Born: February 6, 1945 - Wellington, New Zealand
Died: July 30, 1995 - Sydney, Australia
The New Zealand-born harpsichordist, Anthony Jennings, already identified in his school years as something of a prodigy, was accompanying church services as an organist at 8t years old and formed his own parish choir at the age of 13. He was in the very first intake of performance students at Victoria University of Wellington and graduated in 1966 with first-class honours in organ performance. He always counted himself lucky to have been taught during these years by Maxwell Fernie, an inspired organist and a choirmaster with a thorough understanding of the great musical achievements of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church.
While still a student Anthony Jennings was appointed organist and choir-master at St. Peterís Church, Willis Street and conducted the University Choir. He founded the Wellington Bach Choir (carrying a nucleus of his University Choir from the previous year with him) and they took on some extraordinarily ambitious projects. The youthful choirs' presentations of baroque masterpieces (George Frideric Handelís Messiah, Haydnís Creation, and J.S. Bach's B Minor Mass (BWV 232), St. John Passion (BWV 245) and St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244)) were refreshing - a radical departure stylistically from the performances of the more established choirs.
In 1971, Anthony Jennings left Wellington on a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council scholarship to study at the Brussels Conservatiore where, with Charles König as his teacher, he came properly into contact with the historical performance movement. He completed the two-year course in a mere nine months (carrying off their Premier Prix and the Queen of Belgiumís gold medal) and undertook the postgraduate harpsichord course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. He then spent a year as deputy organist at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban where Peter Hurford was Director of Music.
In 1974, a year after his return to New Zealand, Anthony Jennings was appointed to a lectureship at Auckland University and became Director of Music at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Auckland. The Cathedral Choir flourished under his directorship - the recordings made during his time there are a testimony to this. Like Max Fernie, Jennings had a strong sense of the enduring value in a modern liturgy of the great musical achievements of the past. He was contemptuous of what he saw as the superficiality of trying to meet Ďpopular tasteí.
His teaching at Auckland University was similarly informed by personal conviction. Through his Auckland Concert (a baroque instrumental group) as well as through his music history lectures, Anthony Jennings Jennings had a major impact on a large number of students. The fruits of all this are very evident in New Zealand music today. When Tony left Auckland to take up a position at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, his departure was lamented by audiences and colleagues who realised that they had lost a uniquely talented musician.