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'I could not have wished for a better brother' - tributes to singer who enjoyed 54-year career

PUBLISHED: 11:07 07 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:24 07 November 2019

John Bill was at his happiest when he was performing. As Bunthorne in “Patience” from 2008. Picture: Bill family

John Bill was at his happiest when he was performing. As Bunthorne in "Patience" from 2008. Picture: Bill family

Archant

The funeral of an operatic singer was turned into a musical occasion with up to 50 performers giving him a fitting send-off.

Profile picture of John Bill, which was used in a 2014 programme. Picture: Bill familyProfile picture of John Bill, which was used in a 2014 programme. Picture: Bill family

Members of the East Norfolk Operatic Society filled John Bill's family church, All Saints at Beeston Regis, at his funeral on Saturday, October 26.

In his 54-year career, he performed with the South Norfolk Operatic Society, Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society, Phoenix Opera, Norfolk Opera Players, Sheringham Savoyards, from 1981 to 2013, and East Norfolk Operatic Society, from 1986 until July when he sang in a 60th anniversary concert.

He sang many tenor lead parts in operas and musicals as well as Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and one of his favourite roles was the aesthetic poet Reginald Bunthorne in Patience.

Mr Bill, who died aged 71 on September 27, was born and brought up in Sheringham, which he loved, and lived at the family home in Priory Road before moving to Norwich where he worked in Barclays Bank.

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His brother David Bill said: "Our time in Sheringham was idyllic - the times we had exploring the area, having the run of the railways, the time we had at the primary school and at Paston School.

"Life was so orderly and settled, often revolving around the old Beeston church hall and All Saints.

"John sang his first solo at All Saints, the first verse of Once in Royal David's City at the start of the annual carol service, aged seven. It was, of course, the music which became his whole life's passion.

"I was best man when John married Samantha. Although they were to part he remained devoted to and proud of his children, Matthew and Stephanie. Later he met Penny and their close friendship lasted the rest of his life.

"John and I have been in touch all our lives. I could always rely on him. His driving passion was to help others, his friends and family and his first and last thoughts were the welfare of everyone else. I could not have wished for a better brother."

Mr Bill was presented with a 50-year NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) award.

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