John Carol Case


John Carol Case’s contribution to English vocal music over the past half-century and more extended well beyond the 21 years he sang in the Bach Choir’s annual performance of the St Matthew Passion as an imposing but approachable Christus, the two decades he spent at the Three Choirs Festival, his career-establishing run of appearances at the Leith Hill Festival under its founder Ralph Vaughan Williams in the second half of the 1950s, and a lifetime spent travelling the length and breadth of the UK to sing with virtually every choral society of note.

Although equally eloquent in French and German song, producing his own translation of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Case’s abiding love was for the songs of his native England, which he tirelessly promoted on both the concert platform and in the recording studio.

Key performances on disc included Christ in Elgar’s The Apostles and the Evangelist in Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress – both conducted by Adrian Boult – and a complete survey of song-settings of Thomas Hardy texts by Gerald Finzi, on which he was accompanied at the piano by Howard Ferguson.

In retirement, Case’s proselytising continued unabated, not least as the inaugural president of the English Song Award 1984-88, and as an editor of several vocal collections for Oxford University Press.

Born in Salisbury to an upholsterer-cum-funeral director and enthusiastic amateur tenor father, he began composing while still at school, setting a Requiem for an Unknown Soldier to a libretto by his headmaster, before gaining a scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, where he sang in the choir as both a baritone and alto.

Case’s own teaching career included spells at the Birmingham School of Music, King’s College School, Wimbledon – where he was director of music – and at the Royal Academy of Music. He was also music adviser to the National Union of Townswomen’s Guilds, for whom he composed the music to With This Sword, its silver anniversary pageant in 1954.

John Carol Case was awarded an OBE in 1993. Born on 27 April, 1923, he died aged 89 on December 28, 2012. He is survived by his companion of 55 years, Robert Wardell.