A veteran organist who will be 91 next month is to retire from professional concert-playing 61 years after making his first appearance on the keyboard of the Wurlitzer organ at the then New Victoria cinema in Bradford - later to become the Odeon.

Although Drighlington-based Dr Arnold Loxam will continue to play occasional cameo spots locally, he has decided to call an end to a long career of concert performances so he and his wife of nearly 56 years, Audrey, can enjoy more leisure time together.

Mrs Loxam has been his driver for the past 25 years, chauffeuring him around to fulfil a busy schedule of engagements in this country and overseas. The couple met in 1948 when she was working at the New Vic as an usherette.

"For all these years we've never been able to call our time our own," said Dr Loxam. "It's been a very happy time, but now we'll be able to enjoy more holidays and take it easy."

He stressed that the decision was not prompted by ill health, although a long-standing knee problem had been a contributory factor.

Arnold Loxam's relationship with the New Victoria began when he was a 14-year-old member of the audience on the opening night of the theatre on September 22, 1930. In 1946 he began playing regularly for New Vic audiences and broadcasting from the theatre for BBC Radio.

That association continued until 1962 when the BBC switched its broadcasts to the Leeds Odeon. Dr Loxam was invited back in 1968 to make a final broadcast from what had by then become the Gaumont before the Wurlitzer was taken to the North East Theatre Organ's headquarters in Howden-le-Wear, County Durham.

In 1996 Arnold Loxam was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bradford for his musical achievements. Last summer hundreds of friends, fans and relatives gathered at the Marine Hall, Fleetwood, for a surprise party to mark his 90th birthday.