Stephen Cleobury has been Organist and Director of Music at King's College, Cambridge since 1982, and, since 1983, conductor of the orchestra and chorus of the Cambridge University Musical Society. He received his early musical education at Worcester Cathedral, and was later Organ Student at St John's College, Cambridge, under George Guest. Before going to King's he was successively Organist at St Matthew's, Northampton, Sub-Organist at Westminster Abbey and Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral.
Under his direction King's College Choir Cambridge continues the daily singing of chapel services during term time - the raison d'être of the choir - and maintains a busy schedule of concerts, tours, recordings and broadcasts. It is, perhaps, most famous for the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols which is heard each Christmas Eve throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. Recent appearances include concerts in Bermuda, New York, Washington, Cologne and Paris.
During his thirty years time with the the King's College Choir Cambridge, they have recorded a wide range of music for Decca and EMI, ranging from Byrd and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina through George Frideric Handel and Mozart, Rossini and Berlioz, to Zoltán Kodály, Benjamin Britten and Peter Maxwell Davies. In many of these recordings, as in their concert appearances, the choir has performed with leading soloists and orchestras, among them Lucia Popp, Brigitte Fassbaender, Robert Tear, Thomas Allen, and Olaf Bär; The Academy of Ancient Music, English Chamber Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, The Hanover Band and The Brandenburg Consort. With this last the choir has recorded G.F. Handel's Messiah, J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and G.F. Handel's Israel in Egypt. . He complements and refreshes his work in Cambridge through the many other musical activities in which he engages.
As well as being dedicated to an approach to earlier music which is stylistically aware, Stephen Cleobury has commissioned many works for the King's College Choir Cambridge from important contemporary composers. Among these have been Richard Rodney Bennett, Diana Burrell, John Casken, Peter Maxwell Davies, Stephen Dodgson, Alexander Goehr, Nicholas Maw, Arvo Pärt, John Rutter, Peter Sculthorpe, John Tavener, Judith Weir, Judith Bingham and James Macmillan.
At King’s, Stephen Cleobury has sought to maintain and enhance the reputation of the renowned Choir, considerably broadening the daily service repertoire, commissioning new music from leading composers, principally for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, and developing its activities in broadcasting, recording and touring. He has conceived and introduced the highly successful annual festival, Easter at King’s, from which the BBC regularly broadcasts, and, in its wake, a series of high-profile performances throughout the year, Concerts at King’s.
From 1983 to 2009 Stephen Cleobury was Conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society (CUMS), a role in which he has not only conducted many orchestral works, but most of the major works for chorus and orchestra. In his work with CUMS, he also combines presentation of new works with the standard repertoire. In 1991-1992 the chorus premiered Robin Holloway's Hymn to the Senses, a work Cleobury subsequently recorded for broadcast with the BBC Singers. In the following season CUMS undertook the first Cambridge performance and a recording of Alexander Goehr's The Death of Moses. Its most ambitious recent projects have been Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony and B. Britten's War Requiem given with the Bach Choir in Ely Cathedral, and in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Robert Saxton's Canticum Luminis, a CUMS commission, was premiered in March 1994. Cleobury’s recordings with CUMS include Verdi’s Quattro Pezzi Sacri and Goehr’s The Death of Moses. As part of the 800th anniversary celebrations of Cambridge University he gave the premiere of The Sorcerer’s Mirror by Peter Maxwell Davies.
Between November 1995 and 2007 Stephen Cleobury was Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers and since then has been Conductor Laureate. With the BBC Singers he relished the opportunity to showcase challenging contemporary music and gave a number of important premieres. His many recordings with the BBC Singers include albums of Tippett, Richard Strauss and J.S. Bach.
In addition to his work in Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury is active as a conductor and organist both in the UK and abroad, frequently visiting North America, Australia and Europe in these roles. He is a frequent broadcaster for the BBC and has appeared at the Proms as an organ soloist and as director of the King's College Choir Cambridge. As an organ recitalist, he has recorded Bach Clavierübung Pt.3 and the Leipzig Chorale Preludes for BBC Radio 3; discs of on the organ of King’s include albums of music by Herbert Howells and Edward Elgar and Priory Records have released a DVD of popular repertoire.