March 22, 2013


Karl Jenkins was born in Wales and educated at Gowerton Grammar School before reading music at the University of Wales, Cardiff. He then commenced postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

It was in jazz that he initially made his mark. In those days of "Jazz Polls" he was a prolific poll winner, playing at London's famous Ronnie Scott’s club before co-forming Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux jazz festival and appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival, Rhode Island.

This was followed by a period with Soft Machine, one of the seminal bands of the 70's. Through many incarnations, "Softs" defied categorization playing venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, the classical Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, the Reading Festival as well as touring the USA & Europe.

In the field of advertising music he has won the prestigious D&AD award for best music twice, the Creative Circle Gold and several Clios [New York] and Golden Lions [Cannes]. Credits include Levi's, British Airways, Renault, Volvos, C&G, Tag Heuer, Pepsi as well as US/global campaigns for De Beers and Delta Airlines.

In addition he gained Bafta "gongs" for his scores for the documentaries The Celts and Testament.

After this period as a media composer, his return to the music mainstream was initially marked by the success of the Adiemus project. Adiemus, combining a classical base with ethnic vocal sounds, ethnic percussion and an invented language, topped classical and pop charts around the world, gaining 15 gold or platinum album awards and performing in cities as diverse as Tokyo, Madrid, London, Helsinki, Munich etc.

The Armed Man; A Mass For Peace, commissioned by the Royal Armouries for the millennium and premiered at the Royal Albert Hall, London has had over three hundred performances in the past eighteen months while the CD, featuring the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, has gained Gold Disc status in the UK. Performances in 2007 include those for Desmond Tutu in Cape Town and at Carnegie Hall, New York.

Works include the harp concerto Over The Stone commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales for the Royal Harpist, Catrin Finch, the concertante, Quirk, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Colin Davies as part of its 2005 centenary season and In These Stones Horizons Sing, featuring Bryn Terfel, Catrin Finch with the WNO Orchestra & Chorus which was premiered at the Royal Gala opening of the Welsh Millennium Centre in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.

In the summer of 2005 he scored his first feature film, River Queen starring Kiefer Sutherland & Samantha Morton, the score of which recently won first prize at the Shanghai Film Festival.

Following the success of Requiem which went to No. 1 in the UK classical charts, he recorded "Kiri Sings Karl" with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

He was recently the subject of the ITV South Bank Shows special by Lord Melvyn Bragg as well as being a "castaway" on Desert Island Discs (BBC).

In 2004 he entered Classic FM's Hall of Fame at No 8., the highest position for a living composer and has been in the top ten both in 2005 & 2006 as well as, in 2006, at No. 4 amongst British composers. 


Karl holds a D.Mus [Doctor of Music] degree from the University of Wales, has been made both a Fellow and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, where a room has been named in his honour, and has fellowships at Cardiff University, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthen, Swansea Institute and was presented by Classic FM with the "Red f" award for "outstanding service to classical music".

He has an honorary doctorate from the University of Leicester and the Chancellors Medal from the University of Glamorgan.

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