British composer and conductor John Rutter
British composer and conductor John Rutter is beloved among choral singers all around the world for his church music and other choral pieces including a large number of Christmas carols.
However, what few people know is that in 1981 he began to experience significant fatigue, terrible headaches and poor digestion, after contracting chickenpox from his infant son. It took seven years for doctors to diagnose him with myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as post-viral fatigue syndrome, a condition that causes chronic fatigue. In John’s case, it also caused sensitivity to sound and light, and mental fuzziness, caused by the body’s inability to process yeast properly.
Like many chronic diseases, the symptoms would cycle off and on, giving him good periods and bad periods. During good periods, Rutter continued to compose and conduct, even forming his own choir, the Cambridge Singers in 1983. But he quickly learned that he had to adjust his work process. Commissioned works, come with deadlines, requiring him to work on a schedule. But the chronic fatigue made it difficult for him to complete a composition on time. Once he realized he could no longer do commissions, he began writing in his own time and at his own pace. One of his most beloved and strongest concert-length works, his Requiem, was written during this time.
In the 1990s Rutter was able to return to “normal-within-limits” life, thanks to help from peer-support, an anti-yeast drug, a strict diet and rest, reducing the fatigue episodes. In 2007 he was appointed “Commander of the British Empire” (CBE) for his service to music.
Impacted by the war in Ukraine, in 2022, John Rutter asked: "How can a composer respond to a global tragedy? The first thing I wanted to do was write some music that would respond in my own way. I hope the meaning of the text will resonate in people's hearts and reach out to the people of Ukraine in their hour of need."
MUSIC: John Rutter: What Sweeter Music, Cambridge Singers, John Rutter, conductor, CD Collegium 114 (from Magnificat)
We'd love to get your feedback on these Move to Include musical vignettes? You can provide your comment here. Simply choose "Other" to question #1 and specify "Music to Include on Classical."
WXXI Classical promotes and supports inclusion for musicians of all abilities through programming and special events. WXXI’s Move to Include Initiative is made possible by a generous grant from the Golisano Foundation.