John Gibbons - composer, arranger, pianist, organist and long-serving conductor and music director of symphony orchestras in Worthing, Ealing and Northampton has been awarded a British Empire Medal in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
"I was quite overwhelmed to receive the news of the award - not in my wildest imagination had I ever imagined that such an honour would be bestowed upon me,” exclaimed John. "I have always taken my own path in the musical world and programmed music, often unfamiliar, that I passionately believe in.”
An exemplary commitment to community music and young soloists
John Gibbons has conducted most of the major orchestras in the UK and has been Principal Conductor of Worthing Symphony Orchestra - the professional orchestra of West Sussex – for the last 21 seasons; “a period of much evolution”, he says, “as we bring music to people of all ages in the area.”
As well as top professional orchestras – most recently with Liepāja Symphony Orchestra in Latvia – John combines working with community groups such as Northampton Symphony Orchestra and Ealing Symphony Orchestra and as Choral Director at Clifton Cathedral, Bristol. Repertoire choices typify his provocative and stimulating programming, creating concerts which successfully introduce many rarities from around the world balanced with popular classics that are attractive to the general concert-goer.
Renowned for his support of young soloists at the start of their careers; guest artists have included winners from high-profile competitions such as the ‘BBC Young Musician of the Year’ and John regularly attracts performances from the likes of Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Jess Gillam.
As a composer himself, John has commissioned new works from emerging composers including Laura Rossi, whose film score he conducted at a live screening of The Battle of the Somme with the BBC Concert Orchestra, for the centenary in the Royal Festival Hall.
Amongst a catalogue of recordings, John has recorded Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 with a completion of the Finale by Nors Josephson; the string concertos of Arthur Benjamin; four Mozart piano concertos with the Turkish pianist Idil Biret, and two discs of orchestral music by William Wordsworth, of which volume two is scheduled for release in August on Toccata Classics.
Champion of British music
As Vice-Chairman of the British Music Society (BMS) and a Trustee of the William Alwyn Foundation, John Gibbons has been a passionate advocate of neglected British music of the twentieth century.
“I joined the BMS as a life member as its promotion of neglected composers is a vital part of UK culture. I think there is now a greater awareness that there is much quality music by composers who are not household names and a greater willingness to give the music a chance.”
“For me the real pleasure is introducing these significant works to an audience for whom they may be unfamiliar – and to international soloists who may go on to perform them worldwide.”
As well as programming British works wherever he can, John has most recently championed symphony-cycles of George Lloyd and Malcolm Arnold with the Ealing Symphony Orchestra, and he is a regular advisor and performer at the Malcolm Arnold Festival, conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Forthcoming highlights include Howard Blake’s Piano Concerto; Mahler’s Symphony No. 10, George Lloyd’s Symphony No. 4, Paul Lewis's Wurlitzer Concerto, Copland’s Symphony No. 3, as well as other rarely heard American works, and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto performed by soloist, Nicola Benedetti.
In his spare time John enjoys cooking and gardening and following sport – especially, like the composer Sir Edward Elgar, Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.