A MUCH-loved pianist will have his life in music celebrated at a special civic event next month.

John Mann, who styles himself as the UK’s number one international organist, pianist and entertainer, is being heralded for nearly 60 years in the industry.

The performer is being thanked for his significant contribution to the cultural and musical life of the city where he has lived his whole life with a mayoral reception in his honour next month.

The recognition marks an incredible 59-year career which has seen Mr Mann share the stage with some of the country’s best known entertainers including Bob Monkhouse, Arthur Askey and Max Bygraves.

He has released 44 recordings and performed thousands of concerts including 34 consecutive summer seasons in Eastbourne and Worthing and remains one of the last performing stars from the cinema and music hall era.

Over the years he has built up a legion of fans with more than 1,000 members currently part of the John Mann Appreciation Society.

This year he was also made president of the Cinema Organ Society.

Mr Mann said: “I am extremely pleased and honoured, I don’t really know why I have got it to be honest.

“I have been a Brightonian all my life and have performed across the city for many years and so I am very grateful to be recognised in this way.”

Mayor Lynda Hyde said: “I am delighted to invite John into the mayor’s parlour to thank him for all the entertainment that he has given to the people of Brighton over so many years.

“He has given so much pleasure to so many people and I will be delighted to have the privilege of meeting him.”

The reception will be held on Friday, June 19 between 6pm and 7.30pm in the mayor’s parlour at Brighton Town Hall in Bartholomew Square.


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Most performers start small and work their way up but John Mann was thrown into the deep end with his first paid gig at the 2,000 capacity Brighton Sports Stadium as a teenager.

Having learned to play at St Nicholas Church, he was entrusted to perform at the now defunct ice rink on the corner of West Street thanks to the recommendation of his uncle who also performed as a skater at the venue.

Despite having had several years of organ lessons, Mr Mann had an eye on a different performing life having attended drama school and performed as a skater at the venue.

Mr Mann said: “The organist at the ice rink had left and my uncle told the manager not to worry as he had a nephew who played the organ.

“I went along to the audition but when I finished there was nobody about and so I went home.

“My mum and dad asked whether I got the job and I said I didn’t know.

“So I went back for a skater audition in the morning for the panto and went on the ice and started to do my turns when the manager said ‘aren’t you the boy who played the organ at the audition, what are you doing out there?

“Get off the ice, you are playing the organ.’”

From such humble beginnings, Mr Mann launched an incredible career.

As well as playing for 34 consecutive summers in Eastbourne and Worthing, he has travelled the length and breadth of the country.

He has also performed across the world in Germany, the Netherlands, France, the US and Australia.

He has 44 releases to his name moving through the LP, cassette and CD eras as well as through the video to the DVD age.

He said: “I played with all the great old stars, Bob Monkhouse, Arthur Askey, Max Bygraves, but those days are gone now.

“The whole industry has changed.”

Some working theatre organs remain in the county including the Worthing Wurlitzer at Assembly Hall and the Portslade Theatre Organ in Portslade Town Hall. However, it is a dying industry.

First the development of cinema technology signalled the death of the organist and rival attractions have led to the significant diminishing of variety and music hall.

But while he is now one of the few survivors of a dying breed, Mr Mann remains almost as popular as ever with more than 1,000 members of his appreciation society.

More than 1,500 fans saw his most recent performance at the Brighton Dome in March and his performance diary is just as full up as it has ever been.

He said: “I want to make some sort of recognition that next year will by my 60th year of performing.

“I’m arranging a farewell tour at the moment so next year, 2016, will be busier than ever, I’m doing about 50 performances.

“I’m out every Sunday playing somewhere in the county so there’s still an interest in the culture but young people are not really interested now and it’s a very different era, music has changed so much.”

The joy of performance and interaction with his fans is what has helped sustain Mr Mann throughout all these years.

He said: “I always go out to the front after a performance and meet everybody.

“It is always nice to talk to the people who are interested in me and the music I am playing.

“I was performing one time at Worthing and during the interval, fans were coming up to me and telling me their ailments or how their old man was feeling and the mayoress who was with me said you are like the doctor.”

His fans won’t want to hear it but after so long tinkling the ivories, the 76-year-old performer is having to contemplate bringing his illustrious career to an end.

He said: “Because I had a background in drama, I’ve always wanted to put on a performance.

“I wanted to turn the theatre organ round so I could face my audience.

“But prancing around on the stage, doing the Dance of the Seven Veils is a bit energetic. I’m managing to do it at the moment but for how much longer I don’t know.”