James Newby, who has died at 80, was one of the North’s most accomplished and popular musicians, known around the world for his reduced orchestrations for the global Gilbert and Sullivan community.
His arrangements have been used by companies as far afield as America, South Africa and Australia.
His early years in Bradford revealed a talent as not only for piano and percussion but also as a vocalist. He studied conducting and composition with the conductor and academic Brian Priestman, and worked with choirs, orchestras and dramatic and operatic companies across Yorkshire and Lancashire, with a range from jazz to opera.
He was musical director of the Bradford Gilbert and Sullivan Society and of the Savoyards Appreciation Society, one of West Yorkshire’s most distinctive amateur groups. It was the first British amateur society to tour the US, with Mr Newby in charge of the National Festival Orchestra.
The Savoyards were also successful in Ireland’s competitive Waterford International Festival of Light Opera, where Mr Newby was named best musical director and best director for his production of Patience.
He became the founding musical director of the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival and the professional Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, whose members he conducted in Britain and the US. In America, his cast included many of the original D’Oyly Carte company members including Valerie Masterson, Gillian Knight, Kenneth Sandford and Peggy Anne Jones.
An accompanist, teacher, consultant, composer, conductor and director, he also wrote an opera and arranged many commissioned orchestrations, which he supplied to the music world.
His conducting assignments in Yorkshire took in Harrogate, Halifax, Aireborough, Meltham, Dore and Scunthorpe, and he was President of the Wakefield Gilbert and Sullivan Society.
He is survived by his wife, Madeleline.
A celebration of his life will be held at Bradford Cathedral on April 4.