John Chillingworth is formally to become conductor of Sudbury Choral Society in April 2021. However, in the unusual circumstances of lockdown and the suspension of normal choir activities, he is going to run online rehearsals from June 2020. “I hope to make singing fun but rewarding for choir members. I encourage hard work in rehearsals, but always with a light-hearted touch, to bring challenging works to performance standard and I believe the members of choirs involved find the end result is often beyond what they thought they could achieve. I am already conductor of Lexden Choral Society and have been having online rehearsals with them for over two months. The online sessions, despite frustrations, have been very popular and members there feel that they have learned more about the music than in normal rehearsals, and also got to know each other better. I hope the experience will be equally rewarding for Sudbury Choral Society.”
I am a cellist, organist, pianist, instrumental, theory and composition teacher, orchestral and chamber music coach, conductor and arranger.
I studied the cello and organ at the Royal College of Music and later the cello with William Pleeth, teacher of Jacqueline Du Pre. For seven years I was the cellist of the Guadagnini String Quartet performing and broadcasting all over Europe and Canada. I was an Artist-in-Residence at Southampton University followed by two years at Lancaster University. While in the quartet, I was very fortunate to study chamber music with some of the finest musicians in the world. Following the disbanding of the quartet, I became Assistant Principal Cello of the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, which became the BBC Philharmonic during my time in the orchestra. For twenty-five years I was Principal Cellist at English National Opera. I have also worked as a guest principal cellist with many other orchestras, including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Opera North, Northern Philharmonia, London Mozart Players, London Sinfonietta, BBC Welsh Orchestra and Camerata Ireland.
Having decided to leave ENO, I moved to Essex and am now pursuing a varied career as a free-lance cellist, a teacher of the cello, organ and piano and as an accompanist for recitals and exams. I teach for Essex Music Services at Colchester Royal Grammar School, privately, and at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich and at Ipswich High School. I live in a thatched cottage in Suffolk.
I became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the unusually young age of nineteen, am a Diploma examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, work as an adjudicator for Music Festivals, coach at the London Music Colleges and teach young professionals, helping them prepare for audtitions or recitals.
I am very much looking forward to becoming conductor of Sudbury Choral Society, am already conductor of Lexden Choral Society, and of the newly formed Essex Youth Choir and Essex Youth Consort, two choirs for students up to the age of nineteen. My latest project is starting a big band. I was looking forward to conducting Southend Symphony Orchestra, but sadly, like all other live performances, that has had to be cancelled.
As a composer, I have had a musical written for primary schools performed by a group of primary schools in Felixstowe, an organ piece performed in the Sunday evening series of organ recitals at St John’s College, Cambridge, a piece for massed strings played by the strings of Essex Young People’s Orchestra and Lexden Choral Society have performed a work for Remembrance Day; as an arranger, I have had many arrangements performed by a variety of different groups including the Gents of St John’s.
I am married with a selection of children across the ages, from fifteen to thirty-six, and one granddaughter. In the small amount of time left to me when I am not involved in musical activities, I enjoy cycling and cooking, especially Mediterranean cooking and baking sour dough bread.”