South African-born British composer John Joubert wrote music in many genres but is best known for his choral output, which includes several popular Christmas carols.
Joubert remained active as a composer until near the end of his long life. Of Dutch and Huguenot French descent, Joubert was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on March 20, 1927. He attended Anglican schools in the area, at first intending to study art, but switched to music in his teens. Joubert graduated from the South African College of Music, part of the University of Cape Town, in 1944, and went on to study with a local composition teacher, but moved to London for further study, partly because he felt that South Africa could not match London's rich orchestral and choral music scene. Attending the Royal Academy of Music in London for several years, he won several prizes, and after earning a degree from the University of Durham in 1950 he was hired as a lecturer at the University of Hull, living in a flat that had also been home to poet Philip Larkin. In the 1950s his works began to gain frequent performances; these included two Christmas carols, Torches (1951), which Joubert later heard from carolers at his door unaware that he was the composer, and There is no rose of such virtue (1954). He also wrote the first of his three symphonies, a Piano Concerto, several chamber works, and an opera, Silas Marner (1961), the first of seven Joubert operas. In 1962 Joubert became senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and he lived in that city for the rest of his life; he and his wife, Mary, had two children, both musicians. Joubert continued to write works in many genres, but his large choral works, some of them written for venues such as Peterborough Cathedral (where he was composer-in-residence in 1990) and the Three Choirs Festival (composer-in-residence in 2010), gained him special prominence. Joubert's output picked up speed after 1986, when he retired from teaching in order to focus on composition. He remained active well into his eighties, completing his Symphony No. 3 in 2017 at the age of 89. Joubert received an honorary doctorate from the University of Birmingham in 2007. Joubert died in Birmingham on January 7, 2019.