The programme for our 8th May Concert in St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Hamilton includes George Shearing’s ‘Songs and Sonnets’. Commissioned by the Mostly Madrigal Singers of St. Charles, Illinois, the first performance on 9thJuly 1999 was conducted by John Rutter and was accompanied by the composer on piano and Neil Swainson on bass.
A (very) potted biog:
Sir George Shearing was born into poverty in London in 1919, the youngest of nine children of a coalman and a railway cleaner. Blind from birth, he demonstrated musical talent from an early age and was educated in a number of schools for the blind until at the age of 16 he eschewed the opportunity to avail himself of a classical musical education to start work as a pianist in a local pub, first playing popular songs of the era before branching out into jazz. He remained London based as his career blossomed and by the early 1940s he was well established playing with such luminaries as Stefane Grappelli and being voted by Melody Maker Readers Best British Pianist seven years in a row. So when in 1947 he moved to the USA, he was already an established artiste. Based in New York, he soon gained international popularity, forming his own quintet, touring and working with many of the greats of the jazz world including Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme. From the 1960s until his death in 2011 at the age of 91 he became increasingly involved with classical music. Although a naturalised American citizen, he was awarded the OBE in 1996 and was knighted in 2007.