John Rutter is one of the most well known composers, choral conductors and musical scholars of the late 20th century till today. Born on 24 September 1945, in England, Rutter is famous for not only his choral compositions, but also for his orchestral and instrumental works, compositions for TV and especially for his Christmas carols.
Unlike several other musicians, Rutter was introduced to music at a later age than most. He began his musical education as a chorister in high school, a position that set his career in motion and he went on to study music at Clare College, Cambridge. He is known to have published his first compositions and conducted his first recordings during his college life. Often Rutter’s choral compositions are reckoned to be his most celebrated works, such as ‘Gloria’. It premiered in 1975 in Omaha, Nebraska and over the years has become one of his most-performed pieces.’ Requiem’, ‘Magnificat’, ‘Psalmfest’ and ‘Mass of the Children’ are other such pieces that have been performed and acclaimed internationally.
At the age of 30, he returned to his Alma Mater at position of director of music and held it from 1975 to 1979, which landed him several opportunities. Although, soon he resigned from this post to focus more on composing and formed a professional chamber choir named Cambridge Singers in 1981, primarily dedicated to recording sacred choral music. He launched the choir group to international acclamation, but eventually excused himself from the position since he wanted to dedicate even more time to composing. Additionally, Rutter devoted time to creating his own music under Collegium Records, a CD label that he managed himself. His work was elevated to great heights and he was invited to several universities, music festivals and churches around the world as a guest-conductor and lecturer.
Not only is Rutter respected for his sacred choral pieces, but is also admired for his lighter and jollier works such as his Christmas carols. A famed editor as well, Rutter was the co-editor of four volumes of the’ Carols for Choirs’ series with Sir David Willcocks. People often undermined his Christmas carols and overshadowed them with his larger choral works. However, Rutter was very proud and content with his work in this area, especially since he held this sort of music very close to his heart. Moreover, Rutter was a very hearty defender of carols as an art form and dismissed many who claimed it to be a simplistic form of music. Several of his very famous and much loved carols are ‘Shepherd’s Pipe Carol’, ‘Star Carol’ and ‘Donkey Carol’.
Rutter’s work was extolled on several levels and mediums; During the 1980s, he was given the position of honorary fellow at Westminster Choir College, Princeton and at the Guild of Church Musicians. In light of his hefty contribution to church music, the Archbishop of Canterbury bestowed upon him the Lambeth Doctorate of Music in 1996. Moreover, in 2007 he was mentioned in the Queen’s New Year Honor’s list.
Even though John Rutter’s compositions are inclined towards the slightly conservative side and lack the innovative edge, the sheer brilliance of his orthodox compositions has escalated him to the level of an internationally renowned figure in the industry. The unique thing about Rutter’s music is the fact that it is very appealing to a large number of audiences and this is the very fact that lies behind his success in the music industry. His catchy carols and beautiful choral pieces have ensured worldwide recognition and applause for him.