From the mid-20th century Donald Hunt built a career as one of the more important and distinguished English choral conductors. He is best known for his interpretations of British sacred music and has garnered much critical acclaim for his readings of works in that genre by Elgar, Finzi, Holst, Sumsion, William Llewellyn, Judith Weir, and others. Yet he has by no means been limited to the British realm, as his highly praised renditions of choral music by J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Bruckner will attest. Hunt has also composed a significant body of choral and organ music, the Hymnus Paschalis (1995), for three choirs, being among his most important large works. He has written several notable books, including the 1999 Elgar and the Three Choirs Festival (Osborne Books). Hunt has also served as a lecturer at Leeds College of Music. In addition, he has made a number of recordings over the years, most available from Naxos, Hyperion (Helios), and Priory Records.
Donald Hunt was born in 1930 in Gloucester, England. In his youth he served as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral and, from age 13, studied under composer Herbert Sumsion, who was organist there. Hunt became his assistant, from age 17, and later earned a doctorate degree from Leeds University (1975).
Hunt's debut concert as a conductor came in 1957 when he led the Halifax Choral Society in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, a work he would become strongly identified with. From 1958-1975 Hunt was organist and choirmaster at Leeds Parish Church. During this period he held other positions concurrently: from 1961-1975 he was associate conductor and chorus master of the Leeds Philharmonic Society (choir), and held similar posts with the Halifax Choral Society and Leeds Festival Chorus.
From 1976-1996 Hunt served as master of choristers and organist at Worcester Cathedral. During his tenure at Worcester, Hunt developed a close relationship with the Three Choirs Festival, held every August at alternating locations (Hereford, Gloucester, and Worcester counties). Hunt served as artistic director and conductor at the festival eight times from 1975-1996. In 1993 Hunt was given the rank of Officer of the British Empire. Following his 1996 departure Hunt remained busy, serving as principal of the Elgar School of Music in Worcester (becoming music advisor after 2007) and leading many choral performances, including several at the 150th Elgar Anniversary Festival at Worcester in 2007.