Veteran organist notes a musical milestone

Organist Philip Tordoff at Westgate Chapel, Wakefield.
Organist Philip Tordoff at Westgate Chapel, Wakefield.
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MUSICIAN Philip Tordoff has celebrated his 1,000th organ recital – 70 years after his first piano lesson.

The 75-year-old former music master played the organ at Westgate Chapel in Wakefield yesterday, marking a major milestone in his musical career.

His first recital was 50 years ago at St Andrew’s Church, Oakenshaw, Bradford where he was the organist at the time.

From 1971 he was the organist at Halifax Parish Church (now Halifax Minster) and many of the 1,000 recitals have been given there.

Mr Tordoff, 75, was born in Cleckheaton in 1937 and still lives there. He began studying piano aged five but switched to the organ in 1950.

In 1951, at a salary of £12 a year, he took up his first engagement as organist at Broomfield Methodist Church, Cleckheaton. He was a pupil at that time at Whitcliffe Mount Grammar School, Cleckheaton.

In 1955 he became an associate of the Royal College of Organists, gaining the Sawyer prize for high marks in organ playing.

A year later, when he was 19, he gained an organ scholarship to Downing College, Cambridge.

He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists in 1960, again winning a prize for his marks in organ playing.

From 1961 until his retirement in 1997, Mr Tordoff was the music master at Hipperholme Grammar School (the first that the school, founded in 1648, had had).

At the same time he served as the organist of St John’s, Bierley, Bradford. Mr Tordoff’s long connection with Halifax Parish Church began in 1971 when he was appointed as the organist and choirmaster.

He was invited to take up the post by Canon Archibald Hardie who had been Vicar of Halifax since 1962.

The previous three organists had each stayed for only about two years. Now the organist emeritus, Mr Tordoff is still there.

Yesterday Mr Tordoff said it was a pleasure to provide the music at important moments in people’s lives, including at weddings and funerals.

“Halifax Minster is a wonderful church and has the finest organ in the North of England. I like to play the pieces of JS Bach. My parents were both musical and I started learning piano when I was five and really took to it. When I was 12 my father suggested I learn the organ. I had a financial incentive at first as I would get a guinea for weddings. But I never did it for the money.”