José Luís Borges Coelho (JLBC) is a choral director with training in the field of composition.
While still an undergraduate at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto, whose B.A. degree in History he would later complete, in 1966 he created the Faculty’s choir — Coral de Letras da Universidade do Porto — which he has continued conducting to the present day. The establishment of the choir forced him to forego his composition studies, at the Porto Conservatory of Music, in favour of a singing degree, which he would also later complete. Under his direction, the Coral de Letras da Universidade do Porto has participated in international choir festivals and competitions all over Europe — it was awarded a total of fourteen prizes in Middlesbrough (1970, 1986, 1990), Llangollen (1981) and Neuchâtel (1987) — and recorded several CDs focused on the music of Fernando Lopes Graça, the most important Portuguese composer of the twentieth century.
JLBC’s original music was mostly composed at someone’s request.
This was the case of the original music score for Manoel de Oliveira’s “Christopher Columbus, the Enigma”, in 2007, and “The Old Man of Belem”, in 2014 (the irrefusable collaboration with the great master of cinema had started some years before, in 1998, with the piano arrangement of the main musical theme of “Anxiety”).
As such, ReCanto is the result of a commission by the International Music Festival of Póvoa do Varzim, where it was premiered (2017) by the Ensemble Clepsidra — a group formed by professional singers JLBC has also conducted since its foundation, in 2006 — and an instrumental quartet.
JLBC has frequently collaborated with the above-mentioned festival, and occasionally with other entities, such as Belem Cultural Centre, Matosinhos City Council, Serralves Auditorium, Capuchos Music Festival, the Casa da Música in Porto, as well as writing the sleeve notes for several editions of CDs editions.
JLBC has been
— a board member of the Sociedade Porto 2001 and of the Casa da Música Foundation (2006 – 2013);
— awarded the Gold Medal of Municipal Merit by the Porto City Council and the Associative Merit Award by the Association of Collectives of the Region of Porto;
— commissioned to give the inaugural lecture at the opening of the academic year of 2017/18 at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Porto University;
— awarded an Honorary Doctorate ‘Doctor Honoris Causa’ by the University of Porto in 2017.
None of these is explained by the proclivities of a belated, sparse and completely unaligned composer.