Sudden death of a trail-blazing counter-tenor

Sudden death of a trail-blazing counter-tenor


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2014

Tim Penrose, one of the generations of singers that stretched early music back to the 13th century, has died after a short illness. He was 64.

A member of Pro Cantione Antiqua, Tim recorded music that went back into the mists of time, as well as masterworks by Orlando and Palestrina. He sang Athamas in John Eliot Gardiner’s recording of Handel’s Semele, among many other solo roles on record.

In recent years, he was director of music at All Saints Church, West Dulwich, which announced his death.



  • Very sad to hear this.

  • Tully Potter says:

    ‘Penny’ sang on one of my favourite recordings, the Tenebrae Responsories by Victoria, conducted by Bruno Turner, with just four singers. We met him twice at the London Glee Club. A very nice man and something of a character.

  • Penny and I sang the Monteverdi Vespers together, (he was second sop!). That was one of many things we sang together. He was an adorable man.

  • Judy Wagner says:

    Tim opened my eyes & ears to whole new worlds of music,& for that I will always be thankful. All my love & thoughts are with his wife Carol, & their 2 daughters.

  • Ivan Moody says:

    A lovely man, and certainly a character! I much enjoyed working with him, back in the mists of time. Eternal memory!

  • Stephen Jones says:

    Met Tim at college – he was singing Warlock’s ‘Sleep’ which made a lasting impression on me, and on another occasion we were singing the B Minor Mass at St Peter’s Eaton Square, and Tim’s performance of the Agnus was one of the most inspired I have ever heard. Wonderful times.

  • Helene richards says:

    Such a sensitive and encouraging teacher, able to be humourous and very particulat at the same time. i’ll never find another teacher like Tim


  • James Oldfield says:

    I had the great pleasure of singing with Tim, and teaching alongside him. He was not only an outstanding musician and educator, but also a phenomenally outgoing bon viveur, and generous to a fault. Generations of musicians have been inspired by his teaching. He will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

  • Richard Cunningham says:

    Tim was responsible for many things in my life. He was a brilliant teacher; using his passion for beautiful music beautifully performed along with his gentlemanly sense of humour and his love for his students to mold our lives as well as our voices.

    Tim was the man who recommended me for a tour with Pro Cantione Antiqua. We toured East and West Berlin (yes, it was that long ago) and Sofia and Pleven in Bulgaria. A great experience in my life, made more wonderful by the fact that Tim was the other countertenor. I wonder if the other singers in that group remember the laughter over William Blitheman’s “Im Pace” and everything that went wrong with it and the collapsing music stand on that tour.

    Thank you Tim, for everything that you did for me. I am a better man for having known you and having had your tutelage and your friendship. Requiescat in Pace.

  • Tim was my closest friend at TCM and we sang together on numerous occasions there in a vocal consort which I had the privilege to direct. It was also wonderful to meet him again a few months ago after a gap of forty years. I will miss him greatly.

  • Gordon Thompson says:

    I am still in shock after hearing, from an old mutual friend, of Tim’s sudden departure. One of those moments, too, that remind us of where we all stand in relation to time, tide and Anno Domini.

    It’s wonderful to recall (albeit now poignant, too) how he would go into a record-shop and ask, in all innocence (and in the loudest of voices), whether they had any Samuel Scheidt. Sadly I shall now never be able to ask him if he knew anything by Ludvig Schytte,

    Tim was a great musician and a great character, and I am sure he will be greatly missed.

  • Clifford Armstrong says:

    Tim and I first met in the late 60s in the newly formed Monteverdi Choir. We were pleased to find ourselves both on the one year PGCE music course at Philippa Fawcett Coll of Ed, 1973-4. The then director of music Pam Taylor decided the College choir would undertake Handel’s Dixit Dominus (!) a coloratura choral tour de force we’d both recently sung under Jiggy Gardiner. At the first rehearsal, Tim came in with a real bang (the vigorous opening phrase is scored for the altos alone) followed closely by the full choir, myself crashing in on the tenor line. We carried on as Pam continued conducting but It was some time before Tim realised that the rest of the choir had been struck completely dumb by the sound of his powerful counter tenor voice – an entirely novel experience for most of the choir.

    Tim was a real trooper and we shall miss him like anything…

  • Corinne Orde says:

    Have only just caught up with this. How sad. I remember singing with him at St Peter’s Eaton Square back in the days before the fire. At that time he was doing many bigger and better solo gigs, but was not too grand to revert to being a humble chorister on Sundays.

  • nick rodgers says:

    Gordon Thompson’s story about the record shop is pure Penrose. I can visualise him doing it although how he kept a straight face I don’t know. A fantastic man.