A MUSICAL 95-year-old Barnt Green man is stepping down after 80 years of playing the church organ.

A special service is being held on Sunday November 19 for Eric Smith, of Hewell Road, who began tinkling the ivories when he started piano tuition at the age of about ten.

When he turned 15, his parents went to the Christian Science Church, in Birmingham, and someone was needed to play the organ.

Eric decided to have a go and has never looked back.

He has clocked up a combined 29 years between St Michael's Church, in Cofton Hackett, and Blackwell Methodist Church.

Eric also spent 19 years playing for Northfield Methodist Church. The only break in his musical career was when he served in the Friends' Ambulance Unit, in Gloucester, during the Second World War.

Eric's favourite hymn is Praise to the Holiest in the Heights which he has also written a concerto setting for.

His most special moment came two years ago when he watched Birmingham Festival Choral Society perform his piece at the city's cathedral.

Because of failing eyesight and hearing, Eric has decided to stop playing the organ for the church.

At the farewell service at Blackwell Methodist Church, Eric will play two of his own compositions.

He said: "I have had a wonderful time playing the organ but I can't hear the congregation's singing very well any more and lose my place.

"Unfortunately, organists are in short supply."