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50th Anniversary logo

Our very successful 50th anniversary concert season has drawn to a close and a summer break. Our final event was our summer social: a cruise on the Ouse, which was most enjoyable, even if it could have been a bit warmer. You can see some photos here.

Our 2024-25 concert season comprises:

23 November 2024Handel: Saul
21 December 2024Handel: Messiah (traditional version)
29 March 2025Dvorak: Stabat Mater
21 June 2025Mendelssohn: Elijah
(Joint concert with Ripon Choral Society at Ripon Cathedral.)

Our next concert is on:
Saturday, November 23rd, 7.30pm

New! Photos from the recent 'Cruise on the Ouse' are here...

Open rehearsal, 7:30-9:30pm, Monday, September 9th, 2024

We are passionate about encouraging people to sing and to enjoy the many benefits of singing. We believe we have one of the finest - and friendliest - choirs in the region

To this end, we are inviting people to join us for our Open Rehearsal at our usual venue of St James' Church, Church Street, Wetherby LS22 6LP.

You will be joining us for our second rehearsal of Handel's wonderful oratorio, Saul, which we will be performing on 23 November. We will provide you with a score for the evening. You will have a chance to chat to members during the interval - refreshments and a raffle are available!

If you have any questions, or want to tell us you will be coming in advance, please contact our Membership Secretary, Christopher Gibbs, om 07886 202901, or email him at memsec@wetherbychoral.org.uk

We look forward to meeting you!

About the Society

We were founded in 1974 and now have well over 100 members. Our weekly rehearsals are friendly and informal.
We are a registered charity (Charity No. 510264) whose aim, according to our constitution, is to 'prepare music for performance and . . . to educate . . . through the presentation of a series of concerts throughout the season'. Put less formally: we all have a common love of choral singing and our objective is simple - to sing and learn together and to make good music!

We are a community choir and strive for high standards of performance. No audition is required to become a member, but the ability to sight-read is useful.

What do we sing?

Under the enthusiastic direction of John Dunford, we have covered a wide range of music encompassing most familiar choral works - and some not so often heard. From Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 to Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man, via works by, among many others, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, Fauré, Rossini, Schubert, Finzi, Puccini, Orff, John Rutter, and, of course, Handel.

Click here to see a complete list of all the concerts we have performed since our foundation in 1974.

We aim to put on four major concerts a year, (although for the 2022/23 season it will be three), normally at our home venue of St James' Church, Wetherby (by kind permission of the Priest-in-Charge and church wardens).

We occasionally perform at other venues, including Leeds Town Hall and Ripon Cathedral, and from time to time we join with other choirs to tackle major works such as Verdi's Requiem and Elgar's Dream of Gerontius.

Committee 2023-24

For details of our current committee, please see our Members' page.

John Dunford, Music Director

John Dunford

John began his musical career as a treble in Birmingham Parish Church Choir. He continued his musical training at Trinity College of Music studying organ, singing, piano, harpsichord and conducting, where he won the Choral Conducting prize and was appointed Senior Student of the College in his final year. While a student at Trinity College of Music he formed and directed a chamber choir which won considerable acclaim. Among the choir's invitations was one to sing the semichorus in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius in Fairfield Hall, Croydon. A professional group of ten singers which he created has made a recording in collaboration with the choir of Cork Cathedral, although, at the time, John was at an international music festival in Rome working with Arthur Oldham and Claudio Abbado.

As a teacher John has been Director of Music in four independent schools including 23 years at Ashville College in Harrogate and, after a period working at Cundall Manor School as a teacher of piano and singing, he retired in 2023.

Throughout his career John has maintained an active professional life as an organist, singer and conductor. He has held a number of organists posts including a period in charge of music at Sheffield Cathedral and has played at concerts and services in some 20 Cathedrals in UK and on the Continent. In recent years he has been devoting his time to giving organ recitals, something he has never done on a regular basis with over 25 given in the last few years.

One of John's trademarks is his vocal dexterity. While professionally he sings most frequently as a tenor soloist, he has also had engagements as a bass and a countertenor. Over the years he has sung regularly with many Yorkshire choirs including Sheffield Bach Society, Sheffield Oratorio Chorus and Doncaster Choral Society. Among many other roles, he has sung Evangelist in Bach's St John Passion, taken the title role in Britten's St Nicolas, and sung the extraordinary swan solo in Carmina Burana in performances in Sheffield and Ely Cathedrals and twice in Harrogate as well as performing in most of the classical masses and requiems.

John receiving applause

John's career moved through initial ambitions as an organist, to establishing a solo vocal career (much to his surprise) but having retired, he now devotes his musical abilities towards his choral conducting and organ practice. He is the longest serving conductor of Wetherby Choral Society (1993) and Ripon Choral Society (1997).

It is John’s belief that everyone should be encouraged to join in choral singing and his mission is to maintain the best of the great English Choral Tradition performing a wide range of music, presenting many musical challenges, with professional orchestras and soloists to the highest possible standards. His choirs will tell of his energy, sense of humour, funny stories and anecdotes all designed to make the hard work of the learning process an enjoyable experience for all.

The Yorkshire Post recently interviewed John to ask him about all things Yorkshire and you can read the article here.


We are very grateful to Matthew Atherton for acting as our temporary accompanist over the summer term.

We are very much looking forward to welcoming William Campbell to take on the role from September.


The economics of choral singing are such that we lose, on average, around £3,000 for every concert we put on - it would actually pay us to put on fewer concerts! But that is not what we are about, of course.

The Society wishes to express its sincere gratitude to our sponsor,
The Olav Arnold Charitable Trust
for their very kind and generous support.

We should very much welcome further sponsors, both from individuals and from businesses and family or charitable trusts. If you would like to discuss this, please contact our Chairman.


© 2024 Wetherby Choral Society, Registered Charity Number: 510264