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British conductor, 45, dies after long illness

Graham Jackson was the exceptionally dedicated general music director in Krefeld and Mönchengladbach. Despite being desperately ill, he continued conducting until the last few weeks. His final performance was Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique. He leaves a wife and four children. Our thoughts are with them.

Here’s a German report.

And this is the official bio:

Graham Jackson was born in England in 1967. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge University, and then completed his musical studies at the Royal Northern College of Music under Timothy Reynish. He built his operatic repertoire working at the Welsh National Opera, and in 2000 he moved to Germany to take up the position of First Kapellmeister at Bremen Opera. There he made his reputation conducting widely-acclaimed productions of “Cosi fan tutte”, “Die tote Stadt” and the world premiere of the opera “Noach” by Sidney Corbett, together with numerous repertoire performances. He also took over the new production of “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” a week before the premiere, with sensational success. As a result he was appointed to the position of General Music Director in Krefeld and Mönchengladbach from September 2003. In his opening seasons as Music Director, his conducting of new productions of “La Traviata”, “Tannhäuser”, “Werther”, “La Bohème”, “Der Freischütz”, “Death in Venice” and the German premiere of Friedrich Cerha’s opera “Der Riese vom Steinfeld” was universally praised, while on the concert platform his readings in particular of Mahler, Strauss, Beethoven and Stravinsky earned rave reviews. As a guest conductor Graham Jackson has appeared at the Komische Oper, Berlin, Oper Frankfurt, the Volksoper Vienna, the Hamburg Staatstheater, Rome Opera, the Opera de la Bastille Paris and also in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. He has conducted concerts throughout Germany, recently in Nürnberg, Augsburg, Lübeck, Bochum, Schwerin, Dessau and Schleswig-Holstein.

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  1. R.I.P. Graham Jackson. I played -coincidence or not-the Berg violin concerto in his last concert, which he had scheduled but after all couldn t conduct any more, as he felt too weak. The Kapellmeister had to take over. His conducting of the Berlioz in the 2nd half of the concert was full of energy and esprit!! I was hoping so much for him…he was such a friendly man, a wonderful collegue, respected by all. His orchestra and the audience loved him.

    • Adrienne Jackson says:


      He was devastated not to be able to conduct the Berg. It was one of his favourite violin concertos and he had such respect for your mastery and skill. However he listened on all four night’s from the wings instead of resting and it gave him strength and delight each time. Many many thanks for a memorable send off .

      He had said he would take it easy with the Berlioz. But as the music took over, he forgot the limitations of his illness and moved with grace and elegance conducting with his usual fiery spirit and integrity. The music soared.

      I was very lucky the children were there to see their father in action one last time.

      • What a poignant anecdote. Thank you, and my heartfelt condolences on your loss.

      • Peter Bannister says:

        Dear Adrienne,
        Was very sorry not to be there for Graham’s final concert in Monchengladbach – you and the family are very much in my thoughts and prayers…
        With all best wishes,

      • melanie mcwilliams (nee smith) says:

        Am so so sorry for your unbelievable loss and pain. I knew Graham at Trinity-I was a choral scholar and read music with him (only 3 of us in our year) but he was clearly an amazing musician then. Am pleased he seems to have had a fulfilled and succesful musical and family life (not always easy) but so sorry for such a loss.

        • Camilla Otaki says:

          Graham was the most energised person I’ve ever met. At Trinity, he gobbled his food at an amazing rate and was off to the next rehearsal. He had the humility to work very hard at everything he did, and always managed to be pleasant and positive. This really is a great loss to the world. The only consolation is that he seems to have packed an enormous amount into his relatively brief life.

      • Dear Adrienne,
        my sincerest condolences. My thoughts are with you and your children!
        Indeed nobody could tell that he was sick when seeing him conduct the Berlioz. He was a true musician, full of integrity and desire to serve the music, no matter what. Through his music making and his kindness as a person he will always be remembered, stay with us and be close to our hearts. I wish you a lot of strength,

      • Rebecca Woods Ballard/Hardisty says:

        Adrienne, I am so devastated for yours, and the children’s loss, and it has given me such joy reading the above. Graham was such a lovely, gentle, kind man and I knew him as my cousin, not as a musician, and my over-riding and ever-lasting memories of him always have been, and always will be, his warmth and kindness. He is very much missed and loved by me. All my love and thoughts go to you and the children.

