A LEADING light of the Somerset music community says his lasting wish is for Taunton to have a bigger music venue.

Dr John Cole, 77, has stepped down as conductor of Amici, a choir he founded in Taunton in 1994, because he is dying of motor neurone disease.

Dr Cole, who conducted his first concert at Bishop Fox’s School in Taunton in 1952, was due to have conducted Amici and Orchestra West’s Remembrance Sunday concert at King’s College in Taunton, but has passed on the baton to Andrew Trewhella.

The concert started with a tribute to Dr Cole from Amici chairman Linda Nash, which was followed by a standing ovation.

She said: “He will be a great loss to music in Somerset. Without him, we would not have the wonderful choirs and music societies and certainly we would not have a professional orchestra.”

Linda Marshall Cole, Dr Cole’s wife, said: “I’m so proud of his determination to raise the bar and his extensive achievements.”

Speaking to the County Gazette at his home in Taunton yesterday (Wednesday), Dr Cole said:

“Sunday was a fantastic occasion and I was overwhelmed by the reaction.

“It’s sad that I cannot conduct any more but all good things come to an end.”

Dr Cole, who was a GP in Wellington from 1960 to 2000, said: “I have supervised three thousand people on their way to their maker so death doesn’t worry me but I do get a bit twitchy about the methodology!

“I have been very privileged. I’m not a rich man financially but I’m very rich in every other way.

“The most wonderful thing I could leave behind would be a will to provide the community with a proper concert hall.

“If I won the Euromillions tonight I would offer Mecca Bingo a sum they couldn’t refuse and turn that into a hall.

“Taunton is in desperate need of an 800-1,000 seat hall. That would alter Taunton’s life.”

Dr Cole is married to Linda and has four children from a previous marriage and eight grandchildren.