Biography

General biography

Malcolm Singer is well-known as a composer, conductor and educationalist. He was Director of Music at The Yehudi Menuhin School for 19 years (1998 – 2017), and was Musical Director of the Zemel Choir for 10 years (1983 -1993). He teaches Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is Course Director for the Composers’ Workshop at the Sherborne Summer School of Music. Malcolm is regularly in demand as a consultant and visiting teacher at foreign institutions. He received the 2012 Cobbett medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians for services to Chamber Music.

Malcolm has composed many works and is particularly known for his choral music and his pieces for young people. Making Music was commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and  Kaddish for 24 solo voices was written for the BBC Singers. A Hopeful Place was conducted by Lord Menuhin in the Royal Albert Hall, London. His children’s opera The Jailer’s Tale was commissioned by the Finchley Children’s Music Group and his children’s cantata Dragons (to poems by Nick Toczek) is published by Music Sales. Chamber works include Quartet for Strings, Nonet for Strings, a Piano Quartet ‘The Grammar of Hope’ and a Piano Trio.

Malcolm Singer read music at Magdalene College, Cambridge before studying in Europe with Nadia Boulanger, Gyorgy Ligeti and Franco Donatoni. He was later awarded a 1980 Harkness Fellowship, spending two years studying computer music at Stanford University, California.

Malcolm is married to Sara Nathan. They live in West London. They have two children and two grandchildren.

Malcolm is a trustee of the Henri Moerel Foundation and the Orpheus Sinfonia Foundation, and is a patron of the Zemel Choir and the Finchley Children’s Music Group.

Specialist biographies

Working with young musicians

Malcolm has worked with young musicians throughout his professional life, and has composed much music either for young performers, or for a mixture of young musicians and professionals. Making Music (1983) was written for the children’s audience of the Robert Mayer Concerts and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and H.D.’s Song (1991) is for children’s choir and children’s instrumental ensemble.

A Hopeful Place (1996) commissioned for Lord Menuhin’s 80th birthday concert in the Royal Albert Hall, is scored for children’s choir (with soloists), string octet and symphony orchestra.

Collaborations with the poet Nick Toczek include Dragons (1997) for children’s choir with a full orchestra (published by Music Sales as as Dragons – The Musical), Perfect Pitch (2004), another children’s cantata which focuses on football and the opera The Jailer’s Tale (2009) commissioned by the Finchley Children’s Music Group. Works composed specifically for beginner string players to perform with professional musicians include Fantasia on Yehudi’s Theme (1998) and Rondoletto (2003). Suite: from the Shtetl (2007), for similar forces, was commissioned by the National Association of Youth Orchestras. 

Working with Choirs

With the experience he gained as a conductor of choirs, Malcolm has written a great deal of choral music. His setting of Kaddish (1990) was commissioned by the BBC Singers, and And Death Shall Have No Dominion (1987) was written for the Westminster Abbey choir. He has set many psalms – Psalms 100, 117 and 122 in Hebrew, Songs of Ascent in English and Jubilate in Latin. Psalms for Today (1995) set modern psalms by Ernesto Cardenal in English translation. His cantata, The Mask of Esther, deals with the book of Esther, as re-worked by the poet Michelene Wandor, and he has set the same writer’s words in the Four Miniatures for Male Voice Choir (2003). Meditation (1996) was written in memory of Rabbi Hugo Gryn and is regularly heard in synagogue services. Another setting in Hebrew is of Psalm 95 (2005) which was written for the Zemel Choir’s 50th anniversary. Shipley Psalms for choir and solo violin was premiered in the 2018 Shipley Festival.The earliest of his ‘choral’ works is the ever-popular spoken Fugue.

Working in the Jewish Community

Malcolm is very active in the Jewish musical community. He was Musical Director of the Zemel Choir from 1983-1993 and has conducted the BBC Singers in several concerts of Jewish Music. Malcolm has written many musical works with Jewish themes. Kaddish ((1990) was commissioned by the BBC Singers and Meditation (1996) was written in memory of Rabbi Hugo Gryn and is regularly heard in synagogue services. With the librettist, Michelene Wandor, he wrote the cantata, York (1990), commissioned to commemorate the 800th anniversary of massacre of the Jews at Clifford’s Tower and then a second cantata, The Mask of Esther (2001). His setting of Psalm 122 (1991) was written for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain’s Jubilee Service, and settings of Psalm 100 and 117 (1995) were commissioned by the Zemel Choir for their 40th Anniversary Concert. Jubilate, set in Latin, was written for the St. Alban’s Chamber Choir. A setting in Hebrew of Psalm 95 (2005) was written for the Zemel Choir’s 50th anniversary, and his Shipley Psalms for choir and solo violin was premiered in the 2018 Shipley Festival. Recently Malcolm has given two online lectures about Yehudi Menuhin and Leonard Bernstein for the Jewish Music Institute.