The renowned Classical (Straight) and Theatre Organist, John Howlett (1906-1985), enjoyed a remarkable musical career. As a Theatre Organist, his career began in 1925 and continued until 1958. He was greatly admired by fellow Organists and public alike and his genial manner made him a popular host and member of any group. He held a number of positions as Resident Organist throughout Britain during his career and also presented a huge number of broadcasts for BBC Radio between 1928 and 1958. In addition to his theatrical career, he remained a Church Organist and a Choir Master, pursuits which began at a very early age and which continued well into his retirement years. During the Second World War, he was a member of the Royal Navy and escaped death on several occasions. After the war, he resumed his career as a Theatre Organist in a number of cinemas together with making a large number of broadcasts for BBC Radio. However, it was his final post that was perhaps his most prestigious. This position was as Resident Organist of the Odeon Theatre Leicester Square, which he jokingly referred to as The Leicester Square Mission Hall and which is perhaps why the Theatre Organist, Gerald Shaw, gave Mr. Howlett the nickname of The Bishop. He remained the Resident Organist at the Odeon Theatre Leicester Square from 1947 until 1958 after which he retired to live in Kent, but still accepted invitations to play both Pipe and Theatre Organs. During his retirement, he enjoyed tending to his garden and giving dinner parties for his many of his friends and erstwhile colleagues. In addition, he traveled abroad where he was invited to give a number of concerts which were always well received.
John Howlett playing his signature tune, My Song Goes Round the World by Hans May (1886-1958), at
The Theatre Organ of The Granada Theatre Tooting on 9th March, 1965
to introduce a programme for the BBC Light Programme
See below for a list of all pages of this series
Page 12: A Return to One’s Roots