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(This is an edited version of an article which appeared in the Wetherby News on June 28, 2018.)
At their concert of music by Mozart on June 23, 2018 - John's 100th with them - the 120 singers celebrated his silver anniversary as conductor and music director with a presentation. A presentation was also made to the society’s rehearsal accompanist Marjorie Hodlin, who has been accompanist throughout John's tenure and for many more years before that.
The presentations were made by chairman of Wetherby Choral Society, Graham Reed. "John’s skill in communicating with choir, soloists and orchestra play a crucial part in the high standard of performance he has achieved with the choir, which now draws its audience from a wide geographic area,” said Mr Reed.
“Our choir members appreciate his friendly, positive approach to rehearsals on Monday evenings which are very focused on the music but laced with humorous anecdotal stories about music and musicians,” he said.
John Dunford’s love of choral music began as a chorister at Birmingham Parish Church and deepened with studies at Trinity College of Music where he was awarded the Choral Conducting Prize in his final year. He also studied organ, harpsichord, piano and singing, all of which he uses in his teaching and professional music making.
On leaving college Mr Dunford became Head of Music at a school in the south of England before coming to Yorkshire as Head of Music at Ashville College, Harrogate. He was there for 22 years followed by three years at Gateways School in Leeds. During this period, he involved Wetherby Choral Society with young people from the schools to provide opportunities to sing large scale choral works in Leeds Town Hall, including Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Verdi's Requiem.
In the evenings, weekends and holidays he was engaged in accompanying works for the BBC’s World Service as well as televised events. John has sung as a soloist across the UK, where his vocal dexterity is widely praised and enjoyed. Beside this he has also found the time to direct and conduct eight other choral societies mainly across Yorkshire.
During his 25 years with Wetherby Choral Society he has directed and conducted more than 160 pieces, some of them a number of times - notably the annual performance Handel's Messiah at St James’ Church.
Following a brush with cancer, John organised and led charity concerts for cancer charities, raising a total of more than £26,000.
In the immediate future Mr Dunford will be joining with Wetherby Choral Society and other choral groups to work with Patrick Lee, a local composer, to record Sacrificeshis work of remembrance of those lost in World War 1.
“John’s tenure as Music Director and Conductor of Wetherby Choral Society will go on, continuing to provide opportunities for people to enjoy singing and listening to great choral works,” said Chairman Graham Reed.
© Wetherby Choral Society 2018