Dudley Savage: Cinema organist and later a popular broadcaster on BBC Radio

Dudley Savage was one of the last of the cinema organ superstars. Amid a career spanning more than half a century, this most accomplished performer, composer and arranger never ceased to make music both accessible and enjoyable. In addition, as the host of the long-running BBC radio programme As Prescribed, his name still engenders a particular warmth of affection felt only for a very few broadcasters.

William Dudley Savage was a Cornishman, born near Penzance in the village of Gulval, in 1920. Educated locally, he inherited his considerable musical talent from his mother, a very fine amateur performer. Initially taught piano by his mother, he later studied organ at Truro Cathedral. In 1936, under contract to Union Cinemas, he toured extensively, billed somewhat unimaginatively as "The Cornish Boy Organist".

Two years later, aged only 18, Savage was chosen as the first organist of the newly built ABC Royal Cinema in Plymouth. Here his arrival proved particularly propitious, coinciding as it did with the installation of a brand new state-of-the-art Compton organ complete with melotone unit. It was conspicuous for its balance and refinement, superb reeds and varied mixture scheme plus diapason units that would grace many a church organ. Savage was in his element, fully able to exploit its immense musical possibilities.

Called up for military service in 1940, he spent most of the Second World War in the Indian Army. Commissioned in 1943, he later rose to the rank of captain. Demobbed three years later, he then returned to the Royal Cinema, staying until its conversion to a bingo hall in 1976.

In June 1948, initially on the BBC West of England Home Service, Dudley Savage's distinctive signature tune, "Smiling Through", heralded the launch of his own organ music series. Aptly titled As Prescribed, this hour-long show, essentially a request programme for hospital patients, was broadcast live every Sunday morning from the console of the ABC Cinema in Plymouth. Here, in addition to providing a varied mix of music, Savage proved a consummate communicator, building a very personal rapport with his audience.

When, in September 1968, the BBC summarily cancelled the programme, uproar ensued. More than 43,000 signatures were collected on a petition presented to the Director General. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Michael Ramsey, felt moved to express his outrage in what was then the biggest protest the Corporation had ever received. Reinstated within three months, the programme later transferred to Radio 2, finally ending in 1979.

As musical fashions changed and cinema organs disappeared, Savage adapted both his repertoire and technique to enthusiastically embrace the smaller and much more flexible Hammond organ. An occasional presenter on BBC Television's Songs Of Praise, still very much in demand, he was also a most welcome contributor to Radio 2's ever popular The Organist Entertains. A new recording, a retrospective entitled Perfect Partners (due for imminent release), provides a most poignant and fitting monument to his work and achievements.

William Dudley Savage, organist, broadcaster, composer and arranger: born Gulval, Cornwall 20 March 1920; MBE 1978; married 1940 Doreen Vosper (died 2003; two sons); died Liskeard, Cornwall 25 November 2008.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice