On Air Now
Smooth Classics with Margherita Taylor 10pm - 1am
The composer of Adiemus, Palladio and The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace is now the most performed living composer in the world. But Karl Jenkins's musical career began as an oboist, jazz saxophonist and member of progressive rock band Soft Machine. Discover his incredible life in pictures.
Karl William Pamp Jenkins was born 17 February 1944 in the village of Penclawdd, in the county of Swansea, South Wales. He is pictured here at seven months old.
Jenkins' father was a local schoolteacher, chapel organist and choirmaster. He gave him the young Karl his initial musical instruction. Here he is pictured playing the piano at the age of eight.
Karl Jenkins went to the Grammar School in Gowerton, near Swansea. A talented young oboist, he began his musical career playing in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. He is pictured here at 12 years old playing the oboe.
Jenkins studied music at Cardiff University, and then commenced postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he also met his wife and musical collaborator, Carol Barratt. He soon became known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards and the oboe - an unusual instrument in a jazz context. He is pictured here performing at Ronnie Scott's world-famous jazz club in London.
A member of jazz composer Graham Collier's group, Jenkins later co-founded the jazz-rock outfit Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970. He is seen here playing the piano at Ronnie Scott's in London.
In 1972, Jenkins (pictured left) joined the progressive rock band Soft Machine. The group defied categorisation and played venues as diverse as the Proms, Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival. The album on which he first played with Soft Machine, Six, won the Melody Maker British Jazz Album of the Year award in 1973.
Soft Machine was voted best small group in the Melody Maker jazz poll of 1974. After 1976 Soft Machine did not include any of its founding members, but kept recording on a project basis with line-ups revolving around Jenkins and drummer John Marshall.
After Soft Machine, Jenkins moved into composing and conducting music for adverts, writing pieces for Levi's jeans commercials and, most famously, the 'Palladio' theme used by De Beers diamonds.
After his period in advertising, Jenkins’ return to the music mainstream was launched with the success of the Adiemus project in 1995. Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary - combining ‘classical’ music with an invented language, ethnic vocals and percussion - topped music charts around the world. The title track was used prior to the album's release in a Delta Air Lines TV commercial.
In 2004, Karl Jenkins entered Classic FM’s Hall of Fame Top 300 chart at No.8, the highest position for a living composer. He has since been the highest placed living composer, as well as, in 2006, the fourth most popular British composer. Picture: Richard Eccleston
'The Armed Man' was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum for the Millennium celebrations, and to mark the museum's move from London to Leeds, and it was dedicated to victims of the Kosovo crisis. In South Africa, Jenkins became the first international composer to conduct the University of Johannesburg Kingsway Choir. They performed 'The Armed Man' with a 70-piece orchestra.
Jenkins' CD releases on EMI Classics have included 'Kiri Sings Karl' with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. He's pictured here with the opera star at the Classical BRIT Music Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London, May 2006.
Jenkins holds a 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, Swansea University, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthen and Swansea Metropolitan University.
Karl Jenkins was awarded an OBE by HM The Queen in the 2005 New Year’s Honours List and, five years later, a CBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours List 'for services to music'. Here he is receiving his CBE at Windsor Castle, on 16 November 2010.
In July 2013, Karl Jenkins took part in a music workshop in Essex where more than 100 young people from three schools sang together before grilling Jenkins on his career. The project, funded by ICAP Charity Day with The Classic FM Foundation, was designed to unite hundreds of children and young people of all ages and backgrounds. Picture: Richard Ecclestone.
A Classic FM special 70th birthday tribute to Karl Jenkins is held at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, on 10 February 2014. Here, Jenkins is pictured rehearsing with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera. Picture: Richard Johnson