    • James Dickie says:

      .Dear Adrienne

      I remember Graham from our time at Trinity, and then the privilege of officiating at your marriage in Clifton Chapel; no wedding I’ve been at had such a Choir as we had that day! I’m so sorry to hear the news of his death. My thoughts are with you.


      • Adrienne Jackson says:

        Dear James

        Again thankyou for officiating at our wedding. We had arranged it ourselves and our lesson from this wonderful event was, never perform when you are also organising . In our future lives, I sorted the first level of organisation and development, then he finalised the decisions – you need something to start from…….. I remember your sermon where you talked about ‘ ‘cherishing’ at the ceremony, I think ‘negotiating’ might have been more adapt and certainly reflected our approach for more humourful, black or white. .

        We were together for 25 years and married for 19 of them. None of it easy, but all of it a challenge and a wonderful journey.

        He is part of me – my better half.


  2. Barbara Wyllie says:

    This is an awful shock. I knew Graham when we were teenagers and at Cambridge. He was a brilliant musician and a delight to play with. He always made you up your game. I’m astonished. What a loss.

  3. Wurtfangler says:

    This is a great shock. Graham was incredibly kind when I lived in Germany, providing me with thoughtful advice. I spent many a happy hour observing his rehearsals in Mönchengladbach. What a real shame.

  4. Paula Bradbury says:

    I was at college and Wno with Graham. A truly talented, inspirational and kind man. He always had time to help and bring singers on. A true gent.

    • Madeleine Gray says:

      I too was at the RNCM with Graham and heard this terribly sad news via mutual friends. I had not seen him in years, but he came up in conversation with Anthony Walker during an audition a while back, and I knew he was making a real name for himself in Germany. My sincerest and heartfelt condolences to Adrienne and the rest of the family – what a terrible loss.

  5. Mark Kemball says:

    Adrienne: I learned about this through the Trinity Choir office and am desparately sorry. My mother, my brothers and I knew the family well from Guildford days. Please accept our deepest condolences.

    Daphne, Mark, Jeremy and Gavin Kemball

  6. Doris Schmitz says:

    Liebe Familie Jackson
    Ein ganz besonderer Mensch hat unsere
    Welt verlassen..was für ein Verlust!
    Doch durch seine Familie ist er unsterblich,
    er lebt in euch weiter!
    Wir können den Schmerz nicht nehmen….
    aber teilen, von ganzem Herzen
    Doris Schmitz ( Niederrheinischer Konzertchor)
    mit Sohn Richard

    • Adrienne Jackson says:

      Liebe Doris

      Vielen Dank fuer Ihre nette Nachricht. Wir gucken vorwarts. Er hat uns so viele tolle Erinerrungs aus unsere Leben in Deutschland gegeben. Wir sind glucklich dass wir unglaublich so viele geschaft hatten in allen bereich, Musik, Schulen, Musikschule und, natuerlich, Borossia Moenchengladbah – sein lieblings Fussball team.

      Es ist nicht einfach; aber fuer Ihn, sag ich, dass er wollte alle Leute ein Glass Weine trinken und dann die beste Leben schafen.. Er hat alles geschaft was er wollte. Er war fruehe gestorben aber hat viele gepackt.

      Danke fuer ihre mit teilen und schoene Worte

      Adrienne Jackson

  7. Tim Summers says:

    I knew Graham from when we were both about 15, at the Royal College junior department, where we spent a lot of time playing orchestral and chamber music together. I remember especially some tremendously fun times in the US on tour together. Later, we were both at Cambridge and again spent much time making music together, including – possibly – his orchestral conducting debut. A tremendously talented man and an old friend. Very sad.

  8. Helen Gough (Goodwin) says:

    Graham and I ran CUCO all those years ago when students at Cambridge, having been colleagues in the NYO too. He always smiled and always showed such immense dedication to music that I felt like the musical joker alongside him. My thoughts go out to his family at this difficult time.

  9. Caz Weller Knight says:

    Dear Adrienne
    I too received this terrible and shocking news through the Trinity Choir Office today. I remember Graham’s generosity of spirit, kindness and fun, quite as much as his outstanding musicianship. The happy evening I spent in his company, catching up and discussing your lives together in Germany, at a Trinity reunion a couple of years ago is now an especially precious memory. Our thoughts are with you. Caz Weller Knight and family.

  10. John Rodger says:

    What a shock, I and many of my colleagues are heartbroken over this!

    I had the privilege to step in for an ailing colleague and make my European debut under the baton of Maestro Jackson, and he was full of life and energy…I had no idea he was suffering so.

