Organist and choirmaster Michael Smith steps down after 32 years at Yorkshire coast church

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A musician who has encouraged generations of boys on the Yorkshire coast to sing has stepped down from his post.

Michael Smith has retired from the role of Organist and Master of the Choristers at the town’s Priory Church after over 32 years.

The Rev Matthew Pollard, Rector of Bridlington Priory, said: “I meet people all over Bridlington, week in week out, who are proud to tell me they have been a member of Priory Choir. It is impossible to calculate how many lives Michael has influenced.”

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Mr Smith came to Bridlington when he was 28 from Oswestry in Shropshire. He said he was attracted by the Priory’s reputation and the church’s highly regarded pipe organ.

Michael SmithMichael Smith
Michael Smith

Since then, his service has included recruiting and training choirboys from all over the town so that the church can boast what Mr Pollard described as “one of the finest choirs in Yorkshire”.

“Michael’s meticulous attention to detail has ensured the choir is able to tackle an ambitious repertoire it would be difficult to find outside a cathedral,” he said. “The weekly worship has been enhanced by Michael’s own fine playing and extensive repertoire of ambitious organ music. It has been a privilege to work with Michael.”

Mr Smith helped with a £600,000 fundraising mission in 2006 so that the Priory’s organ could undergo a major rebuild. Since then, people have travelled from all over the world to give recitals on it and record CDs.

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He said: “It’s been a very happy time. I would like to say thank you for all the support over the years.

He added special thanks to the town’s schools for allowing him to go in and recruit for the choir.

“They’ve been so supportive and welcoming, and a great help in maintaining the music at The Priory.”

He plans to stay in Bridlington for the next few months doing private tutoring before moving to Cumbria where he hopes to spend time fell walking.

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Mr Pollard added: “Michael will be a hard act to follow and he will be sorely missed. The Priory is very fortunate to have been able to appoint Paul Dewhurst from Leeds Minster to be Michael’s successor.”

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