John Reed comes from Darlington and studied singing, elocution, mime and dancing after he left school, when he also joined the Darlington Operatic Society and played in repertory. He produced for many amateur societies and was at one time producer and dancing instructor for Darlington Education Committee. He has won many medals for elocution and dancing, and this early training has stood him in good stead for the comedy roles he played, where nimbleness of foot and tongue are of paramount importance.

He joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1951 as a member of the chorus and understudy for the principal comedy parts, which he took over in 1959, when Peter Pratt left the Company.

Since that date he has been widely acclaimed for his performances. Of "H.M.S. Pinafore" during the London Season, The Times said: "Mr. Reed's impersonation, prim, dry, roundly articulated (and sung in tune, as some of his illustrious predecessors never attempted to do) was eminently likeable," while the Yorkshire Post said: "It is important to pay special tribute to John Reed who now plays the great comic roles. Yesterday he was Reginald Bunthorne, the fleshly poet, and I have never seen a neater interpretation." D'Oyly Carte audiences made it plain that in their view these and similar tributes were richly deserved.

He was awarded the O.B.E. in June 1977 and, after the Australasian tour he felt that he needed a change and he retired from the company in October 1979 after 20 years in the principal roles and 28 years with the company. Dame Bridget D'Oyly Carte would have liked John's farewell to be a major occasion and to be fittingly celebrated by his admirers, but this modest man preferred to disappear quietly and the end of the Australian tour gave him the opportunity to do just that.

Since then he has continued to perform in Gilbert & Sullivan operas and he occasionally returned to make guest appearances with the Company.

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