John Joubert (composer)

John Joubert (composer)

John Joubert (pronEng|dʒuːˈbɛər, respelled|joo-BAIR) [Personal e-mail communication with Mr. Christopher Morley, lecturer at the UCE Birmingham Conservatoire and chief music critic of the "Birmingham Post", on 13 July 2007.] (born 20 March 1927) is a British composer of South African descent, particularly of choral works. He has lived in Moseley, a suburb of Birmingham, England, for over 40 years.citation|author=Christopher Morley|title=Just the Joubert|url=|publisher=Orchestra of the Swan|accessdate=2007-04-03; also published as citation|author=Christopher Morley|title=Just the Joubert|url=|newspaper=Birmingham Post|year=2007|accessdate=2008-01-25.] A music academic at the universities of Hull and Birmingham for 36 years, Joubert took early retirement in 1986 to concentrate on composing and has remained active into his 80s. Though perhaps best known for his choral music, particularly the carols "Torches" and "There is No Rose of Such Virtue" and the anthem "O Lorde, the Maker of Al Thing", Joubert has composed over 160 works including two symphonies; violin, piano and bassoon concertos; and seven operas.

Early life and education

Joubert was born on 20 March 1927 in Cape Town, South Africa. His ancestors on his father's side were Hugenots, French Protestants from Provence who settled at the Cape in 1688. His mother's ancestry was Dutch.Programme for Ex Cathedra's performance of John Joubert's "Wings of Faith" at The Oratory, Birmingham, on 22 March 2007.]

Joubert was educated at Diocesan College in Rondebosch, South Africa, which was founded by the Anglican Church and maintained a high standard of music-making. He originally hoped to become a painter, and did a fair amount of art at school. However, at about the age of 15 years, he gradually became interested in music, though as a composer rather than a performer. "It was always going to be something creative. Oddly enough, the visual arts haven't been as great a stimulus as literature. I was also interested in writing. In fact, I was bored by everything at school except writing, art and music!" In school, he came under the guidance of the musical director Claude Brown, whose teaching he regarded as "an indispensable foundation to my subsequent musical career". According to Joubert, " [t] hrough Brown, I learned all the Elgar choral works ever before I heard them properly in full orchestral performance. Not only that idiom, but the idiom of Anglican church music generally. Parry and Stanford, and all the usual blokes." Through his teacher's encouragement, Joubert was able to participate in choral performances with the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra under William J. Pickerill, and subsequently to hear his works featured in performance.

After graduating from the South African College of Music in 1944 he began studying musical composition privately with William Henry Bell, an Englishman well-known locally as a composer of distinction. Bell exerted the greatest influence on his composition. In 1946 he was awarded a Performing Right Society Scholarship in composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Here, his principal teachers were Theodore Holland, Howard Ferguson and Alan Bush. During his four years at the Academy he won a number of prizes for composition, notably the Frederick Corder prize and the 1949 Royal Philharmonic Society prize.citation|title=Biography|url=|date=13 September 2008|accessdate=2008-09-29.] citation|author=John Morris|title=John Joubert|url=|publisher=ChesterNovello|accessdate=2008-09-29.]

Professional career

In 1950 Joubert was appointed to a lectureship in music at the University of Hull, [In Hull, John and Mary Joubert lived in a flat in a fine Victorian house, later to become the residence of the University of Hull's librarian, Philip Larkin (1922–1985), and immortalised in Larkin's poem "High Windows". But to Joubert's chagrin, "there's now a blue plaque outside the place referring to Philip – but with no mention of me.": citation|author=Christopher Morley|title=Just the Joubert|url=|publisher=Orchestra of the Swan|accessdate=2007-04-03. It should be noted that if the blue plaque referring to Philip Larkin was installed under the scheme run by English Heritage, then it is not surprising if there is no plaque referring to Joubert. Under this scheme, nominations for blue plaques are taken from the public only for people who have passed either the 20th anniversary of their death or the centenary of their birth, whichever is the earlier.] having graduated in the same year with a Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) degree from the University of Durham. His works soon began to be performed and to attract favourable attention. His carol "Torches" (Op. 7a, 1951) (written for his wife Mary's pupils and based on a Galician carol, it was published in 1961 in the first volume of "Carols for Choirs") and the anthem "O Lorde, the Maker of Al Thing" (Op. 7b, 1952) (which won the 1952 Novello Anthem Competition), achieved almost instant popularity. Concerning "Torches", Joubert recalled, "I've even had carol-singers come to the door and singing it, without knowing the composer lives inside." Together with the carol "There is No Rose of Such Virtue" (Op. 14, 1954), the three choral works have become classics of the Anglican repertoire. Works in other genres followed, mostly as the result of commissions from institutions such as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the BBC, and from musical festivals such as the Three Choirs and Birmingham Triennial Festivals. By the end of his 12 years at Hull Joubert had composed, in addition to choral music, his "Violin Concerto" (Op. 13, 1954), "Symphony No. 1" (Op. 20, 1955), "Piano Concerto" (Op. 25, 1958), the full-length opera "Silas Marner" (Op. 31, 1961) (after the novel by George Eliot), and a body of chamber music including "String Quartet No. 1 in A-Flat" (Op. 1, 1950), a "String Trio" (Op. 30, 1958) and an "Octet" (Op. 33, 1961).

