John Pryce-Jones: A Tribute

Published on Friday 10 May, 2019

By David Nixon OBE, Artistic Director.

At the end of our 2018/19 performance season John Pryce-Jones, Northern Ballet’s Music Director, will step down after more than a quarter of a century at the helm. His dedication to the Company, and especially the Sinfonia is extraordinary in itself, but weathering three artistic directors and a long list of choreographers and composers over this time makes it even more impressive.

Our first work together was a reproduction of my version of Madame Butterfly. As John was passionate about Puccini this first project could not have been better for us. His assistance in choosing the best selections of the opera, with the support of John Longstaff, was perfect and I found every performance he conducted over the years to be inspired, emotionally driven and a triumph.

I feel that over time I learned a great deal from John not only about music but the appreciation of much more. He taught me how differently dancers and musicians hear both tempo and dynamics. He guided me in regard to how music could dramatically support narrative and to appreciate that musicians need challenges as much as dancers.

Then there were musical choices which John loved, and those where we entered into a negotiation but always with mutual respect for the other's perspective. I knew that John was always coming from a point of view he felt passionately about; he was proud of and adored his orchestra. He wanted them to play what he felt was the most appropriate music and ultimately regardless of his personal reservations, he would climb to the podium and do his very best to bring the musicians and dancers together as one.

I believe that our most special time together was during the creation of The Great Gatsby. John was so inspired by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s music that he went to any end to track down music and compile a most extraordinary score. His efforts and generosity were an inspiration to me as the choreographer and I experienced the feeling in that hour when musician and dancer become one in their aspiration and performance.

It has been an honour to work with John, to hear our Sinfonia under his baton, to watch their evolution under his leadership and to work beside someone as passionate and fierce about their art form as John is. John has conducted such a variety of music, some of it a perfect fit, others less so, but he has always strived for the best both on stage and in the pit.

He leaves behind an impressive list of performances and the gift of a fine orchestra to his successor. John also leaves behind unforgettable performances, the many compositions and ballets he has helped bring to life and an invaluable contribution to the history and development of Northern Ballet that can not be forgotten. On behalf of everyone past and present I want to thank John and wish him all the very best in his journey ahead.