Organist & Musican
Blackpool Tower’s Ballroom is home to what must be the most famous and most played Wurlitzer in the world and Phil Kelsall has amazingly now completed 40 years at the Tower, having been appointed in 1975, initially as organist in the Tower Circus band with occasional appearances in the Ballroom.
In 1977 Ernest Broadbent the then Tower organist, retired through ill-health and Phil was the obvious choice as the new principal resident organist, a position he has held ever since.
The link between the Tower Ballroom and the BBC has always been a strong one, more recently through the hit series Strictly Come Dancing . The legendary Reginald Dixon broadcasts will be particularly remembered by many and Phil Kelsall was to continue this link when in 1980 he was asked by the BBC to record for the Sam on Sunday shows, following Reginald Dixon’s retirement part way through that series. Phil has also acted as a guest presenter for Radio 2’s The Organist Entertains. Numerous credits have also included Radio 4’s long running The Archers and Radio 2’s flagship music programme, Friday Night is Music Night.
Meeting The Queen
Phil has met many famous people throughout his career however this is without doubt his most memorable meeting. Here you can see him as he is greeting the Queen at the Tower Ballroom on the occasion of the Tower's centenary celebrations in 1994.
Television and film crews never seem to be far away from the Tower Ballroom and Phil has been filmed on numerous occasions, either demonstrating the Wurlitzer, along with celebrities such as David Soul, Barbara Windsor, Jo Brand and even Rod Hull and Emu to name but a few or as an integral part of a programme such as Songs of Praise or New Year's Eve celebrations. Off camera, Phil's music has been heard in TV adverts and in programmes such as Last of the Summer Wine.
Thank you for the music ...
The demands on Phil for concert appearances have always been heavy and his touring season begins at the end of October and continues until May each year when he returns to the Tower Ballroom for the summer season. A significant engagement is playing the Wurlitzer at the Thursford Collection for their season of Christmas shows, which runs to around 70 performances each year, performing to an estimated audience of over 110,000. Phil performs frequent concerts in the the USA and has undertaken a highly successful tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Phil Kelsall’s first recording, Thank You for the Music, was released by EMI in 1978. Together with recordings made on various electronic instruments, notably the Technics SX FA1, Phil has over 40 albums to his credit, excluding compilations and re-issues, and it has been estimated that he now has more recordings available than any other organist in the world. In 1987 Phil Kelsall became the first British theatre organist to release an album on CD.
No fewer than three of Phil’s recordings have won the Music Retailers Association’s award as best middle of the road non-vocal recording. In the summer of 2001 a compilation double album of some of his light classical recordings was released on the prestigious Universal Classics label and in its first week entered the Classical Albums Chart as the highest new entry of the week at number six. Phil’s album was to remain in the Classic Top 20 for an amazing twelve consecutive weeks, an unprecedented achievement for a theatre organ album.
In the 1980s the video was becoming a popular form of home entertainment and, determined to respond to continually changing trends, Phil released the first known commercial theatre organ video in 1983, recorded naturally at the Tower, which for the first time brought the unique visual atmosphere of the Tower Ballroom into the home.
A series of videos followed, many of which are now available on DVD.
It is in recognition of Phil Kelsall’s contribution to the world of organ music that several other honours have been bestowed upon him. He has held the title of ‘Organ World Personality of the Year’ and he was elected Patron of the Theatre Organ Club on four occasions. In 1987 he was voted President of the Theatre Organ Club, and is only the second person to hold this office in the Club’s long history.
In 1993, Phil Kelsall was particularly proud to receive the coveted Gold Badge Award of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors for his service to the British music industry. Fellow recipients of this award
have included Shirley Bassey and Jools Holland.
During the time that Phil Kelsall has been entertaining the public, communications and home entertainment have been revolutionised. The internet has become universal and information about Phil and his music is now available to a far wider audience than ever before through his own website and social media. CDs have replaced cassettes and video has given way to DVD and online streaming. By enthusiastically embracing these technological changes, Phil ensures that his timeless music can remain available, not only for the enjoyment of today’s audiences but also for those of tomorrow.
Phil was extremely proud to have unexpectedly received the MBE in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to music and Phil has now joined former Tower Legends Reginald Dixon and Norman Barrett (the former Tower Circus Ringmaster), who were also recipients of this honour.