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DAVID FANSHAWE (1942 - 2010)

DAVID FANSHAWE, composer and explorer, died on 5th July 2010, following a stroke. 

He was 68.

1985 (courtesy Canberra Times)

The news has come as a great shock to his many colleagues, friends and fans from around the world.

David Fanshawe 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.

David Fanshawe’s last completed work is Pacific Song – for chorus, flute and percussion -inspired by the music of Tonga.  It is one movement of Pacific Odyssey, a large-scale work, which he left unfinished.

The last performances of African Sanctus attended by the composer took place in June 2010; one in Bahrain, and one at St Martin-in-the-Fields - with The London Chorus, conducted by Ronald Corp – held in aid of the Footballs for Fun Trust.

He is survived by his wife, Jane, and their daughter Rachel, his former wife (Judith Croasdell), and their children Alexander and Rebecca.


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 80 - 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 Goodallcomposer 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

 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’d never heard of David Fanshawe 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.

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 example, 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 Rough Guide to World Music and Songlines


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



David Fanshawe, composer and explorer, a Churchill Fellow and the recipient of many international awards, is an internationally distinguished composer, ethno-musicologist, sound recordist, archivist, performer, dynamic and entertaining lecturer, record producer, photographer and author. He is also widely known for his lead roles in documentaries. A television, radio and public personality extraordinaire, he is acclaimed as one of the worlds most original composers.
David Fanshawe was born in 1942 in Devon, England and was educated at St Georges Choir School and Stowe. In 1959 he joined the Film Producers Guild in London gaining valuable experience as a documentary film editor and sound recordist. In 1965, he won a Foundation Scholarship to the Royal College of Music, studying composition with John Lambert. He gained national recognition in 1970, as cantor soloist and composer, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with Salaams, a work based on the rhythms of the Bahrain pearl divers. His ambition to record indigenous folk music began in the Middle East, and was intensified on subsequent journeys through North and East Africa (1969-75) resulting in his unique and highly original blend of Music and Travel. In Africa he succeeded in documenting hundreds of tribes, achieving such close rapport with local communities that they gave him special permission to record their performances. His work has been the subject of unique albums, concerts and award-winning tv documentaries.
Among David Fanshawes compositions is his highly acclaimed choral and archival work African Sanctus. Composed over 30 years ago, this celebratory and visionary work has received thousands of performances worldwide, from the Sydney Opera House to The Kennedy Centre, Liszt Academy in Hungary to Brazil, South Africa and the Royal Albert Hall. Other works include: Dover Castle, The Awakening, Requiem for Aberfan, Dona Nobis Pacem: A Hymn for World Peace, Fanfare to Planet Earth & Millennium March, Lament of the Seas (after the Asian Tsunami), and Pacific Song. Scores composed for over 50 Film and TV productions include BBCs When the Boat Comes In, ITVs Flambards and Ranks Tarka the Otter. His ethnic field recordings have featured in countless TV documentaries and in feature films, notably Seven Years in Tibet and Gangs of New York.
David Fanshawe is a motivational guest speaker, for which he has received international acclaim at festivals, in educational programmes and at corporate events. He is described as an incredible communicator with fantastic energy with a wide repertoire of multimedia presentations - suitable for all age groups and occasions, in todays multi-cultural and evolving world. His work has also been the subject of biographical television documentaries and radio programmes broadcast around the world, including: African Sanctus (BBC TV Omnibus, Prix Italia nomination), Arabian Fantasy (Namara/BBC), Musical Mariner (National Geographic) and recently Tropical Beat.
Since 1978, his ten year odyssey, recording across the Pacific Ocean has resulted in a monumental archive, The Fanshawe Collections, comprising thousands of hours of stereo tapes, slides and hand-written journals, preserving for posterity the music and oral traditions of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia and South East Asia. A number of compilations from The Fanshawe Collections, have been released on CD, including Music of the South Pacific, Spirit of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, Music of the Nile, Thailand and Laos.
David Fanshawe married Judith C. Grant in 1971, they have two children, Alexander and Rebecca. He married his second wife Jane in 1985, they have one daughter Rachel and live in Wiltshire, England, home of the Fanshawe Collections.
Current projects include copying and cataloguing his Pacific Collections, whilst composing his new major work Pacific Odyssey for a world premiere in the Sydney Opera House. Recently, his latest completed work Pacific Song was premiered at the American Choral Directors National Convention by the Multicultural Honor Choir in Miami and recorded for CD with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus.
In 2009 The University of the West of England (UWE) awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music to David Fanshawe in recognition of his outstanding contribution to bringing music from around the world into the lives of people who neither read nor write music and to his pursuit of musical excellence, which is synonymous with the aims of the Universitys Centre for Performing Arts. David Fanshawe said, This award I proudly accept in the spirit of the Universitys ethos: better together. In my serendipitous career, through the adventures of Music and Travel, I have been privileged to experience our world as a composer and musical explorer. It is now my humble dream to go on sharing my aspirations with future generations, through the legacy of my Sound Archives; and by fulfilling my lifes missions, which are: to celebrate the universal language of music; to record for posterity endangered World Music, threatened with extinction; to seek inspiration for my own compositions - thus uniting musical worlds apart. Thank you for this quite unexpected honour and tribute.



