Peter Broadbent, conductor and founding director of the Joyful Company of Singers was awarded the Knight’s Cross of Merit of Hungary by President János Áder for promoting and strengthening British-Hungarian cultural relations. Peter Broadbent has been working tirelessly since the late 1970s to perform classical and contemporary Hungarian music to audiences across the UK and Europe. The prestigious award was presented to Peter Broadbent by Ambassador Péter Szabadhegy at the Embassy of Hungary in London on 19 January 2016 to coincide with the National Day of Hungarian Culture.
Peter Broadbent is one of Britain’s leading choral conductors, known for his consistent commitment to contemporary music, and to Hungarian music in particular.
It was in the late 1970s, when he was conducting a children’s choir in London that he discovered Béla Bartók’s Twenty-seven songs for children’s and women’s choirs, which instantly became his staple repertoire. In the Bartók Centenary year Peter Broadbent devised a programme of Bartók’s music at All Soul’s Church, Langham Place, also featuring his singer wife Janet Scott-Evans.
In 1988 Peter Broadbent formed the Joyful Company of Singers (JCS), which rapidly established itself as a leading chamber choir, winning prizes in the UK and Europe. As a result, Peter Broadbent was invited to be on the Jury of the Tolosa competition in 1995 where he joined the Hungarian composer Emil Petrovics, accompanied by Márta Aradi, Secretary of the Béla Bartók Choral Competition (BBCC) of Debrecen, who invited Broadbent to the Jury of the BBCC. This invitation gave an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of Hungarian music through a relationship with Bartók’s homeland and its people.
1996 saw the first of many visits to Debrecen and the BBCC, where the jury included musical personalities from all over the world, presided over by composers Petrovics and Kocsár and conductor István Párkai. The prescribed works were all by contemporary Hungarian composers. In 1998 Peter Broadbent took the Joyful Company of Singers to compete in Debrecen, and prepared music by Miklós Kocsár, János Vajda and Ferenc Farkas, winning the Chamber Choir category.
In 2006 Peter Broadbent was presented with the award Pro Cultura Hungarica. But this recognition did not stop him! Further visits to Hungary, including as President of the Jury for the European Grand Prix competition in 2008, gave opportunities for even more discoveries. In 2009 he was invited by András Farkas, son of composer Ferenc Farkas, to join him as a teacher on the Oratorio conducting course in Pomáz.
2011 was the year of the Liszt Bicentenary and the first six months saw the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. This gave an opportunity for the JCS to cooperate with the Hungarian Cultural Centre in presenting a concert at Kings Place in which choral and piano music by Liszt was interspersed with music by Bartók, Kodály, Farkas, Ligeti, Orbán, Vajda, and Csemiczky. Another opportunity to collaborate with the Hungarian Cultural Centre came in December 2014 with a joint Advent concert including Hungarian music.
In September 2015 the Hungarian Cultural Centre commemorated the 70th Anniversary of Bartók’s death with performances by the Joyful Company of Singers under Peter Broadbent, the New London Children’s Choir under Ronald Corp and two young Hungarian artists, Julia Pusker (violin) Renáta Konyicska (piano). Peter Broadbent is now working with our Embassy to prepare another concert in Canterbury in May 2016 to commemorate Thomas Becket.