Biography

Cyril Stanley Christopher, English Organist and composer, was born on 23 June 1897 in Oldbury. He began piano lessons at an early age and his father, an Organist and Choirmaster, and mother would supervise his practise. His first composition was published when he was thirteen and at sixteen, he received his first organ appointment in open competition. At that time, he had never had an organ lesson though he had already played for two full - scale performances of Haydn’s ‘The Creation’. 

 

He was a private pupil for the organ of C. W. Perkins (Organist of Carrs Lane Church and the City), Dr Alfred Hollins (the blind Organist of Edinburgh) and G. D. Cunningham, and for composition of C. H. Kitson and Sir Edward C. Bairstow of York Minster. 

 

Among the diplomas and degrees, he took are the ARCM and LRAM (1925), ARCO (1928), FRCO with the “Turpin” Prize (1929), B. Mus of Durham University (1935) and D. Mus (Dunelm, 1940). 

 

In 1927, he was offered, through Dr Alfred Hollins who had been touring America, an organ appointment at St John, New Brunswick. The offer was renewed in 1930 and declined on both occasions. 

 

He was conductor of the Dudley Madrigal Society (1921-26) and other choirs; Chorus Master of the BBC Midland Region (1927-30); Organist and Choirmaster of Wretham Road, New Church; Organist for the BBC’s Bach Cantatas; Organist and Choirmaster at Carrs Lane Church, Birmingham from 1930 for 37 years, following Graham Godfrey who went to Canada; conductor of the Oldbury and District Male Choir, and conductor of the Oratorio Choir of the Free Churches of Dudley from 1942. 

 

He was music master at King Edwards Five Ways School (1944-5) where he gave eight piano recitals in 1944. The following year the Five Ways Music Club was founded; the Vice - Presidents included Dr Christopher, Paul Beard, Dr Christopher Edmunds and Professor Victor Hely - Hutchinson. The First Annual (music) Festival took place in the School Hall, Five Ways, in April 1945. 

 

He was an extra - mural lecturer at Birmingham University and, from 1947, lecturer for the Birmingham Board of Adult Education. He gave organ recitals periodically and appeared as solo organist at orchestral concerts and with the Birmingham Bach Society (later Club) which had been founded in 1920 by Mrs Minadieu. 

 

In 1950, he adjudicated at the Bournville Works Musical Festival. 

 

He was appointed teacher of theory at the Birmingham School of Music in 1956. His considerable output of compositions, some of which were broadcast in this country, Holland, South Africa, USA and Canada, includes church music, choral and orchestral works and he wrote for various periodicals. 

 

A member of Carrs Lane Church congregation recalled that he used to put a ‘hanky’ on his seat so he could “slide up and down better”. 

 

His wife, having been selected from over 30 applicants, was Principal Soprano at Carrs Lane Church for 26 years. The Church Journal of January 1968 recorded that “in addition to being a fine soloist, she was a splendid leader”. 

 

Dr Christopher died in Sutton Coldfield on 31 March 1979.

- from a short biography about Cyril Stanley Christopher from the archives of the Birmingham Conservatoire by John D. Smith (Honorary Archivist at the Birmingham Conservatoire)

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Cyril Stanley Christopher

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