Karl William Pip Jenkins is a Welsh Composer who carries the distinction of being one of the most performed living composers today. His records have been certified either gold or platinum more than sixteen times.
Karl Jenkins was born on February 17, 1944 in Swansea, Wales. Jenkins’s father was a local schoolteacher and chapel organist, who taught him how to play the piano. Jenkins also played the oboe at the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. After graduating from Gowertown Grammar School, Jenkins went on the study music at Cardiff University. He also studied with Alun Hoddinott at the Royal Academy of Music as part of his post graduate program.
In 1969, Jenkins cofounded ‘Nucleus’, a jazz-rock group that made significant headway in the ‘Jazz Polls’ of the 1970s. Jenkins was credited for writing much of Nucleus’s first two albums, ‘Elastic Rock’, and “We’ll talk about it Later”. Nucleus would go on to win the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970, and thus Jenkins made a name of himself in the jazz community.
After three Nucleus releases, Jenkins packed his bags and left for Canterbury to join the progressive rock band ‘Soft Machine’. His first album with the band, ‘Six’, went on to win the 1973 Melody Maker British Jazz Album of the Year Award. At the Melody Maker Jazz Polls, Soft Machine was also voted as the best small group of 1974. In 1973, Soft Machine also played ‘Tubular Bells’ by Mike Oldfield at a telecast performance for the BBC Network.
Jenkins regularly wrote advertising music in his spare time. He often worked with Mike Ratledge and started a media company that focused on music specifically for adverts. His pieces have been used by Levis, Renault, British Airways, Pepsi, Volvo, and Tag Heuer, amongst others. His works helped him win the D&AD award twice, which is the highest honor in advertising music today. Perhaps his most famous advertisement piece was his campaign for De Beers.
Jenkins is perhaps best known for his 1994 album, ‘Ademius: Songs of Sanctuary’. Ademius, a choral work with several elements from European Classical Music, topped music charts around the world. Jenkins himself conducted the album as far as Japan, Spain, Belgium and Holland. He is also known for his choral composition “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace”, a composition that has been performed over one thousand times in twenty different countries.
He was commissioned multiple times by the London Symphony Orchestra, for whom he wrote ‘Quirk’. Jenkins has also been commissioned to write for the virtuoso violinist Marat Bisengaliev, and also for the Royal Harpist Catrin Finch by the Prince of Wales. Other works from him include his album ‘Requiem’, collaborations with the Cory Band “This Land of Ours”, “Stabat Mater”, “La Foila” and the Christmas work “Stella Natalis”. Jenkins most recent album is his 2012 release titled “The Peacemakers”, which features texts from Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama, as well as some passages from the Qur’an and the Bible.
Jenkins was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2005, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. He has honorary degrees from multiple universities in Europe and elsewhere, including the University of Leicester and Trinity College. Karl Jenkins is currently engaged in a project which aims to help young composers in their early years.