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 years.
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 won it.
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 by.
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 this award.
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.
Louise and I purchased a shop in Catterick village in February 2002. Louise had been going to a local market in Richmond every Saturday promoting her cakes and came to the decision that opening a shop in our village was a good idea. On February 24th 2002 we opened the doors, with not much stock, and hoped we could get it off the ground. A year on and business was really good; we stocked everything relating to cakes, ie: Tin hire, Wedding stands, Cutters, Sugar flowers, Cards, daily baking (yippee) and so much more. As with any business, especially in the early days, it is really hard work, sometimes demoralising but Louise is amazing, such a hard worker and that is the reason this business ran so well.
In February 2014 we had our twelfth anniversary, we closed the shop shortly after, a change in circumstances meant that we had to.
Louise continued to run her business from a specialist refrigerated van to most of the customers she served in the shop, we sold the van in March 2015,
August 2017 saw the launch of Louise’s new business “the YORKSHIRE FRUITCAKE COMPANY, if you would like to order a cake using the very finest ingredients, the very best selected fruits, mixed peel, cherries, local farm eggs, wensleydale creamery butter, locally milled flour, all fruit soaked in brandy - call: (01609) 748295 or Mob: (0773) 2211999
Visit the website www.theyorkshirefruitcakecompany.co.uk
Myself, Louise & two of our boys, William & Lee have just stopped running the Organ Club in Northallerton, I played the first concert in November 2011, Andrew Nix was performing in December 2011, January 2012 featured Elizabeth Harrison.
In December 2018, after 7 years and some great concerts, the time had come to spend our energy promoting something else..
Andrew Nix and I are running Festivals under the banner Topnote Events, we are loving every minute of this experience, we have worked hard getting the festvals up and running and give every event our full attention, if you fancy a weekend with myself, Andrew & friends contact me on (01609) 748295 or Andrew on (01757) 708509
We visit Harrogate, Kettering, Fareham, and Eastbourne, for more info on these Great festivals visit: www.topnoteevents.co.uk
|Concerts in 2021|
|July 13th||Hailsham MelodyTimes Concerts (more details)|
Duet show with Andrew Nix
|September 3rd||Harrogate Topnote Festival - The 4* Cedar Court Hotel - £285 Half Board. To book contact Tony on 01609 748295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org|
|September 4th||Harrogate Topnote Festival - The 4* Cedar Court Hotel - £285 Half Board. To book contact Tony on 01609 748295 or email email@example.com|
|September 5th||Harrogate Topnote Festival - The 4* Cedar Court Hotel - £285 Half Board. To book contact Tony on 01609 748295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org|
|September 8th||Horsham MelodyTimes Concerts|
|October 6th||Grimsby Keyboard & Electronic Organ Club|
|October 22nd||Solent 4* Hotel & Spa - Topnote Festival £285 per person. To book call Tony on 01609 748295 or email email@example.com|
|October 23rd||Solent 4* Hotel & Spa - Topnote Festival £285 per person. To book call Tony on 01609 748295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org|
|October 24th||Solent 4* Hotel & Spa - Topnote Festival £285 per person. To book call Tony on 01609 748295 or email email@example.com|
|December 2nd||Weston Organ and Keyboard Club|
|December 8th||Clacton Keyboard Music Club (Formerly Clacton & District Organ Society)|
|Concerts in 2022|
|January 20th||Harrogate Keyboard Club|
|February 18th||Eastbourne Topnote Festival. £249 Half Board with free parking. To book call Tony on 01609 748295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org|
|February 19th||Eastbourne Topnote Festival. £249 Half Board with free parking. To book call Tony on 01609 748295 or email email@example.com|
|February 20th||Eastbourne Topnote Festival. £249 Half Board with free parking. To book call Tony on 01609 748295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org|