British born composer, conductor and organist Michael Hankinson was educated at Hereford Cathedral where he was an organ and choral scholar. As a student at Trinity College of Music, Michael studied organ performance with John Webster of Queen's College Oxford and conducting with Charles Proctor. He came to South Africa in 1970 as Resident Composer to RPM Film Studios.
Further organ studies were continued with Stephanus Zondagh and conducting studies were undertaken with Francesco Mander and with Maurice Handford, both Principal Conductors of the National Symphony Orchestra of South Africa, and later with Werner Andreas Alberts of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra with which orchestra Michael recorded works by Tchaikowsky and Von Einem for EMI Classics for Pleasure.
In 1980 he moved to Durban where he was City Organist and later City Music Advisor. Whilst in Durban Michael formed the “Soundwaves” contemporary music group an ensemble that performed more than thirty South African premiere performances of contemporary music under his direction He later revived the Durban Philharmonic Orchestra, originally formed in 1885, which still functions today as the Durban City Orchestra.
After ten years as Resident Conductor at The State Theatre, Pretoria, where he assisted Carlo Franci, Michael was appointed Conductor Laureate and Composer-in-Residence to The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra as well as Principal Conductor to the Cape Town City Ballet.
Whilst Resident Conductor at The State Theatre, Michael, in association with Daimler-Chrysler established the STTEP (State Theatre-Tshwane Education Project) and later established SAMET (The South African Music Education Trust) which today is the country's largest music education project working with more than three thousand five hundred children.
He has composed numerous film scores, a full length ballet, several choral works and is presently completing a new organ concerto. Michael has also created critically acclaimed scores for Ladysmith Black Mmbazo with The English Chamber Orchestra, for Lucky Dube (Symphonic Reggae) with The National Chamber Orchestra and for Kabelo (Kwaito Meets the Symphony) with The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2004 The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra made the world premiere recording of the Violin Concerto by the black English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with soloist Philippe Graffin and Michael conducting. The CD was nominated “Editors Choice” in the influential Gramophone magazine and received a “Pizzicato” award in Luxemburg.
His work in creating the orchestral scores and accompaniments for the world's first Zulu opera "Princess Magogo" has received local and international acclaim after its’ worldwide broadcast from the Playhouse in Durban. Since then the opera has been performed as part of the Centenary Performances of The Ravinia Festival in Chicago with Michael conducting and has made a national tour of South Africa. Having travelled to Holland the opera was staged in Oslo in 2007.
Michael’s latest composition, “A Mandela Portrait” has been recorded and broadcast for television in South Africa, opened the 2007 Cape Town Festival, has received six performances and a CD release in the US and will be performed in Norway in June 2008 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela.
In July 2006 Michael made his London debut conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a gala fund raising concert hosted by Lord Richard Attenborough. From there Michael traveled to Dublin to conduct the European premiere of “Queen at the Ballet” for which Michael wrote all the arrangements and orchestrations.
World Premiere recording: Coleridge-Taylor – Violin Concerto
Philippe Graffin – The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra - Michael Hankinson
“first rate playing” – Michael Church - The Independent
“a landmark in the rediscovery of a remarkably talented composer” Music Week
“Michael Hankinson conducts the JPO with considerable verve – an attractive and enjoyable package” - HMV Choice
“Graffin and Michael Hankinson are inspired advocates” – Financial Times
“ the slow movement is especially beautiful --- warmly supported by the Johannesburg Philharmonic” – Michael Kennedy - Sunday Telegraph
“Editor’s Choice” – The Gramaphone – July 2004
Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu
“A fascinating event” – Natal Witness
“ never superfluous, the orchestra adds colour and texture, meaningfully changing these to emphasize structure and enhance tension; its energetic counterpoints deepen dramatic meaning “ Opera August 2002
“ orchestrated very expertly by Michael Hankinson” BBC Music Magazine September 2002