Ken Burton, a native of the West Indies and the youngest of ten children, was raised in a family where making music was a major preoccupation, and every member sang and played an instrument. From his earliest years, he was precocious on the keyboard and began accompanying a choral group at age nine. At age ten, when he was baptized, the family was living in South London, England, and attending the Croydon Seventh-day Adventist Church.
He made remarkable progress as a music student, studying at Trinity School in Croydon and singing in its famous boys' choir. He then attended the University of London, where he completed a B.Mus. He also completed a licentiate at Trinity College London. Some of his teachers have included Margaret Singh, Andrew Ball, Charles Corp, and Janice Chapman.
Burton now serves as principal conductor of the award-winning 28-member London Adventist Chorale as well as the Croydon SDA Gospel Choir, the latter an ensemble that Burton's sister Vanessa started in 1979, with Ken, who was nine and had been studying piano for two years, serving as its accompanist.
John Tolman started the LAC in 1981 and presented its first concert in 1982, when Ken was twelve. In 1990 Burton joined the group as a member of the bass section. Within a year he became then director Derek Hoyte's associate in leadership and in 1997 succeeded him as director.
Starting in 1990-1991, when the London Adventist Chorale was a runner-up in the televised BBC2/Sainsbury Choir of the Year competition and gained national attention, it has competed successfully in several national choral events. In the 1994-1995 BBC2/SCY competition, it won the coveted title of Sainsbury Choir of the Year and then won the 1995 Choir of the Year Award. In the BBC competitions in 1996, 2004, and 2005 it was named best UK gospel choir.
Burton is active as a conductor and performer, recording artist, composer, and arranger. He has recorded on MCI, EMI, and EMI Classics, Paradism, and CGC Music labels and appeared countless times on television and radio. He is a published composer, having composed or arranged over 500 works for choirs. Faber Music has published three volumes of his choral music. One of these, Feel the Spirit, has been a best seller.
Beginning in 1994 when his choir sang in Westminster Abbey, and as recently as 2007, Burton has been involved in notable performances on numerous occasions for or in the presence of the Royal Family, ten of those when Queen Elizabeth II was present. At five of those events, he was presented to the Queen at some time during or following the appearance.
In 1998 he participated in the Winston Churchill Memorial Fund charity concert at Blenheim Palace, where both the Duke of Marlborough and U.S. President William Clinton were in attendance. Clinton enjoyed the experience immensely and actually joined them on the stage at the end of the performance.
Burton is best known for his work as a conductor and musical director. As a conductor, he worked with the London Mozart Players in a production of Vivaldi's Gloria in 1996 and has since conducted the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), the BBC Concert and Royal Philharmonic orchestras, the International Adventist Symphony Orchestra (IASO), and others.
Burton has also guest conducted choral groups in universities, music schools, and choral societies. He has toured internationally, performing in Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Turkey, Australia, and the U.S. and has served as an adjudicator at several competitions and festivals. Additionally, he has been a contributing writer for various magazines.
During his career, Burton has performed in numerous famous venues, including Royal Albert Hall and Barbican Hall in London, noted European Cathedrals, the Sydney Opera house in Australia, and the Sky Dome in Toronto, Canada, where he performed at the General Conference Session of the SDA church in 2000. More recently, he was involved in programs conducted by Dwight Nelson, senior pastor of the Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University.
In addition to Burton's choral conducting responsibilities associated with the Croydon church and LAC, he directs AVE, Adventist Vocal Ensemble, a television and radio broadcast choir. He is also Company Director of AVE International Ltd, an independent record label, and Director of Ken Burton Music Services.
Sources: David Marshall, "The Chorale at 21," The British Union Messenger, cover story (an interview with Ken Burton), 18 July 2003; Ainsley Stephenson, "Christ at Christmas in Croydon," BUCM, 11 April 1980, 7; Ken Burton Website (2012), detailed listings of his work and accomplishments; "SDA Chorale Crowned Choir of the Year," South Pacific Division Record, 5 August 1996, 5; "Adventist Chorale to Visit," SPDR, 21 August 1999, 1; Brenton Stacey, "Gospel that Wins," SPDR, 6 November 1999, 9.