SHIRLEY-QUIRK, John Stanton  [1931-2014]

Whilst he was a member of the school choir at the Holt High School and an accomplished violinist John Stanton Shirley-Quirk made a relatively late entry to music as a profession. After a science degree at Liverpool University and national service in the Royal Air Force he became a chemistry teacher at Acton Technical College in west London and it was not until his late twenties that the door opened for him to a long and successful career as a bass-baritone.

He was born in Liverpool on 28th August 1931, the son of passport office clerkJoseph Stanley Shirley-Quirk and his wife Amelia (née Griffiths). At the time of his birth the family home was at 43 Heyes Street L5 but he spent much of his early years living in Wallasey before moving to a council house in Hunts Cross at 43 Barford Road L24.

John Shirley-Quirk had continued to train as a singer whilst at university and when he worked as a science teacher. He joined the Purcell Singers and performed at the Aldeburgh Festival, making his operatic debut in 1962 at Glyndebourne in Pelléas et Mélisande. After a performance in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at Ipswich in 1963 he was congratulated by a stranger who had particularly admired his singing. The well-wisher turned out to be Benjamin Britten who was effectively auditioning Shirley-Quirk for the English Opera Group which he duly joined in 1964. This was the start of a long professional association between the two men in which Shirley-Quirk sang many leading roles in Britten’s works, often under the composer’s direction. Over the next four decades he became a major figure in the world of opera, performing across the globe and becoming associate artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1982. He was appointed CBE in 1975. In his later years he taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore and then at Bath Spa University.

His first wife, Patricia Hastie, died in 1981 and his second wife, Sara Van Horn Watkins, in 1997. He is survived by his third wife, Teresa May Perez (nee Cardoza), whom he married in 2009, and by two sons and two daughters. Another daughter predeceased him.

He died on 7th April 2014 in Dorset aged 82.

43 Heyes Street L5

Shirley-Quirk's home at the time of his birth

43 Barford Road L25

Shirley-Quirk's home in the late 1940's/early 1950's.


There is a comprehensive entry for Adshead in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Wikipedia entry gives a general overview and worth reading are the obituaries in The Guardian and The Scotsman.