Michael Berkeley

Last updated

The Baron Berkeley of Knighton

Lord Temporal
Assumed office
26 March 2013
Personal details
Michael Fitzhardinge Berkeley

(1948-05-29) 29 May 1948 (age 71)
Nationality British
Political party Crossbench

Michael Fitzhardinge Berkeley, Baron Berkeley of Knighton, CBE (born 29 May 1948) is an English composer and broadcaster on music.


Early life

One of three sons of the composer Sir Lennox Berkeley, Berkeley was educated at The Oratory School, in Woodcote, and Westminster Cathedral Choir School. [1] He was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral, and he frequently sang in works composed or conducted by his godfather, Benjamin Britten. He studied composition, singing and piano at the Royal Academy of Music. He also played in a rock band, Seeds of Discord. [1] In his twenties, when he went to study with Richard Rodney Bennett, he concentrated on composition.

Sir Lennox Randal Francis Berkeley was an English composer.

The Oratory School boys independent Roman Catholic boarding and day school near Reading in England

The Oratory School is a boys' independent Roman Catholic day and boarding school in Woodcote, 6 miles (9.7 km) north-west of Reading. It is the only remaining all-boys Catholic boarding school in Britain, and has announced that it will become co-educational from September 2020. Founded in 1859 by John Henry Newman, The Oratory has historical ties to the Birmingham Oratory and is the only school founded by Newman. Although a separate entity from the nearby Oratory Preparatory School, it shares a board of governors and a common history. Newman founded the school with the intention of providing boys with a Roman Catholic alternative to Eton College. According to the Good Schools Guide, the school "enjoys inspirational leadership, has achieved GSG 'overall best in UK' for three years running and is consistently at the top of the tree", with "state-of-the-art" boarding facilities and an ongoing refurbishment programme under way.

Woodcote village and civil parish in South Oxfordshire, England

Woodcote is a village and civil parish in South Oxfordshire, about 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Wallingford and about 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Reading, Berkshire. It is in the Chiltern Hills, and the highest part of the village is 600 feet (180 m) above sea level.

Prizes and posts

In 1977 he was awarded the Guinness Prize for Composition. In 1979, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra appointed Berkeley its associate composer. Berkeley was Composer-in-Association with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from 2000 until 2009. [2] He also acted as Visiting Professor in Composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and was Artistic Director of the Cheltenham Music Festival from 1995 to 2004. In 2002 and 2003 he was international guest curator of chamber music programs at the Sydney Festival, Australia's largest arts festival.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) is an Edinburgh-based UK chamber orchestra. One of Scotland's five National Performing Arts Companies, the SCO performs throughout Scotland, including annual tours of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and South of Scotland. The SCO appears regularly at the Edinburgh, East Neuk, St Magnus and Aldeburgh Festivals and The Proms. The SCO's international touring receives support from the Scottish Government. The SCO rehearses mainly at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall.

BBC National Orchestra of Wales Welsh symphony orchestra founded in 1928

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales is a Welsh symphony orchestra and one of the BBC's five professional radio orchestras. The BBC NOW is the only professional symphony orchestra organisation in Wales, occupying a dual role as both a broadcasting orchestra and national orchestra. The BBC NOW has its administrative base in Cardiff, at the BBC Hoddinott Hall on the site of the Wales Millennium Centre, since January 2009.

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama conservatoire located in Cardiff, Wales

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is a conservatoire located in Cardiff, Wales. It includes three theatres, the Richard Burton Theatre, the Bute Theatre, and the Caird Studio. It also includes one concert hall, the Dora Stoutzker Hall. Its alumni include Anthony Hopkins, Aneurin Barnard and Rob Brydon.

Berkeley was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to music. [3] In February 2013, it was announced that he would be made a life peer and enter the House of Lords as a crossbencher [4] and on 26 March 2013 he was created Baron Berkeley of Knighton, of Knighton in the County of Powys. [5]

In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the peerage whose titles cannot be inherited, in contrast to hereditary peers. In modern times, life peerages, always created at the rank of baron, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as age and citizenship. The legitimate children of a life peer are entitled to style themselves with the prefix "The Honourable", although they cannot inherit the peerage itself.

House of Lords upper house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is granted by appointment or else by heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

A crossbencher is an independent or minor party member of some legislatures, such as the British House of Lords and the Parliament of Australia. They take their name from the crossbenches, between and perpendicular to the government and opposition benches, where crossbenchers sit in the chamber.

In 2018 Michael Berkeley successfully instigated and steered through the House of Lords an Amendment to the Children Act 1989. This corrected an oversight in the law that meant that, while the Family Court could issue a Care Order for a child at risk of forced marriage or from a habitually drunk and violent father, it could not issue an Order for a child at risk of Female Genital Mutilation. The bill received unanimous backing in the House of Lords but, on reaching the House of Commons, where it was sponsored by Zac Goldsmith, it was twice objected to by Sir Christopher Chope. This led to national outrage, and several cabinet ministers condemned Chope’s actions. Subsequently first the Home Secretary and then the Prime Minister told parliament that they would find Government time for the Bill, which finally received Royal Assent on March 15th 2019. [6]

Children Act 1989 UK parliament act of 1989 regarding children

The Children Act 1989 allocates duties to local authorities, courts, parents, and other agencies in the United Kingdom, to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted. It centres on the idea that children are best cared for within their own families; however, it also makes provisions for instances when parents and families do not co-operate with statutory bodies.

