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John Shirley-Quirk (Bass-Baritone)

Born: August 28, 1931 - Liverpool, England
Died: April 7, 2014 - Bath, England

The distinguished English bass-baritone, John (Stanton) Shirley-Quirk, sang at the school choir of Holt High School, Queen's Drive, Childwall Five Ways, Liverpool. His music teacher there was Dr Marshall. He first studied the violin and was awarded a scholarship for that instrument. Later at Liverpool University, where he read chemistry and physics, he studied singing with Austen Carnegie. Service in the Royal Air Force interrupted these studies until, in 1957, he came to London to work under Roy Henderson. His hyphenated name is composed of the place-name Shirley, in Derbyshire, where his ancestors lived, and the Celtic appellation in the Manx language, used in the channel Isle of Man.

John Shirley-Quirk made his operatic debut in 1961 as the Doctor in Pelléas et Mélisande at the Glyndebourne Festival. From 1964 to 1976 he was a leading member of the English Opera Group, where he became well known for his outstanding performances of many of Benjamin Brittenís works, including The Prodigal Son which was presented at the Aldeburgh, Versailles, City of London, Flanders and Edinburgh Festivals. He premiered roles in all of B. Britten's last five operas. In June 1973 he created all the baritone roles in B. Brittenís Death in Venice. In 1973 he sang at Londonís Covent Garden. In October 1974 he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in New York, as the Traveller in Death in Venice. In July 1977 he created the role of Lev in Tippettís The Ice Break at Covent Garden.

John Shirley-Quirk was renowned for his masterful performances in orchestral and recital repertoire ranging from the Baroque to 20th-century works. He performed regularly with major orchestras world-wide, especially in England, Europe and the USA. He appeared with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra several times (1965, 1970). Opera performances included major roles at Londonís Covent Garden, Milanís La Scala, New Yorkís Metropolitan Opera. He also toured widely as a concert artist.

John Shirley-Quirk also took part in productions of opera for television, with notable performances in Billy Budd and Eugene Onegin. He made over one hundred recordings on major international labels, including works by Monteverdi, J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, Haydn, Felix Mendelssohn and Berlioz. Many of which have received awards.

In 1975 John Shirley-Quirk was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Source: Theatre Chamber Player Website; Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Message from Eric Cowell (August 2001); Programme notes to a concert of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Istvan Kertesz performing War Requiem by B. Britten (May 1970)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2001); Manfred Krugmann (Dates & Photos 10, April 2014)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Benjamin Britten


BWV 151, BWV 245

Carlo Maria Giulini


BWV 232

Lorin Maazel


BWV 232

Neville Marriner


BWV 56, BWV 82, BWV 159

Blanche Moyse


BWV 244 [Jesus]

David Willcocks


BWV 147, BWV 244

Links to other Sites

Theatre Chamber Players: About the Artists


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Last update: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 01:24