Philip Ledger

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Sir Philip Stevens Ledger, CBE, FRSE (12 December 1937 – 18 November 2012) was an English classical musician and academic. He is best remembered for his tenure as the Director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge between 1974 and 1982, and as Director of Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982 until his retirement in 2001.[1] He was also a composer of choral music and an organist.


Ledger was born in Bexhill-on-Sea in 1937 and educated at King's College, Cambridge.[2] His appointment as master of the music at Chelmsford Cathedral in 1961 made him the youngest cathedral organist in the country.[2] In 1965 he took up the directorate of music at the University of East Anglia, where he was also dean of the School of Fine Arts and Music and responsible for the establishment of an award-winning building for the University’s Music Centre, opened in 1973.[2]

In 1968, Ledger became an artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, conducting at the Snape Maltings on many occasions including the opening concert after its rebuilding, and playing in first performances of works by Britten.[2] He worked regularly with the English Chamber Orchestra during this period.[3] He was director of music at King's College, Cambridge from 1974 to 1982, and conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society from 1973 to 1982. During his years in Cambridge, he directed the Choir of King’s College in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, made an extensive range of recordings and took the choir to the United States, Australia, and Japan for the first time. Ledger was subsequently principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982 to 2001.

Ledger married the soprano Mary Erryl Wells in 1963, with Robert Tear as best man at the wedding ceremony.[4] The couple had two children, Tim and Kate. His widow, children, and granddaughter Becky all survive him.[5]


Ledger was also noted for his original compositions and arrangements, particularly for choir. After succeeding David Willcocks as director at King's, he wrote a number of new descants and arrangements of Christmas carols, as well as new settings of popular texts such as Adam lay ybounden and A Spotless Rose. His arrangement of This joyful Eastertide for mixed voices and organ has been widely performed and broadcast. Many of his compositions and editions were published by Oxford University Press, Encore Publications, the Lorenz Corporation (USA), and the Royal School of Church Music. His Requiem (A Thanksgiving for Life) is written for soprano and tenor soloists with mixed choir and may be performed with orchestra or with chamber ensemble or with organ.

The first recording devoted entirely to his choral compositions, including his Requiem - A Thanksgiving for Life was made on 7 and 8 December 2008 by Christ's College Chapel Choir, Cambridge, directed by David Rowland and Ledger. An album (Regent Records) was released 16 November 2009.

Ledger also composed an Easter cantata with carols entitled The Risen Christ, premiered in the US at Washington National Cathedral on 7 May 2011, and premiered in the UK performance at evensong in Canterbury Cathedral on 8 May 2011. In 2012, Ledger composed another cantata, "This Holy Child", which was premiered on 16 December 2012 at the morning church service at First Presbyterian Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Philip Ledger was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1985 New Year Honours,[6] and knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1999 for services to music.[7] He received honorary doctorates from the universities of Strathclyde, Central England, Glasgow and St Andrews, and from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He was president of the Royal College of Organists from 1992 to 1994 and President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians from 1994 to 1995, and a patron of Bampton Classical Opera.


  1. ^ "Sir Philip Ledger". The Telegraph. 19 November 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Stanley Webb "Philip (Stevens) Ledger" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: Macmillan, 1980)
  3. ^ Conrad Wilson (21 November 2012). "Sir Philip Ledger". The Herald. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Conductor and organist Sir Philip Ledger has died". Gramophone. 19 November 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  5. ^ Stephen Cleobury (20 November 2012). "Sir Philip Ledger obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  6. ^ "No. 49969". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1984. p. 8.
  7. ^ "No. 55513". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 1999. p. 2.

External links

  • Sir Philip Ledger's homepage
  • King's College, Cambridge tribute page to Sir Philip Ledger
Preceded by
Sir David Willcocks
Director of Music, King's College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Stephen Cleobury
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