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John Shirley-Quirk

John Shirley-Quirk

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John Shirley-Quirk CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (born 28 August 1931) is an English bass-baritone
A bass-baritone is a high-lying bass or low-lying "classical" baritone voice type which shares certain qualities with the true baritone voice. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: the Dutchman in Der fliegende...


He was born in Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, and sang in his high school choir. He played the violin and was awarded a scholarship. While studying chemistry and physics at Liverpool University, he studied voice with Austen Carnegie. He was a Vicar Choral at St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...


He made his operatic debut in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande
Pelléas et Mélisande (opera)
Pelléas et Mélisande is an opera in five acts with music by Claude Debussy. The French libretto was adapted from Maurice Maeterlinck's Symbolist play Pelléas et Mélisande...

 at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1961, and has been prominent in performing and recording the vocal works of Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

. These have included the premiere performances of Canticle IV: Journey of the Magi and Death in Venice
Death in Venice (opera)
Death in Venice is an opera in two acts by Benjamin Britten, his last. The opera is based on the novella Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. Myfanwy Piper wrote the English libretto. It was first performed at Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh, England on 16 June 1973.The astringent score is marked by some...

. The latter part was written specially for him, and involves multiple roles as antagonist to the character of Gustav von Aschenbach. In 1977 he created the role of Lev in Sir Michael Tippett
Michael Tippett
Sir Michael Kemp Tippett OM CH CBE was an English composer.In his long career he produced a large body of work, including five operas, three large-scale choral works, four symphonies, five string quartets, four piano sonatas, concertos and concertante works, song cycles and incidental music...

’s The Ice Break at Covent Garden
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...


He appears regularly with major orchestras and opera companies throughout the world and has a vast discography. Notable recordings include Britten's works and Mahler's Eighth Symphony
Symphony No. 8 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler is one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire. Because it requires huge instrumental and vocal forces it is frequently called the "Symphony of a Thousand", although the work is often performed with fewer than a...

 under Sir Georg Solti
Georg Solti
Sir Georg Solti, KBE, was a Hungarian-British orchestral and operatic conductor. He was a major classical recording artist, holding the record for having received the most Grammy Awards, having personally won 31 as a conductor, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to his...

 on Decca
Decca Records
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....

, and Vaughan Williams'
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

 vocal works under Sir David Willcocks and the Choir of King's College, Cambridge
Choir of King's College, Cambridge
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge is one of today's most accomplished and renowned representatives of the great British choral tradition. It was created by King Henry VI, who founded King's College, Cambridge in 1441, to provide daily singing in his Chapel, which remains the main task of the...

 for EMI
The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...


In 1975, John Shirley-Quirk was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

He was a member of staff at Acton
Acton, London
Acton is a district of west London, England, located in the London Borough of Ealing. It is situated west of Charing Cross.At the time of the 2001 census, Acton, comprising the wards of East Acton, Acton Central, South Acton and Southfield, had a population of 53,689 people...

 Technical College until 1957 and played a part in events leading to the formation of Brunel College
Brunel University
Brunel University is a public research university located in Uxbridge, London, United Kingdom. The university is named after the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel....

. He is currently on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Music
Peabody Institute
The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University is a renowned conservatory and preparatory school located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland at the corner of Charles and Monument Streets at Mount Vernon Place.-History:...

 in Baltimore, MD.

Shirley-Quirk was married to oboist
The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. In English, prior to 1770, the instrument was called "hautbois" , "hoboy", or "French hoboy". The spelling "oboe" was adopted into English ca...

Sara Watkins, who died in 1997.

He is currently married to cellist Teresa Perez (2009).

External links