Vincent Billington

YORKSHIRE'S best-loved and most popular concert pianist, Vincent Billington, has died after an eight year battle with cancer.

Born in Collyhurst, Manchester, into a poor family, but with a mother who desperately wanted her son to learn music, he did, against all the odds, eventually gain a place in the Northern College of Music. He graduated there with the prospect of a concert career, but with work difficult to find, he was glad to take a "soul-destroying" job at Manchester's Midland Hotel playing light music in a quintet.

Things were to change when he was asked to go with the Halle Orchestra to the Edinburgh Festival, and was then invited to play with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, a performance that turned into a long association with the BBC including his own radio show.

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Having already accompanied the violinist, Max Jaffa, he was invited by Jaffa to join his famous Spa Orchestra in Scarborough. "That was in 1975," Billington recalled. "And I went there with the intention of definitely saying 'no', but then I saw Scarborough I thought it was beautiful and I've been here ever since."

It was to be a partnership with the popular violinist that lasted 12 years, and involved many broadcasts, only coming to an end when Scarborough and Max Jaffa parted company.

But Vincent had no intention of leaving the town having met his wife, Maria, during his first season there, and he used it as his base as a touring concert performer.

As the Indian summer of his life approached, he settled back home again with seasons of concerts spread throughout the year in Scarborough, Whitby, Bridlington, Filey and York. His mix of the serious and light classics became part of each town's weekly delights.

In 2001, a lump was discovered in his chest, but following a successful operation it continued to spread, his concert-going public never aware that between his prodigious number of concerts he was frequently receiving hospital treatment. It was the way the quiet man wanted life, as he performed through to the end, dying in peace at home.

Vincent, who died on Wednesday, aged 78, leaves his wife, Maria, and their four children Vincent Paul, Patrick, Bernadette and Dominic.