About me

John Whittaker

My background

I live in Reading, Berkshire, UK. 


My musical genre is very much in the tradition of the 20th Century English composers such as Finzi, Walton and Vaughan Williams. My aim is to write ‘accessible’, tuneful music. 


 I grew up in Liverpool and whilst at school I learnt both the piano and cello. I was fortunate to eventually find myself playing in the Merseyside Youth Orchestra which fueled my enthusiasm for music.  My interest in composition developed gradually – beginning by writing arrangements and short pieces mainly for school use whilst serving as a teacher. A collaboration with Liverpool writer Alf Williams in the 1980’s led to various more ambitious projects, including a large-scale theatrical production ‘Vincent’ based on the life of the painter Van Gogh.  I enjoy word settings and over time have composed quite a number of songs, song-cycles and short choral works. Largely self-taught as a composer, I have received some help and assistance with my orchestral scores from the composer, Lionel Sainsbury.

My vocal and choral works and my Shakespeare settings have been performed in various countries including the UK, The USA, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.

My compositions

My most ambitious works are my two one-act operas.  ‘The Three Wayfarers’ was performed by ‘Opera Anywhere’ in 2015 at The Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon.  My comic opera, ‘The Proposal’, had performances in London and St. Albans in 2018 by Irrational Theatre Opera Company.

Being a cellist in the Crowthorne Symphony Orchestra in Berkshire, has led to the writing of some short orchestral pieces, including an overture and a cantata for baritone and orchestra entitled ‘A Garland for Christmas

I have written several cantatas for children’s voices, including ‘Aesop’s Fables’ (premiered by the Oxford Youth Choir, 2004). 

My SATB arrangement of Vaughan Williams’ cantata: ‘Folk Songs of The Four Seasons’ was premiered in Reading, Pennsylvania, USA in May 2022 by Vox Philia (director David McConnell).

I was:  a) a finalist in the HCO Composer’s Competition, 2016.  b) a winner of the International Viola Society Composer’s Competition, 2018. Link to video  https://youtu.be/pqDmicBUJgo    

and c) A finalist in The Northern California Viola Society 2021 composition contest.

My String Quartet (2021) was recently performed at Aldworth Church, Berkshire by the Adderbury Ensemble.

I am currently working on new song compositions with assistance from award-winning baritone, Peter Edge.  


The Hexham Orpheus Choir will be performing my SATB arrangement of Ralph Vaughan Williams ‘Folk Songs of the Four Seasons’ on Wednesday 26th June in Trinity Methodist Church. (Beaumont Street, Hexham NE46 3LS)




Lunch-time recital given by Peter Edge (baritone) and myself (piano) at The Westminster Music Library Wednesday, 28th August. The programme will include a number of short songs and the cantata ‘The Worlde Nowadays’.

Link:   Peter Edge Baritone