Joubert moved to Moseley, Birmingham, in 1962 to take up a Senior Lectureship at the University of Birmingham; he was later made Reader in Music. In 1979 he was a visiting professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand.citation|author=Reg Williamson|title=John Joubert|url=|publisher=Classical Music on the Web|accessdate=2008-09-29.] The number and scope of his works increased, and among those composed during the following decades were two further full-length operas, "Under Western Eyes" (Op. 51, 1968) and "Jane Eyre" (Op. 134) (based on the novels by Joseph Conrad and Charlotte Brontë respectively), "Symphony No. 2" (Op. 68, 1970), various large-scale choral works with orchestras including the oratorio "The Raising of Lazarus" (Op. 67, 1970) and "Herefordshire Canticles" (Op. 93, 1979), a second and third piano sonata (Op. 71, 1972; Op. 157), a second and third string quartet (Op. 91, 1977; Op. 112, 1986), song cycles with piano and/or instrumental ensembles, and accompanied and unaccompanied smaller-scale choral music. On the wide scope of his work, Joubert has commented: "I've never really wanted to be pigeonholed as a composer. I've always wanted to write anything that I was either asked to, or wanted to write. I've never wanted to specialise, although I have to a certain extent been pigeonholed already. I'd rather not be looked upon as sort of limited in that way."

In 1986 Joubert took early retirement from the University to concentrate on composition, although he maintained his ties by becoming an Honorary Senior Research Fellow there in 1997, a post he retains. He was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Music (D.Mus.) by the University of Durham in 1991, and received another from the University of Birmingham on 18 July 2007. [citation|title=Honorary Graduands – Summer 2007|url=|journal=Buzz|date=July 2007|issue=93|location=Birmingham|publisher=University of Birmingham|page=7; citation|title=University of Birmingham Honorary Graduands for July 2007|url=|publisher=University of Birmingham|date=9 July 2007|accessdate=2007-07-10.] He was Composer in Residence at the Peterborough Cathedral Festival in 1990 (which also commissioned his "Six Short Preludes on English Hymn Tunes, for chamber organ" (Op. 125, 1990)), and at the Presteigne Festival in 1997, and served as the chairman of the Birmingham Chamber Music Society for 25 years.

Joubert continues to remain active as a composer. 2007 is the year of his 80th birthday, and is being celebrated with a series of concerts, the "Joubertiade 2007", [The name is apparently inspired by the Schubertiade, a music festival honouring Franz Schubert founded in 1976 which is held primarily in the village of Schwarzenberg, Austria: see the [ Schubertiade Schwarzenberg] website.] throughout the United Kingdom. These include world "premières" of the complete version of the oratorio "Wings of Faith" (Op. 143, 2000, 2003) which was performed by the Ex Cathedra choir, soloists and Academy of Vocal Music, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Jeffrey Skidmore on 22 March 2007 at The Oratory, Birmingham; and a new "Oboe Concerto" performed by oboist Adrian Wilson and the Orchestra of the Swan conducted by David Curtis on 12 July 2007 at Lichfield Cathedral. The celebrations culminated in the world première of "Five Songs of Incarnation" (Op. 163, 2007) for tenor and choir which was commissioned through Joubertiade 2007 and performed on 24 November 2007 at St. Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham. [citation|title=Diary of events|url=|publisher=Joubertiade 2007: Celebrating John Joubert's 80th Birthday|year=2007|accessdate=2007-12-26.]

Personal life

Joubert and his wife Mary, a pianist,citation|author=Valerie Scher|title=He's putting a new sheen on the old: Violinist Pierre Joubert is trying to hip local audiences to delights of early music|url=|newspaper=San Diego Union-Tribune|date=27 May 2007; also published with a photograph of Pierre Joubert as citation|author=Valerie Scher|title=He's putting a new sheen on the old|url=|publisher=Bach Collegium San Diego|date=27 May 2007|accessdate=2008-01-25.] have a daughter Anna, who is a cellist, and a son Pierre, a violinist. He has four grandchildren: Matthew, John, Naomi and Alexander. [Matthew and Alexander are children of Pierre Joubert: citation|author=Valerie Scher|title=He's putting a new sheen on the old: Violinist Pierre Joubert is trying to hip local audiences to delights of early music|url=|newspaper=San Diego Union-Tribune|date=27 May 2007.]

