At St. Peter’s Hall, The Broadway, Woodhall Spa starting at 7.30 p.m.
“Music for Woodhall”
President Nicholas Martin B.E.M.
OUR ARTIST FOR DECEMBER
I started playing the organ when I was 9 - my father owned a T500 Hammond which was
his pride and joy. I started to show an interest in music and Dad agreed to teach
me. He taught me all he knew and within a year he had arranged private tuition with
my first teacher Ray Fox. At age 11 my Dad asked me what I would like for my birthday.
I said I would like to play a concert, so Dad arranged it and I played my first 2
hour concert to friends and family - about 100 people. I loved every minute!
At around the same time, I was lucky enough to spend a weekend with FRANZ LAMBERT,
and was honoured to be in the company of such a famous organist. At age 12, Dad and
I were attending a lot of demos and concerts, and a new organ on the market (an ELKA
E49) caught my Dad's eye. He kept looking at it, and for months he kept saying "I
want that organ". At age 13 I arrived home from school to a gleaming new organ -
the ELKA E49. Dad had bought it for my birthday - I was over the moon. Dad was so
passionate about my music and enjoyed it so much we often stayed up until 2-3 in
the morning playing - Mum wasn't impressed!
By the time I reached 14 Dad said "We need to get you another teacher, Ray has taken
you as far as he can". Just a week earlier we had seen an advert in our local paper
"Be taught by the best - call ANDREW GILBERT". We did, and for the next three years
I was coached by Andy. He was very good for me and taught me so much in those three
Around this time I started entering competitions; my first was a Yamaha Local Region
Competition to be held at Teville Organs at Worthing. I turned up and saw that one
of the judges was Steve Lowdell. I played a 'Phantom of the Opera' Selection and
After winning the local event, I was asked to compete in the National competition,
which was held at The Library Theatre Solihull. I played the Yamaha HS8, i won £125!
which, at that age, was like winning the Lottery! I then entered the Wersi competition,
winning the local event. At that time, we didn't know but the competition was going
to go further. A week after winning I got a call from Aura Sounds, Purley, to ask
would I compete in the Wersi European finals to be held at FRANKFURT - all expenses
paid for me and Dad.
We went over and WON a Wersi Prisma organ. When we got home Dad built it and that's
the setup I used, with a Technics KN800, for the next three years.
At the age of 14, I also entered the Cinema Organ Society competition held at Gunton
Hall. I played one slow piece and one fast piece and won. Dad was hoping that it
would lead me into the Theatre organ circuit but, although I loved the sound of the
Wurlitzers - especially when played by Robert Wolfe - I didn't have the passion for
it and didn't take that path any further.
At seventeen, we had heard if you want to get on to the Organ circuit the best place
to play would be somewhere called Caister. I had already sent off letters to all
the leading manufacturers to ask if they needed a demonstrator, but the only reply
I got was from Brian Price of BOHM to say "We don't need anyone at the moment, but
good luck for the future", which I appreciated. I also sent off 40 letters to Organ
Societies asking for a chance of appearing at their club. Looking back, I don't remember
getting any replies to my letters so the next course of action was to find out if
I could get a spot at Caister. I got in touch with Grant Neal and he said I could
start off an evening concert for 25mins. We turned up at Caister the day before,
trundled our Organ (which was now a Yamaha HX1) into our chalet and practised and
practised so when I did eventually play I would be as sharp as I could be. Unfortunately,
we got complaints from other chalets and had to turn the organ off! The day had come
for me to play my first spot at Caister. I received a standing ovation and suddenly
a lot of the people I had written to were now offering me concerts, so playing at
Caister really did kick start my career.
The next year (now aged 18) I was playing around 30 concerts for the year as well
as a full time job in my Dad's Billposting company. I was working for Dad from age
17 to 21, because I still didn't have enough concerts to do it full time. When I
reached 21, with four years manual labour and trying to play concerts in the evening,
my hands were starting to suffer so Dad and I had a talk and decided that I should
leave his Company and try to make my living solely from music - a good move.
At 22 I got a call from Grant Neal "Do you want to play on the Blackpool Wurlitzer?"
As I've said earlier, I was not 100% into the theatre organ but loved the sound and
just couldn't turn down an offer like that. It is an amazing experience to rise out
of the floor on the famous organ. I played for 20 minutes and found the organ very
easy to play, not like a normal theatre organ where there is a lot of delay after
pressing the notes - the sound was instant due to all the speakers I was surrounded
The same year I got a telephone call from Zurich - would I play for the Swiss Organ
Festival? I agreed and went over to Lenk. I really did enjoy myself in Switzerland
and, again, it was all adding to my experiences, At this time (1997) Klaus Wunderlich
was still alive and my ambition was to meet my idol and talk with him. I went back
over to Switzerland in November of that year, having had a call in the August of
that year, and was told by friends it would be possible to meet up with Klaus when
I come over to pla. Sadly, in October 1997 Klaus passed away, aged only 66. I was
devastated. I had been listening to his music ever since I started playing, there
has never been & will never be anyone that will match Klaus, a very special man,
amazing ear, fantastic arrangements, unbelievable!...in his later years he did not
have a record contract and was only recording what he loved to play personally. Concerto
Grosso was to be his last ever recording and I sit back and listen in amazement to
the talent that man had.
I get asked frequently what I listen to when I'm not playing, and a lot of people
are surprised when I say Klaus. I do listen to other music but he has to be top of
my list and always will be. I have been to Switzerland 5 times now, played the Blackpool
Wurlitzer three times, am performing over 50 shows a year and enjoy my job very much.
I was proud to receive the Trophy for the first ever Keyboard/Organist of the Year
2003-4 and would like to thank all those who voted for me, this is a 2 yearly award,
I was so happy to receive it again for 2005-6.
After receiving the trophy for the second time the organisers called it a day for
I live in a nice part of the world - North Yorkshire - but just a little bit far
for all the driving I do, have a lovely wife, Louise, and four wonderful boys, Charlie,
Matthew, William & Lee.
The concert is at 7.30 pm on Tuesday December 17th at St. Peter’s Hall, The Broadway,
Woodhall Spa. LN10 6ST.