By David Heathcote
Gordon Balmforth was a leading figure in the musical life of Huddersfield and the wider Kirklees area, enriching the lives of audiences, congregations and performers for decades.
Gordon, who died this month aged 72, was a musical director, pianist, composer and arranger. Generations of performers benefited from his immense and far reaching musical knowledge and teaching.
With typical modesty, Gordon described himself on his own Twitter profile as a “musical dogsbody” but he was so much more than that.
Gordon attended Huddersfield New College and the Huddersfield School of Music before studying piano and composition at The Royal Manchester College of Music, where he also listed cello, recorder, singing and ‘pubbing on Fridays’ among his studies.
His talent as an accompanist was soon recognised, when a local agent gave Gordon his career break as pianist for a tour with the legendary Roy Orbison.
Gordon’s gift for music covered a broad spectrum, ranging from sacred music – he directed a Festival of Plainchant – to opera, music theatre and classical music.
He composed two musicals and a pop opera, a ballet based on the Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, a piano concerto, a Rhapsody for Orchestra and Voices and a huge array of compositions and arrangements for local groups and performers.
Gordon served as musical director of Huddersfield Musical Theatre Company, Huddersfield Gilbert & Sullivan Society, ReJoySing, RUGs and the Serenata ensemble, and played organ regularly for services at St John’s Church, Birkby, and Christ Church, Woodhouse.
During the Covid lockdowns, Gordon regularly led online morning services for Huddersfield Parish Church.
In sharing his faith with characteristic humility, his delivery of the morning office provided spiritual support for all who took part.
Gordon was generous in his local charitable work, creating the charity Caritas, which raised thousands of pounds through RUGs’ performances for local people in need.
As musical director for the Mirfield Messiah he contributed to supporting the work of charities including Holly Bank School.
After a long period as their musical director for countless productions, Gordon was appointed Honorary Patron of Dewsbury Arts Group.
In 2018, Gordon’s lifelong service was recognised in the award of the British Empire Medal for Services to Music and Charity in Her Late Majesty’s Birthday Honours.
When the award was announced, Gordon said: “When I got the letter I thought: ‘Who the hell is playing a joke on me?’ I was surprised and taken aback.
“You don’t do these things to get awards, you do it because you want to do it. It’s nice to know that it’s appreciated, though.”
Gordon passed away at The Kirkwood in Huddersfield on December 7 and as Gordon joins his beloved Tony, his friends and family will celebrate his life at a requiem mass at Huddersfield Parish Church at 1pm on Thursday January 4 2024.