English composer Will Todd has connected with audiences for music in various styles and genres: his website divides his output into Classic Choral, Choral Jazz, Choral Works, Instrumental, and Theatre Works. One of the few British composers active in the field of classical-jazz fusions, Todd composed a Mass in Blue that has been widely performed.
Todd was born in North East England's County Durham on January 14, 1970. His musical upbringing included both the English choral tradition — he sang in the choir at St. Oswald's Church in Durham — and jazz. Todd studied music at the University of Bristol. Throughout his career as a composer he has also been active as a jazz pianist, performing most often with a trio. By 1989 he had written a full-scale orchestral work, Winter Dances, and his music since then has been mostly in large genres, generally including a vocal element. An early success was the oratorio Saint Cuthbert, recorded by the Hallé Orchestra. Todd's 1999 work The Screams of Kitty Genovese, based on a notorious incident in New York in which bystanders ignored a young woman's calls for help, was a unique opera-like chamber work written for 12 actor/singers and a pit ensemble; the work was performed in the U.S. at both the Boston Conservatory and the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Todd's first major work to fuse classical choral and jazz influences was the Mass in Blue (2003), originally titled Jazz Mass. Commissioned by the Hertfordshire Chorus, the work has been performed internationally. Todd followed it up with a Jazz Missa Brevis and a concerto for jazz clarinet and orchestra (2009), premiered by top British clarinetist Emma Johnson. Todd has written several operas. The Blackened Man won the International Verdi Opera Competition in 2002 and was performed at the Buxton Festival in 2003. Commissions and collaborations have come from major choirs including the BBC Singers and the Bach Choir, but Todd's music has also stimulated strong enthusiasm among amateur groups. His arrangement of the hymn Amazing Grace was performed during the 2013 inauguration festivities for U.S. president Barack Obama. Several recordings of Todd's works have appeared on the Signum label to strong chart performance and spins on Britain's commercially key Classic FM network; these have included a 2017 release pairing Todd's Ode to a Nightingale with composer James McCarthy's Codebreaker.