I was born in Buckinghamshire to a musical family. When I was 2, we inherited grandmother’s Bluthner piano. It was infested with mice, which awoke my interest in the instrument, and I started piano lessons at 4. Tuition on violin, cello, classical guitar, trumpet and church organ followed.
Another inheritance – of £500 from my grandfather with the instruction “use it unwisely” – led me to buy an electronic organ when I was 15. Although it was a rather ropey machine, which sounded more like a stylophone, it led me to greater things later on in life when the keyboard orchestra was invented.
When I was 16 I won an Arts Festival Bursary to study piano with The Royal Academy’s Christopher Elton, whilst continuing classical organ studies with Julian Larkin. At 18, I went to the Royal College of Music to study piano, organ and composition.
Like so many before me, I overdid the practise and found myself with both arms in plaster and my musical studies apparently at an end. I left the College and trained as a secretary, before working in the recording industry and then as a WPC in the police force. I eventually trained as a legal executive. Not until some years later did I resolve my joint problems with the help of The Alexander Technique. At an age which most people regarded as “too late”, I resumed my studies and obtained my qualifications – including Associateship of the Royal College of Organists and Fellowship of the London College of Music.
Second time around
Despite the late start, I have enjoyed an exciting musical career, spanning three continents. My pipe organ performances have taken me across Europe (including the fine instruments maintained by the Netherlands Theatre Organ Federation), and in the UK highlights have been performing at Bristol Beacon (formerly the Colston Hall), The Croydon Fairfield Halls, Birmingham Town Hall and a plethora of lovely churches. I have also given theatre organ concerts on some wonderful organs, including Stockport Town Hall ‘Queen’ Wurlitzer, the Barry Christie, the Bournemouth Compton, the Woking Wurlitzer and the famous Wurlitzer in the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool.
My passion for the keyboard orchestra – a synth in the layout of an organ – has satisfied my ambition to play every instrument in the orchestra and be a conductor. I have loved sharing music with audiences countrywide, including Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre, Birmingham Town Hall, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, The Bonington Theatre Nottingham, The Regis Theatre Bognor, and countless music festivals and clubs.
Having previously owned some incredibly heavy ‘transportable’ instruments, I am now the proud owner of a Yamaha ELC-02, which I have named my ‘Travelling Light Orchestra’. One of only a few such instruments in the UK, it offers an impressive array of performance and sound-creating opportunities, whilst being completely portable.
My other musical activities
I have broadcast widely, including an interview with Margaret Howard for Classic FM, many appearances on BBC Radio 2’s The Organist Entertains, and three appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Pick of the Week. For some years I presented the monthly “PennyWise” organ slot on BBC South and West’s “Organ Stop” programme and I have been interviewed by many local radio stations. I also write for the specialist music press. My most distant assignment was in South America, reporting on the first Agustin Barrios Guitar Competition.
I have worked as an examiner for the London College of Music, lectured and adjudicated at most of the major keyboard festivals and led holidays for Adult Education bodies such as Missenden Abbey, HF Holidays and the RNIB. My experience with visually impaired learners led to the production of my audio tuition course, A Keyboard at Your Fingertips.
In 2000, I married Tony Kerr, a graphic designer, and we share a love of music, motor-homes and cycling. I’m also an avid gardener, writer and cook. Since moving to a small home in the forest, I have been involved in religious broadcasting. We have cut down to just one organ, one keyboard and an upright piano – at our peak, Tony and I owned 13 organs and a grand piano between us.