Kenneth Leighton

Let all the world in every corner sing (1965) is an anthem by Leighton we shall be singing at the end of May 2022; we also have his Preces and Responses (1964) in the library for future Evensongs. But who was Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988)?

Intriguingly, this quiet Yorkshireman derived his musical career from a start as a chorister in Wakefield Cathedral. From this, piano lessons led him to the Royal Academy and then a State scholarship to Oxford, where, amongst others, he came to the attention of Gerald Finzi, whose God is gone up we are also singing in the same weekend and Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose 150th anniversary we shall be celebrating later this year. (Between the years of 1947 and 1951, he achieved both a BA in Classics and the Oxford Bachelor of Music; state school participation in Oxbridge is not entirely a new phenomenon, it seems.)

Composition studies in Rome followed and led to a career in academic teaching, culminating in the chair at Edinburgh University which he held to his death. Whilst he enjoyed some aspects of teaching, his life was dominated by composition, in a style influenced both by the English tradition of VW, Finzi, Howells and Walton and also by his Italian studies. Many of us will know him principally for his church works, but his canon includes pieces in a wide range of genres, large- and small-scale and even an opera, Columba (1978).

Plenty to get to know then.

(Photo by R. Leighton, 1981; extracts from Wikipedia)

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