A choral scholar at King's College, Cambridge, Dr Christopher Keyte has pursued a singing career for over 45 years bringing enjoyment to audiences all over the world. His solo engagements have been at many prestigious festivals, including The Three Choirs, Aldeburgh, Flanders and Savonlinna. He has specialised in early music and oratorio and for over 20 years as a member of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He has sung in all the major concert halls and cathedrals in the British Isles and many more, especially in Europe.
In his prolific recording career, Christopher has featured as a soloist in over 50 CD recordings. He has broadcast throughout his career for BBC radio and television. In 1998 he was appointed Professor of Singing at the Royal Academy of Music and was awarded an Hon RAM for his Services to Music. Some of his most memorable solo performances were in Britten's Peter Grimes and Billy Budd, Beethoven's Fidelio and The Lighthouse by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, which has recently been re-released.
Christopher is the Associate Founder Director of Children's International Voices of Enfield. In 2016 both Dr June and Dr Christopher Keyte will have given 50 years' voluntary service between them to Children's International Voices Choirs with well over 100 children and young people currently being involved.
In 2005 Dr Christopher Keyte was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.
"It is quite unusual for a university to confer honorary degrees on a pair or group of recipients. Liverpool did it for the Beatles; Anglia did it once for our Israeli partners, and had every intention of recognising Morecambe and Wise. Unfortunately, this interest was not realised, since they died and they graduated with honours to the celestial academy on high! However, we have the immense pleasure of honouring June and Christopher Keyte, a remarkable couple, with the award of Honorary Doctorate of Anglia Ruskin University for their contributions, single and jointly, to British music and musical education over the past four decades.
Christopher Keyte's sole career ambition was to sing, and the early formative influences to this end were undoubtedly St Michael's School at Tenbury and as a Choral Scholar at King's College Cambridge under the magisterial guidance of Boris Ord, along with fellow luminaries Robert Tear and Neil Howlett, the three forming the first batch of the Choral Scholars to achieve solo careers subsequently. As is still the case, breaking into professional singing is a hazardous business, but this was accomplished with great skill, dedication and perseverance initially as a small consort specialist singer with the finest consorts of the day, namely, the Linden Singers, the Purcell Concert, Pro Cantione Antiqua, the Deller Concert, the Ambrosian Singers and its Chamber Choir, and not least as a Vicar Choral in St. Paul's Cathedral. These ensembles provided the source of many recordings, a series of international tours and performances, concerts at virtually every cathedral and major concert hall in Britain and a growing national and international visibility and reputation, both as an ensemble singer and soloist.
This reputation was further enhanced by his association with the Fires of London, a newly created ensemble dedicated to the performance of the music theatre works of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, often under the composers direction, including The Martyrdom of St Magnus, The Lighthouse, The No 11 Bus and Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, in all of which he played leading roles. By this time, composers such as John Rutter, Betty Roe and Paul Patterson were writing works with his fine baritone voice especially in mind, a sure sign of eminence in the field. Lead roles in major opera houses such as Covent Garden, Snape and Savonlinna followed in quick succession in all the major operas and with the major conductors like Leppard, Mackerras and Jurgens.
As is the case with many leading singers of eminence and a certain degree of venerability and gravitas, he began to establish master classes across the world, and it was no surprise in 1983 when he was appointed Professor of Singing at the Royal Academic of Music and was awarded an Honorary RAM in 1984 for his undoubted standing in the music profession. He has made over fifty solo records apart from the ensemble output, and is still very active in Covent Garden.
It is to be expected that with two such superb musical talents as Christopher and June under one roof, some synergy and convergence is to be expected. They did in fact meet originally on the BBC Schools Programme Singing Together, she with the Kingsmead Singers and he as a soloist. The ensuing relationship has thrived maritally and musically and certainly been marked by a strong sostenuto, a great deal of vibrato and presto, but no evidence as yet of any lento or rallentando. All musicians are grateful for this since they still have much to do and happily their enthusiasm is greater than ever. Anglia Ruskin indeed has a particular connection since their daughter, Heulwen is a music graduate of the University and both June and Christopher have been very supportive patrons of the Anglia Chamber Choir. Their pride and joy continues to be Children's Voices, of which Christopher is Associate Conductor, and to June, he is, as Psalm 46 says with great appropriateness, "a very present help in time of trouble".
They are renowned for the imaginative ways in which they inspire young people to discover hitherto unsuspected vocal or instrumental talent. Many musicians from several generations will readily give thanks for the ways in which their lives have been touched and enriched by the Keytes.
On behalf of Senate, I therefore exercise the authority of Senate and confer the award of Honorary Doctorate, honoris causa, on both Christopher and June Keyte, and now ask Trisha Gupta to confer the awards."