Herald music critic lays down his pen

There comes a time when even music critics lay down their pens. Having achieved a very significant birthday, when he joins the ranks of the octogenarians, for the Herald s critic the time has now come.

There comes a time when even music critics lay down their pens.

Having achieved a very significant birthday, when he joins the ranks of the octogenarians, for the Herald's critic the time has now come. John Dalton has reviewed many hundreds of concerts, operas and plays over a period of nearly 40 years.

Locally, here in East Devon, his first review appeared in 1973, in the long gone Honiton News shortly after it was established. Having belaboured the editor about the lack of reviews of serious musical events and their poor quality when they did appear, he was invited to do it himself!

When the Honiton News ceased publication he moved to the Herald newspapers in 1986, submitting his first review, of a Colyton recital by well-known concert pianist Antony Peebles, on May 21, 1986.

As a music critic, he brought sound knowledge to his writing, never took the easy option and was always ready to point out deficiencies in performance, but criticism was always constructive. His comments were invariably valued and well-known East Devon musician David Price-Hughes wrote to the editor expressing his appreciation of the very fair and discerning criticism which came from the pen 'of one of the best critics writing for provincial newspapers'.

He went on to say that 'there can be few local newspapers which deal so adequately with musical performances'.

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The distinguished, internationally known composer Richard Rodney Bennett referred to him as 'a nice, bright, well-informed critic'.

John always said that he looked upon his role as one of supporting and promoting the cause of serious music, and the arts in general, in East Devon. During his career he says he made many friends amongst musicians in the area and with members of local music societies.

He combined writing with his career as a headmaster until he was struck down by leukaemia, taking early retirement as a result. Even during his illness his writing continued. This misfortune led him to be the prime mover in the formation of the now very successful charity ELF (Exeter Leukaemia Fund). Having conquered the disease, he became the charity's administrator for 10 years. He is still a trustee.

This was not all, for he was also a magistrate and, for many years until his retirement from that office, he was chairman of the Honiton and Axminster bench.

In the musical world he has written programme notes for festivals, concerts, music societies and individual artists all over the country.

This he plans to continue in his 'retirement'.

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