Major works

Joubert has composed over 160 works including two symphonies; violin, piano and bassoon concertos; and seven operas. He has a major choral output including Christmas carols. Some of his major works are listed below; a fuller list may be viewed at his [ website] .

Anthems, carols, hymns and other choral works

*"Torches" (Op. 7a, 1951), carol
*"O Lorde, the Maker of Al Thing" (Op. 7b, 1952), anthem
*"There is No Rose of Such Virtue" (Op. 14, 1954), carol
*"Herefordshire Canticles" (Op. 93, 1979), for chorus, boys' choir, solos and orchestra
*"A Hymne to God the Father" (1987), hymn
*"Rochester Triptych" (Op. 139, 1997: made up of "Universal Nature" (Op. 139, date unknown), "Impartial Death" (Op. 139, date unknown) and "Blest Glorious Man" (Op. 126, 1991)), for choir and organ
*"The Souls of the Righteous" (Op. 142, 1999), anthem
*"Five Songs of Incarnation" ("Of a Rose, a Lovely Rose", "Make We Joy Now in this Feast", "I Sing of a Maiden", "When Christ was Born of Mary", "Let Us Gather Hand in Hand") (Op. 163, 2007), for tenor and choir

Chamber music

*"String Quartet No. 1 in A-Flat" (Op. 1, 1950)
*"Sonata for Viola and Piano" (Op.6, 1952)
*"String Trio" (Op. 30, 1958), for violin, viola and cello
*"Octet" (Op. 33, 1961)
*"String Quartet No. 2" (Op. 91, 1977)
*"String Quartet No. 3" (Op. 112, 1986)


*"Violin Concerto" (Op. 13, 1954)
*"Piano Concerto" (Op. 25, 1958)
*"Bassoon Concerto" (Op. 77, 1974; commissioned for Michael Chapman)


*"Silas Marner" (Op. 31, 1961), opera in three acts
*"Under Western Eyes" (Op. 51, 1968), opera in three acts
*"Jane Eyre" (Op. 134, date unknown), opera in three acts


*"The Raising of Lazarus" (Op. 67, 1970)
*"Wings of Faith" (Op. 143, Part 1 ("The Word Fulfilled"): 2000, Part 2 ("The Transforming Spirit"): 2003)


*"Symphony No. 1" (Op. 20, 1955)
*"Symphony No. 2" (Op. 68, 1970)

Other works

*"Sonata in One Movement (Sonata No. 1)" (Op. 24, 1957), for piano
*"Passacaglia and Fugue" (Op. 35, 1961), for organ
*"Prelude on "Picardy" (Op. unknown, date unknown) for organ
*"Sonata No. 2" (Op. 71, 1972), for piano
*"Six Short Preludes on English Hymn Tunes, for chamber organ" (Op. 125, 1990) for organ
*"Sonata No. 3" (Op. 157, date unknown), for piano



*citation|title=Biography|url=|date=13 September 2008|accessdate=2008-09-29.
*citation|last=Morris|first=John|title=John Joubert|url=|publisher=ChesterNovello|accessdate=2008-09-29.
*citation|last=Morley|first=Christopher|title=Just the Joubert|url=|publisher=Orchestra of the Swan|accessdate=2007-04-03.
*Programme for Ex Cathedra's performance of John Joubert's "Wings of Faith" at The Oratory, Birmingham, on 22 March 2007.
*citation|last=Wiliamson|first=Reg|title=John Joubert|url=|publisher=Classical Music on the Web|accessdate=2008-09-29.

Further reading

*citation|last=Morley|first=Christopher|title=Culture: Children carry a torch for carol king|newspaper=Birmingham Post|date=21 February 2002.
*citation|last=Morley|first=Christopher|title=John Joubert|publisher= [ Musical Opinion] |date=March–April 2007.
*citation|title=Classical music preview: Wings of Faith, Birmingham|url=,,2034656,00.html|newspaper=The Guardian (The Guide)|date=17 March 2007.
*citation|last=Church|first=Michael|title=Preview: Wings Of Faith, Birmingham Oratory, Birmingham: A silenced master finds his salvation|url=|newspaper=The Independent|date=20 March 2007.

External links

* [ Official website of John Joubert]
* [ John Joubert's profile on the website of Chester Music and Novello & Co.]
* [ John Joubert on the website Classical Music on the Web]

NAME = Joubert, John
SHORT DESCRIPTION = British composer of South African descent
DATE OF BIRTH = 20 March 1927
PLACE OF BIRTH = Cape Town, South Africa

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