British conductor and organist John Poole was born in Birmingham on 5 February 1934. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford University, where he began to conduct choirs and orchestras whilst an undergraduate, and at the Royal College of Organists. His talent for passing on the joy of music to others was noticed early in his career. He worked as Assistant Music Master at Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, London, from 1955-64 and gained further experience directing choirs as organist of London University's Church and musical director at University College, London. He founded the Bloomsbury Singers and Players and regularly conducted choral and orchestral concerts at St George's Church Bloomsbury. It was here that he was first noticed by the BBC and he was soon conducting groups such as the Orchestra of the Light Music Society, the London Studio Players and the BBC Chorus - as it was then.
In 1968 he was appointed conductor of the BBC Symphony Chorus and in 1972 he became director of the BBC Singers, a group which became, under John's direction, one of the top professional choirs. In 1973 he conducted his first concert at the BBC Proms, where he continued to perform. He also conducted at London's South Bank, the Barbican, St John's Smith Square and at many major festivals and tours worldwide. He remained director of the BBC Singers until 1989, and from 1990 he was the group's chief guest conductor for three years. Following that he maintained a link with the group as a guest conductor.
From 1990 until 1995 he was music director of the Groupe Vocal de France, specialising in contemporary repertoire and performing in Paris, throughout France and internationally. In 1996 he founded the Academie Internationale in Parthenay, France - a workshop for singers and professional conductors.
From 2001 until 2009 he was a member of the conducting staff in the Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, USA, conducting a stream of American and world choral premieres, including Sven-David Sandstrom's High Mass and Magnificat, and John Harbison's A Clear Midnight.
John and his devoted wife Laura retired to France in 2009. Every other summer, from 2010 until 2018, they invited the Bloomsbury Singers - the London University choir which John worked with before his BBC appointment - to Bellac and Le Dorat, where the group rehearsed with John for a week before giving a choral concert together, in the medieval L'Église de Notre Dame, Bellac.
John Poole passed away in Haute-Vienne, France on 18 May 2020, aged eighty-six.