Tributes to musician John Merchant

TRIBUTES have been paid to an internationally-renowned musician from Clevedon.

John Merchant was a successful concert organist and broadcaster who died on November 14 aged 75.

At the age of eight, John began playing the organ under the guidance of his father, Reginald Merchant, and was later awarded a scholarship to Bristol Cathedral.

At 15, he was appointed the organist of All Saints’ Church, Publow, near Pensford, where he remained for almost 60 years. He retired last year due to ill health.

Following an early career as a television engineer, in 1981 John became a full-time musician, teaching and performing around the country.

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In the 1970s he began broadcasting with Radio Bristol, presenting the show Organ Stop, which ran for 19 years and achieved impressive listening figures.

He and his wife Diane met while both working for the BBC.

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Diane said: “We worked together on our individual programmes - I helped him and he helped me.

“We’ve never really been separated – working, living and playing together.

“He was such fun to be with. He was very caring, very tolerant and had a lot of integrity. He was a lovely man and was a great friend to many.

“His musical talents were recognised nationally and internationally.

“He also had a dreadful sense of humour which one friend described as having ‘the groan factor’.”

John moved to Clevedon in 1981 – a town he had always loved after spending holidays there as a child.

John, who has a son Richard, 44, and a daughter Diana, 41, later became a member of Clevedon Conservative Club.

He was also a founding member of the Bristol Hammond Organ Society and a member of the Theatre Organ Club.

* John’s funeral will be held at All Saints’ Church off Publow Lane in Publow at 2.30pm on November 30.

Organist and composer Malcolm Archer, a long-term friend of John’s, will play for the service, which will include I’m Beginning to See the Light, the signature tune of John’s radio programme.

A cremation service will be held at South Bristol Crematorium on December 1 at 11am. All are welcome to attend both services.

Donations in memory of John will be divided between All Saints’ Church in Publow, the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and Help for Heroes.

Donations can be made through Clevedon Funeral Services in Old Street on 01275 341478.

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