Tributes are being posted online for the recently retired director of music at Kings College Cambridge, who died on Friday at the age of 70.
Never outwardly an emotional man, Stephen concealed behind an unfailing politeness a deep sense of feeling for his fellow-humans. It was impossible to come away from him, in my experience, without renewed respect.
Here’s a sampling of the tributes:
The composer Judith Bingham: Is it too early for anecdotes about Stephen Cleobury? His super-preparedness: first rehearsal as chief conductor of the BBC Singers. He talks us through the piece we’re about to sing. I put my hand up. ‘Yes, Judith, it’s an A natural,’ he said, before I’d even asked the question. And he had guessed right. I shall miss him, miss hearing that much impersonated voice again. His behaviour over the last year or so has been extraordinarily brave, altruistic and dutiful, an example I won’t ever forget.
The conductor David Hill:
So sad to hear that Sir Stephen Cleobury passed away on St Cecilia’s day. A dedicated servant to church music, tireless in his quest for excellence so cruelly taken so soon after his retirement. He will be sorely missed. RIP.
— David Hill (@davidhconductor) November 23, 2019
The composer Gabriel Jackson: He was a devoted custodian of the English choral tradition at its finest, a musician of rare integrity, a meticulous, conscientious interpreter and always a pleasure to work with. What he gave to music is without price.
A really beautiful tribute to dear Sir Stephen Cleobury. He was so gentle, kind and utterly dedicated to all those who worked with him. I’m so glad I had the privilege several times. Much love to his family, @NickCleobury 🌺 https://t.co/lNEaMJKSCm
— Dame Sarah Connolly (@spconnolly) November 23, 2019
Glen Dempsey, organist at King’s Ely: I’m sure everyone’s thoughts are with Emma and Stephen’s young family. It’s difficult to imagine that many people have given more dedicated service to church music and music generally. At King’s alone he must have seen through around 400 choristers, choral scholars and organ scholars, many of whom have gone on to carry the torch for choral music to hundreds of others themselves. I believe that during his first term at King’s he was concurrently DoM at Westminster Cathedral – in fact the more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems that he must have had twice the hours in a day compared to the rest of us! I think all his successors as organ scholars at St John’s have at least once thought about Stephen’s amazing organ-playing – I know for joint services I’ve thought, ‘I’d better make sure this is good, because it would have been perfect in the late 60s!’ Given his lifelong dedication to his work, it seems so unjust that he was unable to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. After a long period of ill health, he is at least now at peace.
Anastasia Micklethwaite: Stephen you were such a generous man and a wonderful musician. It was a pleasure to be conducted by you, back in my student days and to be able to square the circle and bring many of my own pupils to hear King’s College choir sing in Cambridge and sit in on rehearsals and services. Thank you Stephen for your kindness of heart and for all that you gave us. Requiem in Pace
The pianist Richard Gowers:
Impossible to summarise how much I owe to Sir Stephen Cleobury from two stints in @ChoirOfKingsCam. Immersed in a deep love of music, he made no compromises in the standard he expected. Working towards that expectation was transformative to many, many people. Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/L631mTf2Sx
— Richard Gowers (@RichardGowers) November 23, 2019
Alex Eadon: Not unexpected, but very sad news nevertheless. I owe this man an incredible amount. Rest in peace, Sir Stephen.
Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heav’n: to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.