Introducing our Musical Director, Jolyon Dodgson
Jolyon’s professional musical career began when he was appointed a chorister in Hereford cathedral nearly 80 years ago. Cathedral choristers are professional musicians and their musical training, musical discipline and performing experience are second to none in preparation for a musical career. Since that day Jolyon has never stopped singing until very recently and has performed world-wide in a number of roles, always considering himself a musician first and a singer, conductor and music administrator collectively second. Eventually he went on to the Royal Manchester College of Music where he was trained as a soloist by, among others, the world-famous tenor Heddle Nash. During the following 65 years or so of his adult professional life he has performed as a soloist in nearly all the major concert halls in the UK with most of the well-known conductors of the various decades – Barbirolli, Adrian Boult, Charles Groves, Richard Hickox,and many more. He has also performed in many interesting and exotic places abroad, from Brisbane to Reykjavik, Bangkok to Harare. As a BBC soloist he has lots of broadcasts to his name including recordings of many of the Bach Cantatas, first UK broadcasts of some Grieg Psalms (sung in Norwegian) and taken part in several first performances by well-known composers such as John Taverner. Commercial recordings as a soloist include the first UK recording of Via Crucis by Liszt and the first full performance of Olivet to Calvary by Maunder.
Jolyon is a life-long ensemble singer starting with his appointment as a Hereford cathedral chorister and continuing as a chorister in Chester cathedral. In adult life he was a member of the Chester cathedral choir while teaching at the Choir School there and later became the principal bass soloist with York Minster choir. In the early days of television he was a member of the well-known Music For You singers and also performed as a soloist alongside Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Tito Gobbi and others. He was a founder-member of the BBC Northern Singers and Britten Singers and performed with them for over 40 years, eventually becoming their Manager. He is also an honorary member of the Gabrieli Choir of Budapest with whom he has sung on a number of occasions.
During the latter years of his singing career Jolyon has gradually, almost by accident, become involved in arts administration and conducting. After five years as vocal tutor and choir conductor at Lancaster University he went on to become the Director of the MacRobert Arts Centre at Stirling University for another five years and also became by invitation the conductor of the BBS Scottish Singers with whom he worked on some memorable concerts with Simon Rattle (age 21 at the time!) and Claudio Abbado. On return to Cumbria at various times he served as Chairman of Eden Arts, Conductor of the Lakeland Singers, Artistic Director of Brathay Festival, Musical Director of Lanercost Festival, Chairman of the Mary Wakefield Festival and its parent body the Westmorland Music Trust, Conductor of Ulverston Choral Society, and Ambleside and District Choral Society.
In 2016 he was awarded and MBE for services to Music and to the rural communities of Cumbria. (The latter is another story!)