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.
Greg Smith is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied organ, piano accompaniment and conducting. He holds the Associate Diploma of the Royal College of Organists, in which he won the Sawyer and Durrant prizes, and is a Licentiate of Trinity College, London.
Born in Kent, his early musical training began as a chorister and then subsequently at Canterbury Cathedral with David Flood and Michael Harris. Whilst a student at the Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone, Greg won many prizes as an organist and pianist throughout the country. In 1990, one year after joining the RNCM, he was the Under 21 winner of the Paisley International Organ Festival, which led to recitals at Clare College, Cambridge; Coventry Cathedral; Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow; and the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Since this success, Greg has given concerts as an accompanist, conductor and organist at many venues throughout the UK and abroad, including the cathedrals of Canterbury, Carlisle, Manchester, Newcastle, Ripon, Rochester, Sheffield, St. Giles Edinburgh, and Truro; as well as at Cartmel Priory, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, and York Minster.
In 1996 Greg was appointed Organist and Director of Music at Northallerton Parish Church, a post he held until 2014. During their 2006-7 season he acted as Accompanist to the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus. In June 2013 Greg performed as soloist in Poulenc’s Organ Concerto with Ripon Choral Society, as part of a summer concert celebrating the Tour de France passing through Ripon a fortnight later, and the choir’s sixtieth anniversary.
Greg teaches music in schools and colleges throughout the North East and North West of England and has appeared as a pianist and organist on ITV’s Emmerdale programme! Alongside his work with RCS, he is Accompanist for Leeds College of Music Choral Society and Principal Conductor to the North Yorkshire Chorus.
The Committee is elected annually at the AGM in September and meets three or four times a year.
Honorary President: Roger Higson
Chairman: Christopher Williams
Honorary Secretary : Margaret Smith
Honorary Treasurer : Joe Cieslik
Honorary Librarian: Rob Widdows
Making Music Representative: Sarah Maude
Honorary Ticket Secretary: Lucy Whitfield
Ripon Choral Society can supply a small choir for church weddings. Please contact us to discuss fees and repertoire.
Ripon choral society host 4 concerts per year at Ripon Cathedral.
J S Bach - Mass in B Minor (BWV 232)
Ripon Cathedral - Saturday 30th November 2019
Handel - Messiah Part One : Carols
Ripon Cathedral - Saturday 21st December 2019
Elgar - The Kingdom
Ripon Cathedral - Saturday 28th March 2020
Haydn - Maria Theresa Mass
CPE Bach - Magnificat
Ripon Cathedral - Saturday 20th June 2020
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