Conductor John Rigby has just flown back from Korea and spent the weekend in Dublin.

He lives in London but thinks of Huddersfield as his home from home.

His skills are so much in demand that he’s become a frequent flyer, jetting off to all corners of the globe. The past few weeks have been particularly hectic.

As he explains: “My wife is a choreographer and has just come back from Abu Dhabi, where she’s been working on a stadium event, and I’ve been in Korea working as a musical supervisor on Les Miserables.

“We have seen each other for three nights in the last 10 weeks!

“Life is busy, rich and varied, but it has its downsides as well. It’s not as glamorous as it might seem.”

However, this New Year he and his wife, Nikki Woollaston, will be travelling north to spend time with his mum and stepfather, Tom and Eileen Ryan, who live in Marsh.

During their stay John will be conducting the Orchestra of Opera North at two concerts, entitled Viennese Whirl. One is in Leeds on New Year’s Eve and the other at Huddersfield Town Hall (Wednesday, December 30).

Although John, now 46, studied classical music at Huddersfield University and has had a 25-year association with the town it will be the first time he has performed in the iconic building and he’s very excited at the prospect.

“Huddersfield is responsible for my formative years as a musician,” he says, “it’s such a rich and varied town with its musical heritage. I have Huddersfield to thank for my musical career.”

The choice of music for the town hall concert – from Richard Strauss to Franz Lehar – is particularly apt for the conductor who is currently undertaking a PhD at King’s College, London, in Viennese operetta and the works of Lehar (The Merry Widow).

John Rigby, conductor, Opera North
John Rigby, conductor, Opera North

“Viennese music has a big place in my life,” says John, “I’m researching the Viennese operetta in Berlin in the 1920s. There was a lot of it at that time.”

Originally from St Helens in Lancashire, John came to Huddersfield to study. When his widowed mum
married a Huddersfield man he became an adopted son of the town.

A pianist and flautist, he cut his conducting teeth with local amateur operatic societies – notably Woodhouse and Lindley – and gradually became more and more interested in pursuing a career as a musical show conductor.

He explained: “I started a PhD in Huddersfield in music psychology but the conducting world was opening up to me and I left in 1990 and moved to Germany where I conducted Starlight Express and Miss Saigon.

“In 1999 I came back to the UK and worked in the West End on Les
Miserables, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera and the King and I.

“I go to the States two or three times a year for the American touring version of Phantom.”

Eventually, however, John found his way back to his classical orchestral roots and is now also in demand as a freelance conductor.

There are, he says, three strands to his career – musical theatre, orchestral conducting and his academic research.

His forthcoming performance in Huddersfield will not be the first time he has conducted the Orchestra of Opera North.

He worked with the touring opera company on its production of Carousel in the West End. But it will be the first time he has been in Huddersfield Town Hall since he graduated.

“I remember watching Opera North concerts in the town hall when I was a student. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

His debut concert is one of the most popular in the Opera North season, with a particular appeal for families.

Tickets for the 3pm concert, which is presented by John Suchet and features soprano Jennifer France, are £10 to £24 (under 13’s £1) from 01484 223200 or