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News - John Joubert (1927-2019)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019
It is with great sadness that we report the death of John Joubert, who passed away on 7 January 2019 at the age of 91. A leading composer since arriving in Britain over seventy years ago, he continued writing to the last, his total oeuvre a stream of orchestral works including symphonies, chamber music, five operas and a vast body of over a hundred choral works ranging from unison-voice miniatures to large-scale oratorios.

Born in Cape Province in 1927, he was recipient of a PRS Scholarship that brought him to London to study at the Royal Academy in 1946. Among his composition teachers were Howard Ferguson and Alan Bush. In 1950, his first string quartet was accepted for publication by Novello and, with just a few exceptions, his entire subsequent output of works was made available through them, the composer with the longest ever association with that house.

Alongside his composing career, he was Lecturer in Music at Hull University from 1950-1962, after which he took up a post in the Music Department at the University of Birmingham, later to become Reader until retiring in 1986, as well as taking up a Visiting Professorship at the University of Otago, New Zealand, from 1979. Teaching and conducting undergraduates was always fundamental to his creative life.

As a South African emigré, he was not indifferent to the injustices and evils of apartheid, making his feelings felt through scores like his second symphony, inspired by Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, nor to more universal themes arising from the harsh and conflicted land, as in South of the Line or his opera In the Drought.

Latterly, he accepted a number of important choral commissions from Ex Cathedra (Wings of Faith), Wells Cathedral (St Mark Passion and Missa Wellensis) and the Three Choirs Festival, which will be reviving his English Requiem for Gloucester Cathedral in 2019.

Our condolences are with his widow, Mary, and his family. 

James Rushton, Managing Director, Novello & Company comments: 
'During a 60-year professional composing career, extending right to the very end of his life, John created a substantial catalogue of music that has enchanted all who have heard it. Whilst it is the choral music that has entered the global repertoire, with very few choirs untouched by his immediately singable, beautifully heard and sensitively felt work, the output is broad and varied, always sympathetic to the needs of performer and audience alike. John was a gentle man, and one of wisdom and humour. He was also very much in demand as a teacher, guide and adviser. He will be missed by us and by all who came into contact with him.'

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