Anthony Ford

choir practice

Hull Bach Choir was formed in December 1951 by Peter Goodman, who was later to be appointed Hull City Organist. It has had a long line of distinguished conductors, including Alan Farnill (Hull City Music Librarian), Robert Vincent (later organist at St. Martin in the Fields, London) and Denis Arnold (later Heather Professor of Music at Oxford University).

The choir’s present conductor, Anthony Ford, was born in Birmingham in 1935, the son of a well-known midland singer and broadcaster, and studied at Birmingham University where he obtained a first class degree in music in 1957. He went on to do research into the music of the Jacobean madrigalist John Ward and to begin a career as a harpsichordist and pianist, specialising in continuo playing and choral accompaniment. He was joint accompanist of the Birmingham Bach Society and of the Walsall Choral Society for a number of years. From 1959 he was involved in Anthony Lewis' trail-blazing productions of Handel's operas, acting as repetiteur and continuo player. There he had the privilege of working with several famous singers, beginning with Heather Harper and Alexander Young.

In 1963 he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in the Music department of Hull University under Robert Marchant, and retired from the post of Senior Lecturer in September 1999. On arrival in Hull he became joint conductor of the University Chamber Choir, of which he later took sole responsibility for many years, and accompanist of the University Choir. He inaugurated Hull University's series of operas with a production of Cavalli's Erismena, and with the first performance since the eighteenth century of one of that century's most popular operas, Giovanni Bononcini's Camilla.

His association with Hull Bach Choir began as a continuo player in November 1966. He took over the conductorship of the choir from Denis Arnold in 1969. Under his conductorship the choir has performed over 100 major works, including all of Bach's major choral works as well as many of his shorter pieces, most of Handel's oratorios, Purcell's major odes and theatre music, and most of the choral works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The choir has also given the first performances in Hull of Monteverdi's Vespers and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. Their repertoire has also included music by Tallis (the 40-part motet Spem in alium), Byrd (The Mass for four voices), Schütz (Christmas and Easter Histories and German Requiem), Bononcini (Funeral Anthem, for the Duke of Marlborough), Schubert (Mass in E flat) and many other composers. Its concerts have also included concertos by Bach and Handel, and symphonies by Haydn and Mozart.