OAP Dennis Doyle is celebrating being Britain’s oldest active church chorister – at the ripe old age of 96.
Dennis Doyle, who turned 96 in May, joined his local choir back in 1927 aged just seven and still sings for them every Friday.
He claims it’s the 43,000 hymns and over 4,300 choir practices over the years that have kept him feeling young.
Dennis, who joined the choir as a treble, said: “I think the music has kept me young over the years.
“It keeps me going and I have quite an active lifestyle where I am out involved in music almost every day of the week.
“I really enjoy it and I still write music now but it takes me a bit longer than it used to – I have to think of something for inspiration.
“But in my church choir I’m the only tenor and it’s very pleasant.
“My age of 96 is just a couple of numbers – I’m still out every day, and wouldn’t miss a practice for the world.”
Widowed Dennis, from Great Shelford in Cambridge, Cambs., prefers older music and his favourite composer is Henry Purcell but he listens to a whole range of things.
He joined his local church, the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, when he was just seven and now writes anthems in Latin for the same church.
Dennis says a piece can sometimes take weeks to write but he still thoroughly enjoys being involved in the choir – where they sing up to 10 hymns every practice.
At the age of 15, he became the organist after the vicar had a row with the current organist and stormed out, so the job was left open for Dennis who had been practicing.
Up until 1939 he stayed with the church and worked for his father in an office for fuel burning appliances before joining the RAF.
He wanted to fly the spitfires and already had a flying licence – but was told he was too short at 5 ft 5 inches tall.
Dennis decided to follow his dreams in music after leaving the RAF – as well as turning down his office job, much to his father’s approval.
He went to Cambridge University to be an associate in music at Fitzwilliam College and also studied music composition at Trinity College London.
Dennis said he was inspired by a famous pianist he met while over in Cairo, Egypt, during the war who told him that music was his future.
“The pianist asked if I played and I said I was an organist and she told me she had lots of music for two pianos and asked if I would play with her,” said Dennis.
“I said ‘I would love to but I can’t match your standard’, but we played for an hour, it was out of this world.
“She asked what I do back home and I told her I work in an office with my father and she said ‘you’re in the wrong job, get into music when you get back’.
“Those words have lived with me forever.”
After getting his degree in 1950, Dennis became a director of music at various different jobs around the Cambridge area.
Now he is still out almost every day of the week with seeing friends, choir practice, bell ringing and college commitments.
He struggles with his hearing and has lived in a residential home for the past four years but lives extremely independently – and still drives with a clean licence.
Sadly Dennis lost his wife Muriel when she was in her 80s to colon cancer and his only son Martin died from the same disease when he was just 37.
“My doctor said to me, ‘you’ve got a lovely flat but don’t sit around and mope – get out, meet people and do things’.
“He said ‘you’re healthy, you can do it and you’ll probably last quite a long of time’.
“I enjoy spending my time at the church every week and it is lovely to still be taking part.”
Francis Knights, Director of Studies in Music at Fitzwilliam College, said Dennis has even kindly donated gifts to the college.
He said: “Dennis has been a very active and generous supporter of music and of the Chapel Choir at Fitzwilliam College for many years, and our singers and music students have really benefited from his encouragement and gifts.
“He recently donated new robes for the choir and previously donated his three-manual Viscount digital organ.
“In the past few years the Choir has given premieres of some of Dennis’ compositions, and he has always been most willing when we have asked him for new works.”