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Richard Lewis (tenor)

Richard Lewis (tenor)

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Richard Lewis CBE (10 May 191413 November 1990) was a Welsh tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...


Born Thomas Thomas in Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 to Welsh parents, Lewis began his career as a boy soprano
Boy soprano
A boy soprano is a young male singer with an unchanged voice in the soprano range. Although a treble, or choirboy, may also be considered to be a boy soprano, the more colloquial term boy soprano is generally only used for boys who sing, perform, or record as soloists, and who may not necessarily...

 and studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now merged into the Royal Northern College of Music
Royal Northern College of Music
The Royal Northern College of Music is a music school in Manchester, England. It is located on Oxford Road in Chorlton on Medlock, at the western edge of the campus of the University of Manchester and is one of four conservatories associated with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music...

) from 1939 to 1941. He made his operatic debut in 1939, and from 1947 onwards, sang at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Glyndebourne Festival Opera is an English opera festival held at Glyndebourne, an English country house near Lewes, in East Sussex, England.-History:...

 and 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...

London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

). He made his debut in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1955.

Lewis made a number of recordings, including Messiah
Messiah (Handel)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later...

George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

), L'incoronazione di Poppea
L'incoronazione di Poppea
L'incoronazione di Poppea is an Italian baroque opera comprising a prologue and three acts, first performed in Venice during the 1642–43 carnival season. The music, attributed to Claudio Monteverdi, is a setting of a libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello...

Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

), Idomeneo
Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante is an Italian language opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was adapted by Giambattista Varesco from a French text by Antoine Danchet, which had been set to music by André Campra as Idoménée in 1712...

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

), Liebeslieder Walzer and Neue Liebeslieder Walzer (Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

), Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was an English composer who achieved such success that he was once called the "African Mahler".-Early life and education:...

's The Song of Hiawatha
The Song of Hiawatha (Coleridge-Taylor)
The Song of Hiawatha, Op. 30, is a trilogy of cantatas by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, produced between 1898 and 1900. The first part, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, was particularly famous for many years and it made the composer's name known throughout the world.-Background:In 1898, Coleridge-Taylor was...

, Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, 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...

's Spring Symphony
Spring Symphony
The Spring Symphony is Benjamin Britten's Opus 44. It is dedicated to Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was premiered in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on Thursday 14 July 1949 as part of the Holland Festival, when the composer was 35...

 (with Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

), scenes from William Walton
William Walton
Sir William Turner Walton OM was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera...

's Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida (opera)
Troilus and Cressida is the first of the two operas by William Walton. The libretto was by Christopher Hassall, his own first opera libretto, based on Chaucer's poem Troilus and Criseyde...

, and four different performances of Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

's Das Lied von der Erde
Das Lied von der Erde
Das Lied von der Erde is a large-scale work for two vocal soloists and orchestra by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler...

, two with Maureen Forrester
Maureen Forrester
Maureen Kathleen Stewart Forrester, was a Canadian operatic contralto.-Life and career:Maureen Forrester was born and grew up in a poor section of Montreal, Quebec. She was one of four children to Thomas Forrester, a Scottish cabinetmaker, and his Irish-born wife, the former May Arnold. She...

, (Reiner/Walter) one with Kathleen Ferrier
Kathleen Ferrier
Kathleen Mary Ferrier CBE was an English contralto who achieved an international reputation as a stage, concert and recording artist, with a repertoire extending from folksong and popular ballads to the classical works of Bach, Brahms, Mahler and Elgar...

 (Barbirolli), and a fourth with Lili Chookasian
Lili Chookasian
Lili Chookasian is an American contralto who has appeared with many of the world's major symphony orchestras and opera houses. She began her career in the 1940s as a concert singer but did not draw wider acclaim until she began singing opera in her late thirties...

 (Ormandy). There is also a live recording with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.

In 1963 he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire
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...

 (CBE). He died in Eastbourne
Eastbourne is a large town and borough in East Sussex, on the south coast of England between Brighton and Hastings. The town is situated at the eastern end of the chalk South Downs alongside the high cliff at Beachy Head...


Following his death in 1990 his widow, Elizabeth Lewis (known as Elizabeth Muir-Lewis - Mrs Richard Lewis) established the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks award at Glyndebourne, made possible by funding from the pathologist Dr Jean Shanks (Princess Galizine).

In 2000 Elizabeth moved the award to the Royal Academy of Music wishing to help young singers at that more vulnerable time in their careers.
There are two vocal prizes:
1st prize - £12,000
2nd prize - £7,000
In addition there is the Webb accompanist's prize - £5,000.

A rehearsal room has been established in the Royal Academy of Music, known as the Richard Lewis room. The Royal Academy of Music archives have in depth information, scores, and photographs of Richard Lewis.
In 2005 Jean Shank's will left a further legacy to the RL/JS Trust enabling it to double to £10,000 the existing John Christie Glyndebourne Award previously solely funded by The Worshipful Company of Musicians.
The trustees of the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Trust will sponsor up to £10,000 to support the important understudy scheme at Glyndebourne.
The award trustees will welcome donations for this important vocal legacy. This way it can flourish for long into the future. Already it has produced outstanding young singers who benefited from assistance during their training. These prizes, and the funds raised so far to support them, make the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Award one of the best-funded and high profile musical charities in the UK, awarding up to £29,000 a year in prizes.


  • D. Brook, Singers of Today (Revised Edition - Rockliff, London 1958), 135-139.
  • Noel Ross-Russell, 'There will I sing - the making of Richard Lewis CBE' (Open Gate Press (March 1, 1997)

External links