Kay Johannsen has earned renown in several different realms: as an organist, a choral conductor, and a composer.
Based at a Stuttgart church, he has made appearances around Germany, in Austria, and in other countires.
Johannsen was born in Germany on October 1, 1961. He studied conducting and organ in the city of Freiburg and also in Boston. A first prize at the Deutscher Musikwettbewerb in Bonn in 1988 confirmed his choice of music as a career, and in 1994 he was appointed cantor and music director at the Stiftskirche Stuttgart, a major regional Lutheran institution. In 1998 he added music director to his titles there. Since then, Johannsen has become internationally recognized as an organist, has built a variety of choral organizations in Stuttgart, and has composed both sacred and secular music. He has played major organ concertos and organ-and-orchestra works including those by Handel, Saint-Saëns, and Poulenc, and appeared at festivals in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and South Africa. Johannsen has also furnished continuo parts on organ and harpsichord for performances of Baroque works by modern orchestras (including the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado) and Baroque groups. In Stuttgart, in addition to his regular work with choristers at the Stiftskirche, he has founded three other ensembles: the Stuttgarter Kantorei, Ensemble 94, and the solistenensemble stiftkunst. The latter group, whose name is written lowercase, was founded in 2003 for a series of Bach cantata performances, but has continued to perform repertory of various kinds. The solistenensemble stiftkunst has in particular performed Johannsen's own choral works and recorded a selection of them on the album Rejoice!, which appeared on the Carus label in 2019. He has also written secular pieces, including the substantial stage fantasy Nachtbus, which had its premiere at the Musikfest Stuttgart in 2010. As an organist, Johannsen has recorded for Carus and, prior to that, for the Haenssler label, again focusing on Bach's music. In 2018 he received the Staufer Medal of the State of Baden-Württemberg.