Opera Scotland

Kenneth Bowen Suggest updates

Born Llanelli, 3 August 1932.

Died, 1 September 2018.

Welsh tenor.

Kenneth Bowen had a long career particularly as a concert singer, though he performed in opera with several of the leading British companies. He was later a noted teacher.

Bowen studied at the University of Aberystwyth before becoming a choral scholar at St John's College, Cambridge when the conductor was George Guest. He quickly began doing solo work with amateur choral societies, and in 1954 gave the first of countless performances of Messiah as well as a less common Handel work, Athaliah.

His professional debut was in 1957 with the New Opera Company at Sadler's Wells as Tom Rakewell. He then did two years National Service in the RAF before resuming his professional career. He received awards at several vocal competitions, including Geneva, Liverpool, Munich and 's-Hertogenbosch.

While Bowen was not a specialist opera performer he made many appearances, including Ledlanet (a memorably creepy staging of Turn of the Screw); English Opera Group (King Arthur);  Covent Garden (Hermes King Priam); ENO (Belmonte, Tamino) and Glyndebourne Tour (Don Ottavio).

Throughout his career he appeared at the Three Choirs Festival, singing the first of his over 200 performances of Gerontius there in 1960. He repeated that role in Edinburgh. From 1964 he sang at least fifteen times at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. His concert repertoire was eclectic, embracing Monteverdi, Bach, Berlioz, Elgar, Stravinsky and Britten.

As a native Welsh speaker he was a keen advocate of Welsh songs, recording many of them. He was the founder conductor of the London Welsh Chorale in 1983, and also appeared in first performances of music by leading Welsh composers, including William Mathias and Alan Hoddinott.

From 1967 Bowen was appointed a professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London, becoming head of vocal studies from 1987 to 1991. He continued to sing until 1989, and his students included Neal Davies, Brindley Sherratt and Aled Jones.

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