Monday 5 October 2015

Review ~ Still with the Music: My Autobiography by Karl Jenkins with Sam Jackson

Elliot & Thompson
September 2015

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read and review this autobiography by Sir Karl Jenkins, who has long been one of my favourite composers, and is one of the few musicians whose work I buy in CD format. I fell completely in awe of his musical skill in 1996 when I heard Adiemus - Songs of Sanctuary. The clear blending of voices and the uplifting nature of its overriding melody is without doubt one of my favourite musical compositions. I have clear memories of opening the windows wide and allowing Adiemus to rocket out over the Wiltshire countryside and hearing musical magic soar like a gift from the Gods.

Sir Karl Jenkins has had an interesting life and his autobiography takes us on a clear journey from his humble roots in the small Welsh village of Penclawdd on the Gower Penisula, right through to the present day, in this his seventieth year,  when he is still very much with the music and shows no signs of slowing down.

The autobiography is easy to read with nicely structured chapters and spans from his childhood and his early career in music, through to his later, and perhaps more successful years, with the rise in popularity of his musical compositions. I particularly enjoyed reading about how in 1995 Adiemus first saw the light of day as the music for the Delta Airlines advertising campaign. Of course, since then it has gone on to become a very successful piece of music and for the last twenty years has regularly featured on Classic FM. However, for pure heart stopping sensation, I only need hear the opening majestic march of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, which was composed to commemorate the millennium, and everything in my world ceases as I listen in wonder and awe at the power of such inspirational music.

I know it’s a bit of a cliché but I enjoy reading autobiographies which take me on a journey, and it's a real delight to travel along the route that Sir Karl has travelled as he made his way through the musical events which describe his life story. His love of music is obvious and this comes across in the warmth of his words and in the fine attention to the smallest detail, but it is in the love for his family and friends, and his enthusiastic affinity for his homeland, where he comes across so passionately. 

I really enjoyed reading this autobiography and now, whenever I listen to Karl Jenkins' inspirational music, I will, undoubtedly be reminded of the man behind the music.

About the authors

Sir Karl Jenkins was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015 for services to music. Jenkins is the first Welsh born composer to be so honoured and the knighthood follows an OBE in 2005 and a CBE in 2010. He is famed for such contemporary classics as Adiemus, The Armed Man : A Mass for Peace and Palladio. He holds a Doctor of music degree from the University of Wales, has been both a fellow and an associate of the Royal Academy of Music, where a room has been named in his honour, and has fellowships at Cardiff University, Swansea University, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Camarthen and Swansea Metroploitan University.

Sam Jackson is the managing editor at Classic FM. He sits on the governing body of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and in the University of York Music Department’s advisory board, and is the author of two Sunday Times bestselling books about classical music.

My thanks to Alison at Elliot & Thompson for allowing me to read and review this book and of course to Sir Karl Jenkins for his music.


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