Sir Stephen Cleobury, longtime Director of Music at King's College, Cambridge, dead at 70

Nov 24, 2019

Stephen Cleobury
Credit King's College, Cambridge

This year's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the Choir of King's College, Cambridge will likely be a sadder affair this year, following the death of its longtime leader Stephen Cleobury. 

Cleobury died Nov. 22 following a long illness, according to a statement released by King's. The statement noted that Cleobury died on the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

Cleobury was Director of Music at King's for over three decades and had just retired in September of this year. He is perhaps best known as the conductor of the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is broadcast around the world every Christmas Eve. 

In 1984, Cleobury began the tradition of commissioning a new carol annually for the Festival. Composers of these carols have included John Rutter, Stephen Paulus, Judith Weir, John Tavener and many others.

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. See a short documentary below.