James Gaddarn, who conducted the London Orpheus Choir for more than 50 years, died at the age of 87 on 14 February after a period of failing health.
Born in Pembrokeshire in March 1924, he studied at Trinity College of Music under the great musician and philosopher Charles Kennedy Scott, whose influence was profound and lasting. He became a senior member of the professorial staff, specialising in singing, a discipline which was to inform the rest of his long musical career. In his earlier years he had displayed talent as a pianist and accompanist.
Early in his career he was asked by the BBC to assist Leslie Woodgate, the Director of the BBC Singers and Chorus. He subsequently worked with Sir Malcolm Sargent, who invited him to become Chorus Master of the Royal Choral Society. He became conductor of the London Orpheus Choir in 1952 in succession to Kennedy Scott, who had founded the choir in 1945. He held this post until 2010, remaining asConductor Emeritus until his death. He was variously conductor of the Trinity College Choir, Croydon Philharmonic Choir and Ealing Choral Society, for many years holding these posts concurrently. He also founded the London Orpheus Orchestra.
James Gaddarn's long careerembraced a wide spectrum of music, from pre-Baroque to the present day, and included a number of first performances, notably Elizabeth Maconchy's Eloise and Abelard, the first London performance of Arthur Bliss's Mary of Magdala – at the request of thecomposer – and the premier of Antonin Tucapsky's Stabat Mater. In more recent years he gave the first performance in England of Donizetti's Requiem Mass and the first public performance in England of the same composer's Messa di Gloria e Credo.
During his career James Gaddarn conducted many of Britain's leading orchestras, including the Philharmonia, the London Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the English Chamber and the English Symphony Orchestra. However it is as a choral conductor that he will be especially remembered with gratitude by the hundreds of amateur singers who were fortunate enough to sing under Gaddarn's baton during his long and distinguished career, enriched by his painstaking preparation and great emphasis on the importance of words and phrasing – and, above all by his unstinting aim to "serve the composer".
Geoffrey Budd, Chairman, London Orpheus Choir
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