    My deepest condolences to his loved ones. He will never be forgotten.

  11. This is terrible, terrible news. i remember Graham as a generous and gifted musician during our time at the RNCM, one of the few people I could cajole into playing the piano accompaniment to the Creston Concertino for Marimba. My sincerest condolences to Adrienne and family.

  12. A great man, full of energy and enthusiasm from the moment you met him. He loved music. He was omni talented, playing the bassoon in the NYO, gaining his FRCO organ diploma as a teenager, and to cap it all he originally came to Trinity College, Cambridge as an organ scholar to read Maths. As Helen above mentions he also found time amidst everything to run many university musical organisations. Brain, passion, energy – he had it all. A lovely person who will be missed.
    Deepest sympathy to Adrienne and his children.

  13. Jo McLean says:

    A truly lovely man. What a terrible shock. I was also at the RNCM with him and remember him as a gentle and incredibly talented musician. Sincere condolences to his family

  14. Clare Hoskins says:

    Dear Adrienne,
    We all had such a happy time at your home only a few months ago, and Dorothy, Mabel and Jess loved meeting your wonderful family. We were all struck by your positive approach to Graham’s illness, and the amazing hope the new treatment had given you. It was both extraordinary and delightful that Graham seemed as full of energy, enthusiasm and zest for life when we saw you in April as he had when I got to know him so well in the family of Trinity Choir. I treasure countless memories of his telling stories – a veritable high-speed raconteur – and then shrieking with laughter. He spoke faster than anyone else I ever knew, ate faster, even seemed to think faster. Thus fate decreed that, though his life was cruelly cut short, he will have packed more into his 45 years than anyone else could have done. All that manic activity was shot through with his wicked sense of humour, his musical integrity and dedication (mentioned by many others already) and determination to make everything as good as it could be. How he managed (or had time!) to be quietly sensitive and gentle when a friend was in a crisis whilst living his intellectual and musical life in the fast lane, I’ll never know, but on more than one occasion I was such a friend in need, and he was happy to help pick up the pieces and send me on my way re-energized and with some good advice to cheer me on my way. How our hearts go out to you and your lovely children, Adrienne! May your love for one another, and your memories of this super-speed, super-brain, superman give you the strength and courage to manage without him.

  15. Simon Gibson says:

    My path crossed with Graham’s briefly at Cambridge, where I read music. I vividly remember a performance of Carmina Burana in Trinity Chapel and thinking at the time that Graham was a truly gifted conductor / musician. Really shocked to hear of his passing at such a young age. Sincere condolences.

  16. John Kehoe says:

    I have strong and happy memories of Graham at Trinity where he made such a vital contribution to many of the recordings Conifer made with Richard and the Choir. He was a highly creative part of the team; even only visitng from time to time for recording sessions, I saw how much he was at the heart of the Choir ‘family’ with his lovely personality and musical gifts.

    Later, he and Adrienne came to Huddersfield where Graham made a solo organ CD for us on the ‘Father’ Willis in Huddersfield Town Hall. For a producer it was a joy to have Graham to record for us: he got through a demanding programme with great flair and musicality. It was a hugely enjoyable few days’ recording in the company of such a devoted couple.. I treasure all those CDs.

    I can do little but add my deep condolences to the many that will be sent to Graham’s family and friends. .

    John Kehoe
    (formerly of Conifer Records)

    • Adrienne Jackson says:

      Dear John

      I remember as of yesterday pulling stops for that recording and the impecable detail you and he went into analysing every phrase. It was an eye opener seeing you two discuss the details of balance, quality and general intrinsic experience. You were a huge professional and inspiration for him in the process of sounding out the musical experience and thinking more of the enjoyment and translation of ideas.

      I remember a lovely meal afterwards also. It was a special time together.

  17. Richard Pearce says:

    Dear Adrienne,
    I also heard the sad news from Trinity Chapel’s administrator. I was junior organ scholar in Graham’s last year at Cambridge, and we had great fun working together on an almost daily basis and on several recordings, especially the Walton Choral music and Bach Motets discs. He was a fantastic player, and I learned a huge amount from him about organ playing and accompaniment which has stayed with me ever since. But as others have said, Graham was someone who did lots of things and seemed able to excel in all of them. I remember also accompanying him for a bassoon recital in the chapel – it must have made an impression because I still recall some of the pieces – Vivaldi and the Saint-Saens sonata. And the dafter things we had to do – I still have the count-down timings in my copy of Bach’s St. Ann Fugue which Graham told me to put in, so I could finish ten seconds before he and Richard Marlow conducted half of the chapel choir each from two of the towers in Great Court as the clock struck midday. There are many happy memories.

