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David Fanshawe 1942-2010

1942 - 2010

c/o Jane Fanshawe,
Fossil Bluff, Walwyn Road,
Upper Colwall, Malvern,
Worcs WR13 6PR, UK

Email: music@fanshawe.com
Tel: +(44) (0)1684 540596


David Fanshawe, who died on 5th July 2010, will be best remembered for his legendary choral work African Sanctus and for his great legacy to World Music The Fanshawe Collections - a vast archive of recordings of traditional music. If you wish to obtain a recording of African Sanctus or any of his other CDs, sheet music or biographical films on DVD, please order online at www.fanshawemusicstore.com, or phone or email.


A concert celebrating his life and music took place in the Royal Festival Hall on March 31st. If anyone would like a souvenir programme from this concert, they can email music@fanshawe.com.



African Sanctus Promotional Video
The Independent obituary
The Guardian obituary
The Times obituary



There are hundreds of hours' worth of songs, dances and rituals, an entire ethnological treasure-trove, that David recorded painstakingly around the world belonging to tribes and communities in developing countries whose heritage since then - the 60s, 70s and 80s - has since disappeared. He has saved for posterity the voices of their ancestors and the musical footprint of their existence. David's passion for the music of other cultures was never touristic, he had a deep respect for the people and cultures he engaged with and believed that the recording of their music was an act of love and admiration, which it was. As every decade passes since he conducted his monumental task, his contribution will seem ever greater, ever more precious, to rank alongside that of Bartok in Hungary or Evgeniya Lineva in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. His own composing paid tribute to his research into other cultures but retained an authentic, heartfelt Britishness, confirming the truth that it is only by appreciating one's own culture that one can truly relate to those of others, as equals. He will be sorely missed as a musician, friend, composer, but beyond the personal, his contribution to the preservation of now lost musical wonders of the world was a towering achievement that can never be matched or repeated. The world of music is a hugely poorer place without him.
Howard Goodall - composer and broadcaster.

Rarely, rarely does the musical world see a composer of such utter originality, vision, humility and ability to assimilate diverse media and world music into his own, unmistakable voice. As a man David was a gentle giant - as a composer his music inspired and touched the hearts of millions around the world. Our lives have been enriched by knowing the man, his unshakable belief in humanity, his generosity of spirit, his beautiful music and his vision of life as a pulsing, pounding celebration.
Richard Blackford - composer

It's all too easy to think of David as 'the African Sanctus man', and who wouldn't like to be remembered for such a massive global success? But using traditional melodies as a starting point for composition was only a small part of his work as a composer, as it was, for example, for Vaughan Williams, alongside whom he should surely be placed for his invaluable crusade in preserving a region's folk music.

His wonderfully ear-catching film and television scores are up there with the best of them and his response to the world around him inspired rich pickings for lovers of what we might call 'events music' - his Millennium March Planet Earth for example, or his deeply touching tribute to those who died in the Boxing Day Tsunami: Lament of the Seas. Put that alongside his deliciously stirring grand march Trafalgar and you enter the world of a splendidly diverse and responsive composer.

Trafalgar was inspired by Nelson's famous quotation: 'England expects that every man will do his duty'. David certainly did his, and then some, and above and beyond all that music was a hugely loveable and ever-so-slightly eccentric human being! David will be sadly missed, but the music will live forever.
Brian Kay - radio presenter

For me David Fanshawe was an inspirational figure who transformed my life by making me realise how much great music there was out there in the world. I'd never heard of him until Easter 1975, when I was a sixth-form student, and saw a life-changing BBC2 documentary about African Sanctus. David came across as a rather eccentric, white-man abroad, but he was totally enthused by the music he was hearing and the people he was meeting. You couldn't help, but be swept away by his passion. The next day I went to my local record shop and ordered the LP. African Sanctus remains his masterpiece.

I was lucky enough to meet David when I was editing the first edition of the Rough Guide to World Music (now widely known as the 'world music Bible') which was published in 1994. I wanted an article on the music of Oceania and I knew David had spent 10 years there making incredible recordings. He didn't have time or didn't want to write the article, but suggested I go and talk to him about his recordings and experiences. We talked for hours and it made a great introduction to a musical region very few in the UK knew about.

It was around this time that the new recording of African Sanctus was made - sonically much richer than the first. The piece is seminal on two accounts - first for its recognition of the value of traditional African music (at a time when many still looked down on African or traditional culture) and for its pioneering marriage of tape and live performance. To pick one glorious example - the Kyrie, which puts a western choir over a recording of the muezzin in the Mohammad Ali mosque in Cairo. This recording of the Islamic call to prayer is, for me, the one through which I got to know this universal Muslim melody. And Fanshawe combines the muezzin with a choir singing the Kyrie in a way that is totally respectful to both. One wonders if anybody would have the courage to do that today.
Simon Broughton - Editor-in-Chief, Songlines, Co-Editor, Rough Guide to World Music

David Fanshawe was one of the most eccentric people I have ever met; he was also one of the most loveable. He was truly life-affirming, full of energy, enthusiasm and warmth radiating from him irresistibly. We first met after I'd fallen in love with his music for the TV series Flambards, and decided that he should write a piece for cello. The result (eventually) was a lovely piece called 'The Awakening'; I performed it many times, and recorded it with David at the piano. Even though we rarely saw each other, we had a long and special friendship. I am so glad that his last years, in which he was wonderfully supported by his wife Jane, were so contented; and sad that his time was cut so short. A truly unique character - he will be much missed by all who knew him.
Steven Isserlis - 'cellist

I have great memories of working with David Fanshawe right from the start, conducting Dover Castle while we were still students at the Royal College of Music, Tarka the Otter and other scores for film and television, and African Sanctus - the first recording and, later, performances with the Huddersfield Choral Society. We were a good team and I am very proud to have been part of his burgeoning career. I hope conductors will perform his works in the future because they will find it most rewarding and challenging.
Owain Arwel Hughes - conductor