The Peabody Post

John Shirley-Quirk (1931 – 2014)

Shirley-QuirkJeffrey Sharkey, director of the Peabody Institute, offered the following statement in reaction to news of the death of John Shirley-Quirk, a member of the Peabody faculty from 1992 to 2012:

“The Peabody community is saddened to lose John Shirley-Quirk, a respected colleague, beloved teacher, and consummate musician. I had the honor of working with John for most of my years as director at Peabody. I first heard him sing at Tanglewood in the summer of 1980 and was captivated by his lyrical voice and warmth of spirit. John had one of the most distinguished vocal careers in the world, including his outstanding collaborations with Benjamin Britten. I am grateful to have seen first-hand his wonderful teaching and commitment to all of his students. Our thoughts are with our friend, Terry Shirley-Quirk and all of their family during this difficult time.”

Margalit Fox of The New York Times, John Shirley-Quirk, a Bass-Baritone and Specialist in Britten, Is Dead at 82

Tim Smith of The Baltimore Sun, Bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk, eminent Britten expert and Peabody Institute faculty member, dies at 82

Michael White of The TelegraphRemembering John Shirley-Quirk: the passing of a great British voice

The Telegraph, John Shirley-Quirk- obituary

2 Responses

  1. If there’s one thing for certain it’s that he was not a ‘yes’ man. All those who coached with him will no doubt be more familiar with his trademark ‘no! no! no!’. But then I felt like John always demanded the best from himself and from his students in a way that few musicians I’ve ever worked with do. If it meant singing the same passage twenty times in a lesson, or making an unprepared student in a class stop because their German was unsatisfactory and try again the next week then so be it. And quite right too.

    His knowledge of repertoire, styles, languages, and musicianship were awe-inspiring, and he often felt like this bastion of brilliance from another age, which in a lot of ways he was. But beneath that professional lion’s exterior was a warm English gentleman, who would often be found reading his copy of the Financial Times in his somewhat draconian studio as the sun beamed in through the dusty window.
    On his last visit to Peabody we talked about the Bredon Hill and Other Songs by Butterworth. He told me that he had recently been reading the Housman poem on Bredon Hill itself back in the Old Country and been moved to tears. The poem is about a young man whose love was taken from him by death, and of course poor John had suffered this fate not once but twice. The last song of the set is a farewell that feels appropriate for one Englishman to another, as today my heart is overburdened:

    WITH rue my heart is laden
    For golden friends I had,
    For many a rose-lipt maiden
    And many a lightfoot lad.
    By brooks too broad for leaping
    The lightfoot boys are laid;
    The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
    In fields where roses fade.

    Jonathan Wagstaff, MM Voice ’13

  2. The voice department is mourning this great loss to our community and to the world of singing. John was an extraordinary colleague and great friend to so many of us. We are enjoying the many wonderful memories which we share of his life, humor and selflessness. Our sympathy to Terry and the family.
    Phyllis Bryn-Julson, Chair, Voice Department

Leave a Reply