Christopher Steel

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Charles Christopher Steel (31 December 1938 or 15 January 1939[1] – 31 December 1991 or 1992[1]) was a British composer of contemporary classical music.

Steel was educated at Shrewsbury School. He began composing in his teen years. In 1957 he went to the Royal Academy of Music, studying with the aid of a scholarship, in Munich, with Harald Genzmer, who was a pupil of Hindemith.

His first compositions date from just before his time studying in Munich. Early works include the Sonatinas for piano and clarinet. Steel broadened his output to be for all forces as his compositions were published by Novello & Co. He became music master at Cheltenham College in 1963, subsequently moving to Bradfield College where he also wrote a number of scores for their Greek plays that used to be held every three years which included The Bacchae (1973) and Agamemnon (1976). In 1977/78 during a brief period in Minnesota, United States, he wrote what he considered to be his most important work, the "Passion and Resurrection according to St Mark" for choir and orchestra. During the 1980s he spent much time composing together with freelance teaching living in Nettlebed Oxfordshire between 1981–1988 where he was organist at St Bartholomew's Church. In 1988 he moved with his wife Anthea to Cheltenham where he continued to compose and teach until his death in 1991.

In all Steel's catalogue contains seven symphonies, choral works, organ music, concerti, and orchestral pieces for large and chamber orchestra. He was described in the New Grove Dictionary of Music as a "fluent and resourceful composer".[2]

His music has similarities to Walton, Britten and Mathias, yet has remained accessible by contemporary classical music standards, displaying traits of neoromanticism alongside some extended tonality. In addition to considerable sheet music published he has been recorded by Durham Cathedral Choir, Wells Cathedral Choir, and organists including Roger Fisher and Philip Rushforth. Notable CD recordings where his music is featured include his "Changing Moods" suite for organ op.59 on "Animal Parade" (REGCD346) played by William Saunders, "Variations on a Theme of Guillaume de Machaut" Op. 65 contained in the "Grand Organ of Chester Cathedral" played by Philip Rushforth which accompanies the DVD (PRDVD9), and his six pieces op.33 in "The King's Trumpeter" (PRCD189), with Crispian Steele-Perkins, and Stephen Cleobury, organist, and director of the King's College Choir, Cambridge. Steel's "People Look East", an advent carol, recorded by Durham Cathedral choir for Priory Records on their compilation of Christmas Carols, "A Feast Of Christmas Carols" (PRCD-4000), has been one of his most popular short works, as has his choral anthem "Thou Art The Way" which was included in the Novello compilation "More Than Hymns" Vol. 2 and in the CD "More Than Hymns" (LAMM149) recorded by Wells Cathedral choir directed by Malcolm Archer.

Steel's music has been performed at The Three Choirs Festival, BBC1's "Songs of Praise" with the premiere of the anthem "The Morning Stars Sang Together" sung by Chester Cathedral, and played on radio including BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, and Classic FM. On 21 March 2009 his large scale work "Passion and Resurrection according to St Mark" received its world premiere performed at Tewkesbury Abbey by the Cheltenham Bach Choir and the Regency Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Jackson.


  1. ^ a b Harvard Biographical Music Dictionary.
  2. ^ Hugo Cole "Christopher Steel" New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 1980)
  • [1] Fand Music Press
  • [2] Chester Novello
  • Hugo Cole "Christopher Steel" New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 1980)
  • [3] > Dictionaries, Thesauruses, Pictures, and Press Releases > The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music > January 1996

External links[edit]

  • [4] Chester Novello biography and Work List
  • [5] Information about recordings, concerts, and recitals