Zac Goldsmith British politician and journalist

Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith is a British politician and journalist serving as the Member of Parliament for Richmond Park since 2017, previously holding the seat between 2010 and 2016. A member of the Conservative Party, he was its candidate at the 2016 London mayoral election, which he lost to Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party. Ideologically characterised as having liberal and libertarian views, Goldsmith is known for his environmentalist and localist beliefs.

Berkeley is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music [7] and an honorary Doctor of Music from the University of East Anglia and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. He is President of the Presteigne Festival of Music and is also a Vice-President of the Joyful Company of Singers.

Royal Northern College of Music music school in Manchester

The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) is one of the leading conservatoires in the world, located in Manchester, England. It is one of four conservatoires associated with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. In addition to being a centre of music education, RNCM is one of the UK's busiest and most diverse public performance venues.

University of East Anglia university in Norwich, England

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a public research university in Norwich, England. Established in 1963 on a 320 acres campus west of the city centre, the university has four faculties and 26 schools of study. The annual income of the institution for 2016–17 was £273.7 million of which £35.6 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £262.6 million.

The Royal Academy of Music in London, England, is the oldest conservatoire in the UK, founded in 1822 by John Fane and Nicolas-Charles Bochsa. It received its Royal Charter in 1830 from King George IV with the support of the first Duke of Wellington. It is one of the leading conservatoires in the UK, rated fourth in the Complete University Guide and third in the Guardian University Guide for 2018. Famous Academy alumni include Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox.


Berkeley's compositions include an oboe concerto (1977), an oratorio Or Shall We Die? (libretto by Ian McEwan) (1982), Gethsemani Fragment (1990), Twenty-One (1991), an opera Baa Baa Black Sheep (libretto by David Malouf based on the childhood of Rudyard Kipling) (1993). Orchestral works include Secret Garden (1997) and The Garden of Earthly Delights (1998) plus concerti for clarinet, oboe, and 'cello. In 2000, Berkeley wrote his second opera, Jane Eyre (libretto also by David Malouf), which was premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival by Music Theatre Wales and subsequently toured around the UK. The original drafts for Jane Eyre, representing one year's worth of work and the only copy of them, had been stolen from outside his London home in May 1999. [8] The manuscripts were never recovered, and Berkeley re-composed the opera completely in one year's time, for performance at Cheltenham. [1]

In October 2009, his chamber opera For You, again with Ian McEwan as librettist, was premiered by Music Theatre Wales. A projected opera of McEwan's novel Atonement with libretto by Craig Raine for Dortmund Opera has been shelved. [9] [10]

Berkeley has written a considerable amount of chamber and choral music, including the specially commissioned Listen, listen O my child for the enthronement of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013. [11] and the Magna Carta Te Deum, for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015.

The score for act 1 of his opera Jane Eyre was stolen, so Berkeley re-wrote it but in a more concentrated form, with only 5 voices and 13 instruments.


Berkeley is also known as a television and radio broadcaster on music. He currently presents BBC Radio 3's Private Passions , [1] in which celebrities are invited to choose and discuss several pieces of music. In December 1997, one of his guests was a 112-year-old Viennese percussionist called Manfred Sturmer, who told anecdotes about Brahms, Clara Schumann, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg and others so realistically that some listeners did not realise that the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by Berkeley and John Sessions. On 30 December 2018, the Prince of Wales was the guest on Private Passions, in order to mark the passing of over one thousand editions of the programme, and to celebrate the prince's 70th birthday. [12]

Personal life

Berkeley has been married twice. His first marriage was to the literary agent Deborah Rogers. The marriage lasted from 1979 until her death in April 2014. [13] The couple adopted a daughter, Jessica. [1] Berkeley composed his Violin Concerto (in memoriam D.R.), premiered in July 2016 at The Proms, in tribute to Rogers. [14] In June 2016, Berkeley married Elizabeth West. [15] Berkeley has a residence in London and a farm in Wales. [1]

Styles of address

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stephen Moss (23 June 2000). "Public man, private passions". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  2. "BBC National Orchestra of Wales : Biography" (PDF). BBC. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  3. "No. 60173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2012. p. 6.
  4. "House of Lords, official website – New peers announced". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  5. "No. 60462". The London Gazette . 28 March 2013. p. 6195.
  6. "Tory MP who blocked upskirting bill halts FGM protection law" . Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  7. "Fellows and Honorary Members". Royal Northern College of Music.
  8. Libby Brooks (12 May 1999). "Lost opera tragedy for composer". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  9. "Atonement opera in the pipeline". BBC News. 19 March 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  10. "We’ve had the book and film, now it’s Atonement the opera" by Ben Hoyle, The Times (London), 19 March 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010. Subscription required.
  11. "Listen, listen, O my child". Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  12. "Private Passions: HRH The Prince of Wales" . Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  13. Ion Trewin (4 May 2014). "Deborah Rogers obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  14. Tim Ashley (28 July 2016). "BBCNOW/Van Steen at the Proms review – outpouring of grief and nostalgia". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  15. Sebastian Shakespeare (20 June 2016). "Rushdie's ex finds love with bereaved BBC star". Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 July 2016.