John Chapman

We are very sad to report that John Chapman died on 5th March 2003.

John had been a central figure in the dance world for very many years and will be greatly missed.

John's funeral was on Friday 14 March 2003 at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon. A full description appears below.

If anyone has a picture of John that could be used on this page, please contact Andrew Findlay on 01628 782565 or

John first called for London Barndance on 8th March 1985. Since then he has been a regular feature of our programme, clocking up 42 appearances. JC was always a popular caller with his clear explanations, interesting programmes, and occasional yodelling. Anyone who ever danced Redwing to JC's call will remember it for ever.
John had a great interest in buses and trams, and we would often arrive at Cecil Sharp House to find that he and Dee had driven down early and spent the afternoon watching London Transport in action. Trains were not forgotten either, and John's wooden "steam whistle" added an authentic touch whenever a band played out with the Orange Blossom Special.
John Chapman was a central figure in our world. We will miss him greatly.
Andrew and Jane

Picture of John Chapman on stage in 1963 From Graham Cole:

Attached is the photo of John as promised. It was taken at a Sheffield University dance weekend which I organised. This photo was taken at the Friday evening dance on November 22nd 1963, The day President Kennedy was assassinated. John was calling with the Bidford band. We often ask 'where were you the night JFK was killed?', and memories of John are always there.

Picture of John Chapman calling in 2001 From Ron Hawkins of the Herbal Remedy Band:

I was shocked to learn of John's death yesterday. He seemed in such rude good health when we played at his club a couple of weeks ago. It's not much of a photo, but here's one I took of him at a gig of ours a couple of summers ago. I remember him best for his unfailing good humour and instant acknowledgement that any problems out on the dance floor were his fault and none of theirs. His call of "say 'yes John'" to make sure they heard and understood him was like a trademark.

From Colin Hume:

By this time of the year, Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon is usually thronged with tourists looking for the graves of Shakespeare and his wife, but on the morning of May 14th it was a full house for JC. John died on the evening of 5th March, of a heart attack, and about 260 callers, musicians, dancers and friends and relatives came to his funeral. For about half an hour before the official start, we were treated to a selection of John's best-known singing squares, played by members of Ad Hoc and Arden Folk - all people who had worked with John for many years. They also gave us "Swingin' Safari" which Arden Folk played regularly for John's best-known dance, "Clopton Bridge".

The service was conducted by The Revd. Dr. Lorelie Farmer, and she gave a reading from Saint John's gospel after we had all given a rousing rendition of Sydney Carter's "Lord of the Dance". Then Dee Chapman very bravely came to the front and read a poem which she said had been sent to her immediately after John's death and had been a great comfort to her. I'm told it's by Mary E Frye, 1932 - apologies if I am infringing copyright, but here it is.

Do not stand
At my grave and weep,
I am not there
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken
In the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there,
I did not die.

Lorelie then gave the address. She told us that John was born in Birmingham, and his family moved to Stratford when he was six. He worked in insurance for the National Farmers Union for 39 1/2 years, until he took early retirement in 1990. From then on he could spend his time as he wished: with Dee, his two daughters Susan and Rebecca, and his two grandchildren - and of course with music and dancing. He had a wonderful blend of gifts. Apart from the music, he was good with people, had a strong sense of theatre and a great sense of humour. This combination enabled John to turn any occasion into a celebration. At the same time there was a courtesy and seriousness of purpose underlying all of this.

During his many years as a caller and dancer, John was involved in over 6,000 folk events, including 500 at Bidford alone. Last December John was honoured in Stratford on the occasion of his 50th year as a caller.

After some prayers we sang two more hymns: "The Lord's my Shepherd" and "Abide with me". Then as the funeral procession set off up the aisle the band struck up "Redwing" - John's best-known singing call. Dee was fighting back the tears, but her two daughters were singing the words they had heard their father sing so often. The service was followed by a committal at Evesham Road Cemetery, and Dee had requested that only the immediate family be present for this.

It is hoped to arrange a Memorial Dance at some future date.