Sir Stephen Cleobury, 1948-2019

A giant of British sacred choral music has passed from our scene:

It is with great sadness that King’s College has learned of the death of Sir Stephen Cleobury. Stephen died last night, 22 November, in York, his hometown since he retired in September, after a long illness. He died peacefully in the late hours of Saint Cecilia’s Day, the patron saint of music and musicians.


Sir Stephen was the Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge from 1982 to this past September, when he officially retired.  His first recording of Christmas carols with the choir at King’s, O Come All Ye Faithful, is one of the albums that changed my life; his final Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s (held on Christmas Eve 2018 and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tradition) was released on CD & digital download earlier this month.

For more about choral music at King’s, Timothy Day’s I Saw Eternity the Other Night is a recently published, accessible and moving history of the tradition.  In the meantime, the next Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s will be held on Christmas Eve, directed by Sir Stephen’s successor, former King’s Organ Scholar Daniel Hyde.

May our Lord grant Sir Stephen eternal rest, and may light perpetual shine on him.

— Rick Krueger