scherzo
    • The Nightingale
    • The Lamb
    • The Kraken
    • The Grey Squirrel
    • The Tiger
    • Every Living Creature
  • Six Elizabethan Lyrics Opus 65 (1972) SSA/SSA/SSA
    • Flourish
    • Dirge
    • Madrigal
    • Canon
    • Nocturne
    • Fanfare
    Commissioned by Miss Porter's School, Farmington, Connecticut.
  • Laudate Pueri Opus 68 (1973) SATBSATBSATB
    Commissioned by the Norwich Triennial Festival with funds made available by the Arts Council of Great Britain.
  • A hymn to the Trinity (1974) SSATB
    Written for Mairi Rolland and the Kinghorn Singers to celebrate their 21st anniversary.
  • Lord, when the sense of thy sweet grace (1977) S Solo/SATB
    Commissioned by Ampleforth Abbey for the Schola Cantorum of Ampleforth.
  • An Evening Hymn (1979) SATB
    Commissioned by the Chichester Festival.
  • 2 Anglican Chants (1982) SATB
    Written for the Chamber Choir of Kingston Polytechnic.
  • What love is this of Thine? (1985) SATB(div)
    Commissioned by the Provost of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Dennis Townhill as Organist and Master of the Choristers.


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  • Kenneth Leighton.. awesome composer from the University of Edinburgh.. at first i really didn't like his music, but now i can't get enough of it. Because he's a late 20th century choral church composer [alliteration or WHAT? ;)] there aren't very many recordings of his works.. oh well that's life..
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