Nearly 50 years of formal experience was appropriately recognised on Australia Day 2004, when 68 year-old John, the St Patrick’s Cathedral cantor, was awarded an Order of Australia Medal ‘For service to choral music, particularly liturgical music through St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir’. By the age of 20 John, a carpenter by trade, decided that he wanted to take singing more seriously. However with regular singing lessons proving too costly, he sang for a scholarship at the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music, and was subsequently granted two years free tuition under well-known musician Henry Portnoj. Shortly after, Portnoj encouraged John to join the St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir, where Conservatorium Vice-Director Dr Percy Jones was Director of Music. Since joining the Cathedral Choir in 1957, the list of achievements John has compiled has been impressive. He has sung for six of Melbourne’s eight Archbishops (from Mannix to present); in the early 1970s he joined the Tudor Choristers, with whom he sang in several solo roles, including ‘the Evangelist’ in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Later, he was engaged by Melbourne Choral to sing the tenor solos of Handel’s Messiah. Although hesitant to single out a favourite performance, John recounts his role as cantor at the official mass for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Melbourne in 1986, held at Flemington Racecourse, as “a great honour, and certainly the biggest occasion”.
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