Michael gave his very first whole solo concert for the Maidenhead Organ Society back in 1980, the same year that he was crowned UK Young Theatre Organist of the Year by the London and South of England Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society. With his easy manner and fabulous music, he soon became a firm favourite with both theatre and electronic organ societies in the UK, then the Channel islands, then on to Holland and Germany, and then all the way over to Australia!
One of Michael’s concert performances generally takes you on a tour through his life in music and includes melodies from musicals he has worked on, medleys from singers he has worked with or admires, big band favourites, one or two modern ballads, perhaps some Rock & Roll, the occasional tune or two to represent his classical organ work and much, much more. Besides playing the organ and chatting about his life, when available, he will often include a tune or two on a piano, perhaps some George Gershwin, a piano favourite like the Warsaw Concerto, or even a piece of Liberace!
He has been fortunate to play the majority of the wonderful Theatre Organs in this country, including the mighty 5-manual Compton at the Odeon, Leicester Square and the fabulous Wurlitzer Organs at the Gaumont State, Kilburn; Stockport Town Hall; Worthing Wurlitzer; Granada’s at Clapham Junction, Tooting and Kingston, the Tower Ballroom Blackpool and at the Singing Hills Golf Course near Brighton, an organ he helps to maintain.
At the Electronic Organ, now perhaps more aptly described as the Digital Orchestra, he is able to recreate not only the sounds of all types of organ but also to play overtures as if the orchestra were in the room! Turn on the built-in rhythm unit and it is as if a swing band has appeared! As one of the very top players in the country, he has been fortunate to work as a concert artiste and demonstrator for major manufacturer’s including Yamaha, Wersi and Hammond. He now generally tours with his Roland Atelier AT-15, which he has upgraded by cleverly utilising sounds from the larger AT-80. This gives him a big, quality sound without the need to do lots of heavy lifting!
Michael always very much enjoys the opportunity to play in concert with other musicians. He has become especially well known for his regular musical partnership with one of the UK’s very top percussionists, Phil Solomon, who is such a highly skilled and respected player that he gives seminars for other drummers to learn from him and, because of his phenomenal reputation in the world of drumming, he is sponsored by the leading manufacturer’s in the world to ensure he is seen using their equipment, including Premier Drums and Zildjian Cymbals: he has even recently become an endorsee for the Drum Sticks he uses! He also likes to add in other instruments, perhaps a Tenor Saxophone or a Trumpet. These special concerts sometimes play in large theatres under the title of Melodytimes and also have become firm favourites for special evenings at organ clubs and societies, when they want that something extra special. They have enjoyed a great many return performances.
Another string to Michael’s bow is his innate ability to accompany Silent Films. This is almost a lost art-form these days yet, whenever it is featured, it draws good interest and a wonderful response from the audience who, generally, have never experienced this special magic before! Michael’s fascination with accompanying films lies in how his musical interpretation can completely alter the mood of a scene. Sometimes there can be sections which, when viewed without music, can seem strange, even sinister and yet, play the right music to point the action differently and they can become comedic. Similarly, just add some shimmering strings and some diminished chords and the film takes on an air of great suspense. When the music is right, the audience forget that there is an organist creating it live, though there is generally tumultuous applause at the end, especially if it has been an hour or more long, as some films are.