    I didn’t see him after Cambridge until many years later when I caught him after a WNO performance; he seemed just the same, full of energy and enthusiasm.

    I can’t imagine how you and your children must feel, but please accept good wishes and thoughts to all of you. The Chapel said it would be OK for others to attend on Monday, so certainly intend to do that.

    Best wishes, Richard

  18. Graham was a lovely, lovely chap. He was kind, a true gent, inspirational, talented and had the biggest winning smile. I had the privilege to know Graham in NYO where he was a talented bassoonist and then at Cambridge where his keyboard and directing skills showed yet another side of his incredible talent.

    I have incredibly fond memories of visiting Graham at Trinity in his first year when he was in Angel Court and I went to visit Cambridge for the first time on a school trip in the Lower 6th. Graham was so very proud of the chapel choir and he told me very excitedly all about Richard Marlow and the fantastic sound that his choir was making. I had sung with some wonderful choirs during my school years and hoped one day to be a choral scholar at Trinity or Clare. “You haven’t heard a choir like this one” Graham said. He was right. Thanks to Graham I was able to watch the rehearsal for evensong from the organ loft and my mind was made up. After hearing Trinity choir and barely taking in the glorious surroundings, I aspired on that visit to one day being able to wear one of those red robes. I recall the visit as if it were only yesterday.

    Graham was Organ Scholar during my first year at Trinity and I think I even inherited his old room in Angel Court. It was wonderful to be able to sing in the chapel with him and play in the orchestra when he directed college music society events – he was already showing the signs of becoming a superb conductor and he had a real insight into the music.

    It was lovely to see Graham again just a couple of years ago at an NYO reunion at Wolfson and he hadn’t changed a bit. He was just as cheerful and so genuinely pleased to see everyone. I was delighted to know that he was enjoying family life and that he was doing what he loved to do. He had found out by then that he was ill, but he was determined not to let it get him down. He was so very, very happy talking about the things which mattered most to him – his family and his music.

    Happy memories of a lovely, lively and sincere chap. A life lived to the full, touching many people, but sadly for us, all too short.

  19. Ian Lyon says:

    Graham was a shining star in an already lustrous and lovely family when we were growing up together in Guildford. He was maddeningly brilliant at everything he turned his mind to: a superb cathedral chorister at Guildford (where he sang with the Kemballs – mentioned here – and the Lyons among many others) he had such an array of natural gifts that, had he not been so modest, unprepossessing and good-natured it would have been difficult not to have been consumed with envy.

    If memory serves, he gained a double first in maths at Trinity in addition to his glittering extracurricular talents – all of which he managed with whirlwind skill but with equally careful attention to detail.

    Effortlessly erudite, magically musical and yet humblingly human he is irreplaceable and will be greatly missed: our hearts go out to Adrienne and the children and also to the whole Jackson family who have all lost a true genius.

    Ian Lyon
    (On behalf of Stewart, Elizabeth, Richard, Julian, Katie and Alistair)

  20. Peter Bannister says:

    ‘Graham Jackson 1967-2012′: a few personal words over at

  21. Robert Atwell says:

    I was very sad indeed to learn via the Trinity Choir Association of Graham’s untimely death. I have fond memories of working with him during my time as Chaplain at Trinity College. He was full of fun and energy. Nothing was too much trouble for him. My deepest sympathy goes to Adrienne and their children in their loss.

    Robert Atwell

  22. Kathryn Jourdan says:

    Dear Adrienne,

    We were shocked and saddened to hear of Graham’s death and our thoughts are with you and the children during the funeral this afternoon and in the coming months. We cannot imagine your loss, but wanted to pay tribute to a wonderful musician and a lovely guy.

    I got to know Graham first at NYO, as an undergrad at Cambridge then as a postgrad at the RNCM, where I got to know you briefly too, after which our paths diverged – Paul and I headed to Birmingham to play with CBSO for a few years, while Graham went to WNO.

    Graham was always good company and a razor-sharp intellect. I remember him dozing off during one of Sandy Goehr’s Advanced Analysis seminars in our final year (Graham had probably been involved in one too many concerts that week) and waking up just at the right moment to deliver a perfectly-formed answer to a tricky question posed by the professor. I remember thinking ‘How did he do it?’ not once but a myriad times, for instance the one when we all stood in front of the Senate House notice board and found that it was Graham who had been awarded the First, having swapped in from maths that year.

