John Duncan

Sep 20 2016 | By More

It is with great sorrow that we learned this week of the passing of John Duncan, who was the musical director of the Edinburgh Gang Show for the last 22 years.

John’s involvement with the Edinburgh Gang Show goes back to 1986 when he became rehearsal pianist to his good friend Keith Milne, who had been appointed as Musical Director in 1985. John retired as MD a fortnight ago.

John Duncan at work in the pit of the King's Theatre, MDing the Gang Show. Photo Scott Walker

John Duncan at work in the pit of the King’s Theatre, MDing the Gang Show. Photo Scott Walker

Prior to being involved with the Edinburgh Gang Show, John was in the orchestra of the Dundee Gang Show for many years. He lived in Birkhill, near Dundee, and was 64 when he died.

John was already MD of the Edinburgh Gang Show when Andy Johnston took over the direction in 2003. Andy has passed on these memories of John to share with our readers.

JD’s commitment to Edinburgh Gang Show is beyond compare – 22 years as musical director – nobody in the history of the show has remained in the same role on the Production Team for that long.

For the last 13 of them it was my great privilege to work alongside him. In that time, Edinburgh Gang Show has risen to ever greater heights, due – in no small measure – to the amazing work JD completed every year. He could take whatever style of music I threw at him and make it ‘Gang Show’ – everything from The Jam to Alice Cooper or to show tunes from across the eras and not forgetting the occasional Queen song.

Literally thousands of young people have benefitted from John’s vast musical experience. John lived and breathed Gang Show and his contribution is incalculable.

Billy Youth Theatre

One further contribution I can’t thank him enough for was convincing me that Gang Show should join the Billy Youth Theatre project. Co-producing with The Manor School of Ballet, those glorious days of full houses at The Festival Theatre were amongst the best we ever shared together and JD never tired of telling anyone who would listen that it was all his idea!

I don’t think I could ever say that John was my best friend – I don’t think he was anyone’s best friend – he just wasn’t that kind of man, but we were very close indeed. You have to be to work together for so long – we laughed together, we cried together and, very occasionally, we even drank together!

JD retired from the show only a few weeks ago and it is almost impossible to imagine what show week will be like without him. However, John’s legacy will be the show continuing under his friends Andy Thomson and Ian Sutherland – they have very big shoes to fill!

JD has been a huge part of my life since 1985 and I will miss him immensely.

Andy Johnston, 20 September 2016

Our deepest sympathies to all the many members of the Gang Show family who knew John and who performed with him and worked with him on the many shows he has been involved with over the years. As reviewers, we have only ever really heard the fruits of John’s labours – which have been considerable and remarkable.

John Duncan, wearing his Gang Show Neckie

John Duncan, wearing his Gang Show Neckie


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