Birmingham composer John Joubert dies aged 91

Birmingham composer John Joubert dies aged 91

Birmingham composer, John Joubert has died aged 91.

He died on January 7, 2019 after a fall on New Year’s Day.

He was well known for his works including the carol Torches and the opera Jane Eyre.

The composer was born in Cape Town on March 27, 1927 and educated at the Diocesan College in Rondebosch.

Composer John Joubert at his home in Moseley in 2007

The director of music there was Claude Brown, who had been an assistant to Ivor Atkins, organist at Worcester Cathedral (and therefore only one handshake away from Edward Elgar), who instilled in Joubert a love of the English choral tradition which would later inform so much of his work.

He came to England in 1946 after winning a Performing Right Society Scholarship which enabled him to study for four years at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London.

By this time he had already started his portfolio of both choral and orchestral music, performed in South Africa.

In 1950, his first string quartet was accepted for publication by Novello and, with a few exceptions, his entire output of works from then on was made available through them – he takes the medal of composer with the longest ever association with that house.

Dr John Joubert and Mary Joubert
Dr John Joubert and Mary Joubert

After gaining several prizes for composition at the RAM, and gaining a BMus degree from the University of Durham, Joubert took up a position as Lecturer in Music at the University of Hull.

It was during his time there that he composed the carol Torches for his wife Mary to teach to her primary schoolchildren, and which has become a favourite throughout the Christian world since.

He moved to Birmingham in 1962 to teach music at University of Birmingham and the Jouberts have lived in Moseley ever since.

John Joubert became a highly-regarded figure in the musical life of his adopted home city, serving for 25 years as chairman of the Birmingham Chamber Music Society, frequently attending performances from the CBSO and from visiting opera companies at Birmingham Hippodrome.

John Pulford (Chairman Board of Directors Ex Cathedra), John Joubert (composer), Jill Robinson (director and singer, Ex Cathedra) at Ex Cathedra's inaugural concert at the Town Hall
John Pulford (Chairman Board of Directors Ex Cathedra), John Joubert (composer), Jill Robinson (director and singer, Ex Cathedra) at Ex Cathedra’s inaugural concert at the Town Hall

He retired from the University in 1986 in order to concentrate on composition but he continued to teach privately and at the (now Royal) Birmingham Conservatoire for several years.

Novello’ Managing Director, James Rushton, paid tribute to him, saying: “During a 60-year professional composing career, extending right to the very end of his life, John created a substantial catalogue of music that has enchanted all who have heard it.

“Whilst it is the choral music that has entered the global repertoire, with very few choirs untouched by his immediately singable, beautifully heard and sensitively felt work, the output is broad and varied, always sympathetic to the needs of performer and audience alike.

“John was a gentle man, and one of wisdom and humour. He was also very much in demand as a teacher, guide and adviser. He will be missed by us and by all who came into contact with him.”

John Joubert is survived by his wife Mary, and his violinist son Pierre and cellist daughter Anna.