    Graham directed the choir at our wedding at Clare, for which we remain so grateful. He conducted Walton’s ‘Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death . Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.’

    With our love and prayers,
    Kathryn Jourdan (née Dover), Paul Jourdan, Ben, Esther and Daniel

  23. rachel edmonds says:

    I sat next to Graham at the NYO reunion only two years ago and I can not believe that his life has been so cruelly cut short. He was wonderful company and full of enthusiasm when talking about his family, his work and our wonderful years together in the NYO bassoon section.
    He will be sorely missed and my heart goes out to his family at this time.

  24. Adrienne Jackson says:

    Your comments and anecdotes have given Oliver, Helena, Daniel and Tess a sense of wonder that dad had a life B.C. They knew him as the man who did maths for breakfast; who memorised Wagner’s Ring while on family holidays; a man who could mutter expletives in 8 different languages while skiing into the fence; and then the man who spent hours analysing and memorising Mahler scores in Chemo, always getting ready for the next concert series.

    He never looked back, aimed for the core foundations within the music and expected his colleagues to do the same. He was always straight and wouldn’t shy away from giving an honest critic , since that is what he would respect in return. The children adored him.

    We had a hugely positive and hopeful funeral and felt blessed by the occassion. The children led / directed and performed much of the service. Tim Reynish and Magaret Jackson gave tribute – a close friends and a loving mother. It was truly a celebration of a wonderful life.

    Thankyou for sharing your thoughts about Graham which have given myself and our children memories and pictures to carry us into the future.

    He loved and lived.


  25. Tom Harris says:

    I was in Guildford Cathedral Choir with Graham, we were probationers together before becoming choristers.and we were in the same class at Lanesborough School in Guildford. Graham was the cleverest boy in the class and a superb musician back then. I have fond memories choir tours, concerts in London and of the Jacksons’ home near Farncombe. In particular I remember one of Graham’s birthday parties when his Dad put up a precarious looking zip wire and we all had great fun whizzing down the side of a steep bank.

    We lost touch after Lanesborough so it was a shock to see his obituary in the Daily Telegraph this morning. I had no idea he had done so well in his career although not at all surprised because he was so obviously gifted as a boy and came from a family of achievers.

    I am so sorry that such a talented man who obviously had many friends has died so young. Rest in peace Graham.

  26. Cem, Joe and Andy Hurrell send their best wishes to Oliver and his mum.

  27. Alan Page says:

    “Shake hands, we shall never be friends, all’s over
    I only vex you the more I try.
    All’s wrong that ever I’ve done or said
    And nought to help it in this dull head
    Shake hands, here’s luck,


  28. Anna Margolis says:

    Am so very sorry to hear of your loss, Adrienne, and send my heartfelt sympath to you and the children. I met Graham briefly at RNCM then at WNO and I have vivid memories of being taught the chorus part to Jenufa in Czech by him in 2 days as my first rehearsal with him. He became a much lived colleague during my time there, encouraging me in my solo work and bringing warmth, humor and musical inspiration to our coaching sessions. I always felt truly supported by him in the pit. I will always remember his vitality and kindness, may you all find great comfort in all your happy memories of your time with him.

  29. David Gould says:

    I was also in the same class as Graham at Lanesborough (to 1980.) As Tom said, he was the cleverest boy in the class and we nicknamed him “The Answerbook.” He was definitely a maths genius and the maths teacher, Mr Blundell, used to do regular times tables tests including a quick-fire set at the end. Once – just once – in all the time we did those, Graham didn’t get 100% and I only remember that because it was the only time I ever scored higher and that was only down to mis-hearing a question!

    I also remember coming second to Graham in the school piano competition at the cathedral.

    So, having lost touch, I’m not in the least bit surprised at the huge success he’s made of so many things social, academical and musical and am so sorry to hear the news of his death. On the way to work this morning, passing Lanesborough, I reminisced a little.

    All our thoughts are with you, Adrienne, the children and family.

  30. Dear Adrienne,

    I just returned from holiday to receive the shocking news that Graham has passed away. Although you and I have never met, I wanted to add my sincere condolences to you and your children for your terrible loss.

    I met Graham at Trinity where I began as a Choral Scholar the same year he became Organ Scholar. What a talented musician he was – I was not at all surprised to read the details of his continued success. He was for me an important part of my musical education at a formative time of my life – I will not forget him.

    My best wishes to you all,

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