Musician, organist and influential figure at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Born: May 29, 1943;

Died: November 25, 2018

JOHN Langdon, who has died aged 75, was a remarkable musician whose skill at the organ console was unsurpassed. Sunday by Sunday for half a century he led worship, catching the various mood and cadences of the Christian year with a sensitivity which meant that he struck exactly the right mood, whether at a baptism, a wedding or a funeral. He was probably best known as an organist, but he was also an accomplished musician on piano and harpsichord.

His skills as an organist and musician transcended his post in Hyndland Parish Church in Glasgow. To hear him play was to discover a new dimension to the meaning of Church music whether classical or modern.

He was born at Minehead, Somerset in 1943, the oldest of Harold and Madeleine Langdon’s three children. Aged eight, he took to the organ console in Worcester Cathedral under the tutelage of the late Sir David Willcocks. His rapidly developing skills meant he was much in demand in the parish churches in the villages surrounding his home to which he cycled on a regular basis.

Unfortunately at a young age John contracted tuberculosis which, in those days, meant a prolonged spell in hospital. David Willcocks gave John 48 fugues and preludes composed by Johann Sebastian Bach and told John to work them up. He did – every last one of them – using the hospital organ. There is, almost certainly, little doubt that this task contributed hugely to John’s love of Bach and the supreme expertise and interpretation he brought to Bach’s music.

Aged 18 John became organ scholar at Kings College, Cambridge as well as a John Stewart of Rannoch scholar in sacred music. He was a Bachelor of Music and a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.

In 1968 following the death of the late Purcell Mansfield, John became organist and choirmaster in Hyndland Parish Church in Glasgow where no note, stop or pedal, in its Willis organ was left idle.

His appointment to Hyndland coincided with the beginning of what was to develop into a distinguished career in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama now The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

John was, for 16 years, lecturer in harmony and counterpoint, followed by 20 years in the brass department, 11 of them also as co-ordinator of the academy’s innovative early music course.

Underpinning all of that was a man who was a tireless and inspirational encourager of anyone with even a modest interest in music. He offered his supreme skills whether in the context of voluntary charitable work, encouraging novices or accompanying internationally recognised professional musicians with generosity of time, modest humility and patient grace.

His expertise on the organ was recognised worldwide. He made many recordings with international soloists and local choirs alike.

Wherever he played, he brought the same exceptional quality to his music and this was recognised by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama when, in 2005, he was honoured with a fellowship. Subsequently in 2014 he was awarded a Companion Emeritus of the Royal Scottish Conservatoire, then in October he was appointed as an honorary vice-president of the Glasgow Society of Organists.

Close friend and colleague Professor George McPhee says of John that he deputised for him on many occasions at the organ in Paisley Abbey and was in many ways his unofficial assistant and he continued, "John was phenomenal talent, I’ve never known anyone like him. He had more influence on music in Scotland than anyone else and was undoubtedly the best musician I know." Many, many musicians hold that view.

John’s contribution was immense. He was involved in TV and radio broadcasting, he played at many, many concerts including, in February 2006, the first large scale choral concert in the newly refurbished City Hall. His international career spanned the globe. Outside the RSAMD he worked extensively as a keyboard player with numerous choirs and orchestras.

John made a remarkable recovery from a stroke in 2005. I remember him playing The Messiah in Greenock some 10 years ago. It was an amazing achievement and to my ear sounded perfect.

But John had another side to him. He never, ever refused to play a hymn I had chosen for Sunday worship. Even modern hymns some of which, to be honest are not very good.

John Langdon was a man of strong faith having grown up in the Anglican tradition. His move to Hyndland saw him slowly being absorbed into Scottish Presbyterianism, becoming a communicant member of the congregation of Hyndland Parish Church in September 1991.

He was uniquely modest about his professional skills and talents, carrying them lightly which absolutely complemented his gracious and generous personal life, best summed up by a former student who wrote, "He has become one of the most important figures in the classical music scene in Scotland, known and loved by everyone, both for his exceptional musical talents and for his incredible generosity and unique personality."

John Langdon will be remembered long and well – he deserves no less. To have known John Langdon as a man and as a musician has been an enormous privilege and those who did are richly blessed by the memories. That blessing will continue in his music preserved when any of his many recordings are played but just as importantly, he will be heard in the orchestra of our minds and souls.

He is survived by his sisters Anne and Margaret and nephews David, Philip and John.