Philip Ledger

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sir Philip Stevens Ledger, CBE (12 December 1937 – 18 November 2012) was a British classical musician and academic, best known for his tenure as director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, between 1974 and 1982 and as director of Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982 until his retirement in 2001.[1] He was also a composer of choral music and an organist.[2]


Ledger was born in Bexhill-on-Sea in 1937 and educated at King's College, Cambridge.[3] His appointment as master of the music at Chelmsford Cathedral in 1961 made him the youngest cathedral organist in the country.[3] In 1965 he took up the directorate of music at the University of East Anglia, where he was also dean of the School of Fine Arts and Music and responsible for the establishment of an award-winning building for the University’s Music Centre, opened in 1973.[3] In 1968 he became an artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, conducting at the Snape Maltings on many occasions including the opening concert after its rebuilding, and playing in first performances of works by Britten.[3] He appears as continuo player on Britten's recordings of Bach and Purcell.

Ledger was director of music at King's College, Cambridge from 1974 to 1982 and conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society from 1973 to 1982. During his years in Cambridge, he directed the Choir of King’s College in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, made an extensive range of recordings and took the choir to the United States, Australia, and Japan for the first time.

He was subsequently principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982-2001, where in 1988 new premises for the Academy were opened by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. After that time Ledger appeared as a conductor throughout the United Kingdom, North America, and Asia.

He was also an organist and keyboard player and he conducted many leading orchestras. He also made numerous recordings with artists such as Dame Janet Baker, Paul Tortelier, Pinchas Zukerman and Robert Tear. He died from pancreatic cancer.


Ledger was also noted for his original compositions and arrangements, particularly for choir. After succeeding David Willcocks as director at King's, he wrote a number of new descants and arrangements of Christmas carols, as well as new settings of popular texts such as Adam lay ybounden and A Spotless Rose. His arrangement of "This joyful Eastertide" for mixed voices and organ has been widely performed and broadcast. Many of his compositions and editions were published by Oxford University Press, Encore Publications, the Lorenz Corporation (USA), and the Royal School of Church Music. His Requiem (A Thanksgiving for Life) is written for soprano and tenor soloists with mixed choir and may be performed with orchestra or with chamber ensemble or with organ.

The first recording devoted entirely to his choral compositions, including his Requiem - A Thanksgiving for Life was made on 7 and 8 December 2008 by Christ's College Chapel Choir, Cambridge, directed by David Rowland and Ledger. An album (Regent Records) was released 16 November 2009.

Ledger also composed an Easter cantata with carols entitled The Risen Christ. Published by Encore Publications, the work is for solo soprano, tenor and baritone, with choir and chamber ensemble. The words were compiled from various sources, including original texts by Ledger, Robin Morrish and Robert Woodings. The three appearances of the risen Christ included are to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, and to Simon Peter at the Sea of Tiberias. The US premiere took place at Washington National Cathedral on 7 May 2011 in a concert by Cathedral Voices, conducted by Jeremy Filsell. A day later came the first UK performance at evensong in Canterbury Cathedral on 8 May 2011, sung by the cathedral choir conducted by David Flood.

In 2012, Ledger composed another cantata, "This Holy Child", which is a setting of the Christmas story with five original carols, "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree", "The Voice of the Angel Gabriel", "In the Bleak Mid-winter", "Hush! My Dear, Lie Still and Slumber", and "A Little Child There Is Yborn". The words are taken from various sources, including poems by Selwyn Image. The world premiere was given on 16 December 2012 at the morning church service at First Presbyterian Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, with soloists Lynn Channing (soprano), Dominic Gregorio (baritone) and the choir of First Presbyterian Church directed by Jack Partridge.[4]


Philip Ledger was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1985 New Year Honours,[5] and knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1999 for services to music.[6] He received honorary doctorates from the universities of Strathclyde, Central England, Glasgow and St Andrews, and from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He was president of the Royal College of Organists from 1992 to 1994 and President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians from 1994 to 1995, and a patron of Bampton Classical Opera.


  1. ^ "Sir Philip Ledger". The Telegraph. 2012-11-19. Retrieved 2012-11-19. 
  2. ^ Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc blog. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Stanley Webb "Philip (Stevens) Ledger" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: Macmillan, 1980)
  4. ^ Musical Toronto site. [1] Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49969. p. 8. 31 December 1984. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55513. p. 2. 12 June 1999. Retrieved 19 November 2012.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sir David Willcocks
Director of Music, King's College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Stephen Cleobury