Phil Kelsall MBE
How did it all start for you at The Blackpool Tower: At eighteen I was recommended to play the Hammond Organ in The Blackpool Tower Circus, then I deputized for Ernest Broadbent, former Blackpool Tower Ballroom organist until he retired. The rest is history, as the saying goes!
What made you take up the Organ: As a boy I used to frequent The Blackpool Tower's Ballroom regularly. I remember watching legendary organist Reginald Dixon performing. The atmosphere was infectious and I must have imagined myself up there one day!
The Wurlitzer is celebrating 70 years this year. How does it compare to other organs you have played: I have played nearly every theatre organ in Britain but with the fine acoustics of The Blackpool Tower Ballroom the Wurlitzer makes a totally unique sound and in my opinion is one of the finest ever built by Wurlitzer.
What particular highlights stand out during your time at The Blackpool Tower: The most memorable has to be The Blackpool Tower's Centenary Celebrations in 1994. Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Ballroom and I was honoured to be introduced to them both.
How do you feel every time you rise up on the Wurlitzer in front of an audience in The Blackpool Tower Ballroom: I do sometimes think as I'm half way through the stage what a strange way of earning a living!
In June 2010 Phil was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for what was described as a "35 year love affair" with The Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
2016 was David's 21st season at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom, 39th year as a professional musician and 53rd year associated with the entertainment/hospitality/keyboard industries.
As a chorister with Jesus College Choir Cambridge, he became interested in the majesty of the classical organ. It was when his parents gave him a wind up gramophone with some 78rpm records, including one by Sidney Torch at the Regal Marble Arch Christie, David found an exciting musical prospect and sought out the cinema organs available.
The family bought a shop in Somerset, which enabled him to spend many hours at the Odeon in Weston-Super-Mare exploring the capabilities of the Compton organ there. A move to Gorleston (Near Great Yarmouth) meant David was involved with the installation of the Compton/Christie in the Palace Bingo Club. He was encouraged by the organs owner, Terry Hepworth, in both playing and organ building, which culminated in him taking an apprenticeship with Hill, Norman & Beard Organ Builders, the same firm who built Christie Organs in the golden age of cinema.
In 1977 David emigrated to Canada to become Associate Organist/Organ Technician in the Toronto Organ Grinder, a 500 cover restaurant featuring a 3/12 hybrid theatre organ. He has worked in Canada, the US, Malaysia, Taiwan, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Holland. As a musician, he has worked in pizza parlours, holiday centres, circuses (including The Blackpool Tower and Moscow State), pantomimes, old time music halls, musicals, showbands and dance orchestras.
He has been in-store artist with Wurlitzer, Hohner, Yamaha and Kawai. He taught organ in Canada, the UK and was Keyboard Specialist with Yamaha Canada.
David had his own live weekly broadcast in Edmonton Alberta for three years whilst Stadium Organist at Northlands Coliseum for the Edmonton Oilers National Hockey League Team, entertaining and channelling the rhythmic energies of the over 17,900 capacity crowds every home game of the 1982 – 1984 seasons.
Away from music, David was involved in running a cattery, breeding Champion Burmese cast. Whilst on circus in Malaysia he was involved in rearing Tiger cubs. He was manager of a holiday site in Manitoulin Island, Warehouse Logistics Manager in Alberta with a shoe wholesaler as well as running the retail outlet