Music has always been the prime priority in John's life. From an early age he showed his enthusiasm, and was quickly encouraged by his parents who saw where his interest were and directed him wisely by introducing him to piano lessons and buying him the all-important first instrument. John recalls how his father took him to the house where the piano was for sale, stored away in a dark room. It had a very ornate fret front, covered wood work design with two brass candlestick holders swinging out, but it was black or so John thought, and his greatest wish at that time was to own a black piano. When it was delivered and placed in John's bedroom, to his dismay the brighter room revealed that it was ordinary brown veneered wood.
The disappointment over, he worked hard on that piano, and his music teacher was so interested in the young Mr Mann that she gave more than the set lesson time and put additional effort into what she obviously saw as a potential player. Indeed her enthusiasm sometimes wasn't always appreciated by young John. Like other boys he wanted to be with his friends and quite often his music teacher had to come running round to the house to find out why he hadn't turned up for his lesson. One of John's protests was that she kept him too long, insisted on cutting his finger nails, and worst of all she had her tea whilst teaching. This consisted of soft roes on toast, and she would often get excited during the lesson and talk, with particles of the tea ending up on his hands on the piano keys!
This was no real set back. Continuing his piano studies he went on to pass his Royal School of Music examinations and participated in many musical festivals in Brighton, his hometown.
There was a deep flair for the showbusiness side too. John went to the Brighton School of Drama where he took part in acting, elocution and dancing lessons. It was thought he might find his future in ballet when his dance teacher arranged an audition at the famous Sadlers Wells Ballet before a panel including Beryl Gray. He was offered a place in the second company of the Ballet but John's back was a weakness and thought to be a drawback for a strenuous career in this field.
The knowledge of dance and stage craft has helped him over the years in his varied work. Even ice skating has to come into the reckoning, since he loved to skate. A later ambition was to perform in Ice Spectaculars which were so popular around that time. He again auditioned and after the twists and turns went to the choreographer who was about to accept him in the chorus when the manager of the sports stadium, who was standing alongside, said, "Aren't you the lad who auditioned on the organ here yesterday?" to which John had to admit yes, as it was true. Only the day before, knowing the stadium had lost its organist, he had applied and auditioned, but at the finish of his playing nobody had told him if he had got the position, so he went home and told his parents that as there was no news, he would do the skating audition the next day. The manager spotted John and told him to come off the ice, saying "I want you to play the organ."
Up to this time John's organ playing was confined to church organ lessons with the study of Voluntary's and some Bach works. Secretly when he was left alone in the church at night he would let rip with a few extemporisations on well known songs of the day - all done in the best possible taste!!
By now he was in full flight on the road to becoming an Entertainment Organist, with variations, producing the Summer Season Concert Party and Bandshows that have served him well to set up his present position as Britain's number one Entertainment Organist.
|Concerts in 2018|
|April 12th||Bournemouth Pavilion (more details)|
1.00pm Tickets on the door
|April 22nd||Burtey Fen Collection|
|May 6th||Tywyn Wurlitzer (more details)|
7.30pm Please ring John Smallwood on 01654 710994
|June 10th||North Lincolnshire Theatre Organ Preservation Society (more details)|
Doors Open 2.00pm, Admission £6.00.
|July 14th||Penistone Cinema Organ Trust (more details)|
Astoria Centre 2.30pm
|July 14th||Barnsley Astoria Centre (more details)|
2.30pm Please ring 07944 566872 for tickets & information
|October 13th||St Albans Organ Theatre|
|October 13th||St Albans Organ Theatre (more details)|
|October 14th||Singing Hills Wurlitzer (more details)|
|October 28th||Rye Wurlitzer (more details)|