African Sanctus has received well over a thousand live performances in over thirty countries.

In 1974, in his foreword to David Fanshawe's autobiographical book African Sanctus, Sir Keith Falkner wrote

David is perhaps the most original, independent and self-reliant young man I have known. An Eccentric; yet a good man, positive and full of purpose. A Visionary with the character and tenacity to convert his visions into reality.... There is no knowing what great things this man may achieve in the next thirty years.

It is a celebratory and visionary work, expressing unity between peoples, their faiths and, above all, their music. African Sanctus is firmly established in the choral repertoire and on educational syllabuses.
David Fanshawes now legendary journey up the Nile (1969-73) became the framework of the composition, a symbolic cross-shaped pilgrimage. Armed with one rucksack and a stereo tape recorder, he succeeded in recording music from well over fifty tribes in Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya, achieving such a close rapport with many local communities that they gave permission for their performances to be specially recorded. Fanshawe was supported by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust and was awarded a Churchill Fellowship. In 1974 BBC Televisions Omnibus made a film of African Sanctus on location in North and East Africa, directed by Herbert Chappell. It was nominated for the Prix Italia and the first broadcast coincided with release on the Philips label of the premiere recording of African Sanctus - conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes. The score was first published in 1977, and the premiere performances took place the following year in Toronto and at the Three Choirs Festival (Worcester).

African Sanctus is a highly original work in which very different cultures have been imaginatively and ingeniously fused. The music is a fresh today as it was when first heard
Sir David Willcocks

A phenomenon amongst serious composers writing today, his music actually fills concert halls....
The effect was spellbinding and won a standing ovation from a capacity audience.
The Times

A work of ethnic diversity and multi-culturalism
Toronto Globe and Mail

Afro-Latin, tribal-choral masterpiece
The Observer

Mass meets Masai majestically ecofriendly
Melbourne Age

Fanshawes Sanctus, electrifying, stirring
Pretoria News

Very engrossing, musically rewarding piece
Washington Post

A work of pure vitality and excitement in which two distinct worlds meet
The Australian

It is an uplifting piece; the humanity and reverence we share with the Africans who Fanshawe recorded shine through. His tapes and photos are a precious document of these vanished pieces of culture.
Register Guard, Eugene, Oregon.

African Sanctus has in fact become an unintentional Requiem.
Philadelphia Inquirer

African Sanctus points the way toward interfaith understanding for the common good and that we can reflect on the question, Who is my neighbor in the globalized reality of our world today.
Mississipi Chorus, Jackson


The cultural significance of David Fanshawes work is immense. His recordings are considered to be of the finest professional standard.
National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra

Fanshawe, one of the foremost ethnomusicologists in the world....has done more for the preservation and archiving of indigenous folk music than anyone else in the past thirty years and his devotion to his work is astonishing.
Britannia Music
A marvellous conservation of endangered folk music

This is a collection of 800 tapes, 400 hours, predominantly from North and East Africa, recorded between 1969 and 1975 and includes 50 tribes from Kenya. Also forming part of this collection are recordings from the Middle East made in the late 1960s and from South East Asia in 1994. All the recordings have corresponding colour photographs. Many types of traditional music and instruments are captured as well as environmental sounds. Countries represented in this collection are: from AFRICA - Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania & Zanzibar, and Senegal; from the MIDDLE EAST - Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia; from SE ASIA India, Thailand, and Laos

A rare and unique sound picture, an unparalleled musical survey
The Fanshawe Pacific Collections are a major archive, focussing on traditional forms of ethnic music- making throughout the Pacific region. This massive collection spans 11 years research in Ploynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia and includes 25 Pacific Nations. There are over 2,000 stereo tapes and each tape is matched with colour photographs. All the research is well documented in detailed journals. Many types of traditional music and instruments are captured as well as environmental sounds from this vast region.

Choral and Vocal Works

African Sanctus - Ivor Novello Award
Dona Nobis Pacem: A Hymn for World Peace
Lament of the Seas
Pacific Song
Celtic Lullaby
Bring Love to the World
Epitaphs In Memoriam
Holy Jesus
Only a Star
Sing Christians Sing!
Sing Alleluia
Two Carols
Dance Ti Thi Daddy
Ring Out the Bells
Works for Orchestra and Bands

Dover Castle: a Seascape
The Clowns Concerto
Fanfare to Planet Earth
Millennium March
Tarka the Otter
Arabian Fantasy
La Dame Etrange
Requiem for the Children of Aberfan

Chamber and instrumental works
The Pensive Clown
Serenata: Mother and Child
The Awakening
Over 30 film and televison scores, including
When the Boat Comes In
Three Men in a Boat
Americas Sweetheart
Tarka the Otter
The Good Companions
Musical Mariner - AFI best soundtrack award


Further information for features, tv and film, international, liaison with Fanshawe family, etc
Please email; phone only if necessary or personal + 44 7909 94614 thank you, KC

12 July 2010



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