Sir Philip Ledger (1937-2012)

Sir Philip Ledger

Former Director of Music Sir Philip Ledger died last Sunday, aged 74. He was an outstanding and versatile musician.

He was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex in 1937, and came to King's College to study music in 1956. He obtained a double first in the music tripos (1960) and a distinction in the MusB (1961).

After he left, he was appointed Master of Music at Chelmsford Cathedral, and was at that time the youngest cathedral organist in the country.

In 1963 the University of East Anglia was created and Sir Philip had the opportunity to further his career. He became the Director of Music there in 1965 and was Dean of its School of Fine Arts and Music between 1968 and 1971. It was during this latter period that he helped establish the university's award-winning music centre, which opened in 1973.

It was also during this period that he became an artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. He gave first performances of works by Britten, became a close friend of his, and later played the organ at Britten's funeral.

In 1974 Sir Philip succeeded Sir David Willcocks as Director of Music at King's. He enhanced the reputation of the Choir through a series of critically-acclaimed recordings, including the popular Psalms of David disc, and through international tours that took the Choir to the US, Australia and Japan.

He continued to develop the Christmas Eve service, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, and wrote new arrangements of traditional carols such as Adam lay ybounden, which have become popular settings.

But it was not just at King's that Sir Philip had an influence. He was a university lecturer and teacher, and conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society from 1973 to 1982, and brought his energy and rigorous standards to a generation of Cambridge musicians.

Sir Philip left King's in 1982 and became Principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where he stayed until his retirement in 2001.  He continued to compose cantatas and carols as well as more substantial work, such as the Requiem (A Thanksgiving for Life).

The current Director of Music, Stephen Cleobury, has written an obituary in the The Guardian. Other obituaries have appeared in The Telegraph and The Scotsman.

22 November 2012