Starting his career as a treble with Birmingham Parish Church Choir, John trained at Trinity College of Music, studying organ, singing, piano, harpsichord and conducting. He won the Choral Conducting prize and was selected to become Senior Student at the College by Meredith Davies. One of John’s trademarks os his vocal dexterity. While professionally he sings most frequently as a tenor soloist, he describes himself as a national health baritone and also sings as a bass and countertenor. His performing career has taken him to over 20 cathedrals as singer, organist or conductor in the UK and on the Continent and he has been involved in both television and radio broadcasts.
John’s retired from full-time teaching in 2017 to devote more time to freelance music. Taking over from Philp Miles in 1997 he is the longest serving conductor of Ripon Choral Society being responsible for expanding the repertoire, scope and reputation of the choir. He is also the longest serving conductor of the Wetherby Choral Society and has been conductor of the St Oswald Singers, deputy and guest conductor of the Sheffield Bach Society, Doncaster Choral Society and the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra.
John Dunford's vision:
Above all else I hope I bring enthusiasm and enjoyment to the membership of any choir. From the sheer size of the choir it would seem that Ripon is a successful choral society, but it is important to look to the future and consider strategies that will continue this success. The balance of repertoire is important, familiar and unfamiliar. The familiar will engender confidence in performance and attract a large audience. The less familiar is a challenge. A challenge for me to teach, for the choir to learn, and for the audience to experience. As I explore the rich repertoire of choral music I continue to develop as a musician and a conductor and it is in the larger 19th and 20th century pieces that we can have the greatest opportunity to broaden our horizons and experience greater emotional response through performance. Such large repertoire requires big orchestras, operatic solo voices and therefore considerable expense. The challenge for the committee and choir is to look for ways to support these ventures. Generous sponsorship from within and from outside has benefitted the choir in recent years and we would be pleased to hear from anyone in the choir or audience who might wish to sponsor a future concert.
Our modern lifestyle rarely gives us time for personal reflection. Music provides so much and yet seems grossly undervalued by our modern, scientifically directed lives. Gone are the days when the village organist was also the music teacher at the local school, with many children finding themselves in the Church Choir. School music has pandered to popular tastes and values less the disciplines and close study of music that is timeless and truly classic. The diet of our Choral Society seems further removed from the musical tastes we are cultivating in the children of today, who are the choir members of tomorrow. We must strive to bring in new singers to the choir; to reach out to the under 40's for whom our activities may seem remote. Our greatest challenge is to buck the trend by performing great music to the best of our ability, broadening our contact with the community and to educate, involve and make appealing the great experiences we have in the performance of the choral music we love and value so much.
- John Dunford
Shortly after the Second World War Lionel Dakers became organist at the Parish Church of St Mary-at-Finchley in London and in 1954 he was to become the conductor of Ripon Society. Unknown to the Society as a whole is the fact that I was to follow in the footsteps of Lionel Dakers firstly as organist at the St Mary-at Finchley in 1979 and then in 1997 with the conductorship of Ripon Choral Society.
Ripon Choral Society has been described in the press as the largest choir in Yorkshire and with a membership of 170 we are capable of tackling most of the choral repertoire. This has led to first performances for the choir of works such as the Verdi Requiem, Britten’s War Requiem, and a world premier of Patrick ~Lee’s Sacrifices. As a community choir we attract singers from far and wide who have the privilege to perform our concerts in the marvellous setting of Ripon Cathedral.
Greg Smith follows in a tradition of superb accompanists who have included Robert Green and Kerry Beaumont in recent years, and under the Chairmanship of Mike Deeming, Andrew Hill and most recently Christopher Williams, we have the basis for continuing to bring music of the highest quality to Ripon audiences.
The Society and the Committee are delighted to announce the appointment of Tim Harper as our permanent accompanist.
Tim Harper has been Assistant Director of Music at Ripon Cathedral since September 2014. He trained as organ scholar successively at St Barnabas Church, Dulwich, Clare College, Cambridge, Canterbury Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral; as a pupil of David Sanger, he gained the major prizes at ARCO and FRCO and was subsequently awarded the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.
In 2010 he was appointed Assistant Director of Music at Birmingham Cathedral. During these years, he appeared with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Ex Cathedra and the Birmingham Bach Choir, while studying organ with Andrew Fletcher and singing with Matthew Venner.
Alongside his cathedral duties, he enjoys recital, accompanying and continuo work and is accompanist to the early music course NORVIS. An interest in jazz keeps his improvisational instincts exercised, while also finding employment in settings as diverse as boat, restaurant, funeral, Spain, Harrogate, organ recitals, and jazz Eucharists at St Paul’s Cathedral. In 2016 he developed an interest in transcription through his arrangement of A Colour Symphony by Arthur Bliss.
Ripon Choral Society can supply a small choir for church weddings and other occasions. Please contact us to discuss fees and repertoire.