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John Rutter and Suite Antique

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John Milford Rutter (born September 24, 1945) is a British composer, conductor, editor, arranger, and record producer, mainly of choral music. Born in London, England, on September 24, 1945, the son of an industrial chemist and his wife, Rutter grew up on London’s Marylebone Road. He was educated at Highgate School and received his first musical education as a chorister there, where a fellow pupil was John Tavener, before reading music at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the choir. There he wrote his first published compositions and conducted his first recording while still a student. He served as director of music at Clare College from 1975 to 1979 and led the choir to international prominence. Rutter also works as an arranger and editor. As a young man he collaborated with Sir David Willcocks on the extraordinarily successful Carols for Choirs anthology series.

In 1974, Rutter visited the United States at the invitation of choral musician Melvin (Mel) Olson and conducted the premiere of his cantata “Gloria” in Omaha, Nebraska, in the Witherspoon Hall of Joslyn Art Museum. The composition, commissioned by Olson’s Voices of Mel Olson chorale, has become a much-performed favorite over the years. In 1980, he was made an honorary Fellow of Westminster Choir College, Princeton. In 1980, Rutter was made a Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians. In 1981, he founded his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, which he conducts and with which he has made many recordings of sacred choral repertoire including his own works, particularly under his own label Collegium Records. He resides at Duxford in Cambridgeshire and frequently conducts many choirs and orchestras around the world. His compositional career has embraced both large and small-scale choral works, orchestral and instrumental pieces, a piano concerto, two children’s operas, music for television, and specialist writing for such groups as the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and the King’s Singers.

Rutter was inducted as a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity in 1985. The world premiere of Rutter’s Requiem (1985), and of his authoritative edition of Fauré’s Requiem, took place with the Fox Valley Festival Chorus, in Illinois. From 1985 to 1992, he suffered severely from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME, or chronic fatigue syndrome), which restricted his output. After 1985 he stopped writing music on commission, as he was unable to guarantee meeting deadlines. His Magnificat dates from 1990. He has edited the first two volumes in the new Oxford Choral Classics series, Opera Choruses (1995) and European Sacred Music (1996). In 1996, the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred a Lambeth Doctorate of Music upon him in recognition of his contribution to church music. In 2002, his setting of Psalm 150, commissioned for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, was performed at the Jubilee thanksgiving service in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. His 2003 composition Mass of the Children was written after the sudden death of his son Christopher while a student at Clare College, Cambridge, where Rutter himself had studied. He was honored in the 2007 Queen’s New Year Honours List, being awarded a CBE for services to music. In 2008, Rutter was made an honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple while playing a significant role in the 2008 Temple Festival. Rutter is also a Vice President of the Joyful Company of Singers. Also, he was commissioned to write a new anthem, “This is the day which the Lord hath made”, for the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011, performed at Westminster Abbey during the service.

Rutter’s compositions are chiefly choral, and include Christmas carols, anthems and extended works such as a Gloria, the Requiem and the Magnificat. He has also written an opera for young people called Bang! Rutter’s work is published principally by Oxford University Press in England and by Hinshaw Music in the U.S. It has been recorded by many choirs, but he conducts his own recordings principally on his Collegium label. Rutter’s music is eclectic, showing the influences of the French and English choral traditions of the early twentieth century as well as of light music and American classic songwriting. Some of the more significant English musical influences on his work include Ralph Vaughn Williams, William Walton, and Benjamin Britten. Almost every choral anthem and hymn that he writes has a subsequent orchestral accompaniment in addition to the standard piano/organ accompaniment, using various different instrumentations such as strings only, strings and woodwinds or full orchestra with brass and percussion. Rutter’s music is very popular, particularly in the USA. NBC’s Today Show called him “the world’s greatest living composer and conductor of choral music.”

My collection includes the following works by John Rutter:

The Beatles Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, based on songs by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison (1977).
Distant Land, A Song of Freedom dedicated to Nelson Mandela (1991).
Five Meditations for Orchestra.
Suite Antique for flute, harpsichord, and strings (1979).
Suite for Strings (1971).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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