WITH the death of David Pyett at the age of 93 Ilkley has lost one of its most distinguished sons, a generous, talented and courageous man who truly gave ‘a lifetime of service’ to his home town.

Ilkley born and bred, David attended Ilkley Grammar School in spite of a childhood blighted by ill health and poor eyesight. His working life started in the accounts department of the Bradford Dyers Association but he was made redundant in the early 1980s. He rejected a transfer offer which would have meant leaving Ilkley and found employment with the Department of Adult Education at Bradford and Ilkley Community College.

From his earliest years David was passionate about music, learning to play the clarinet and involving himself in any musical activity that presented itself. As a teenager in wartime England he helped operate the wind-up gramophone for Wednesday afternoon concerts in the Kings Hall, where the Yorkshire Regiment was based. He became a committee member of Wharfedale Recorded Music Society at its formation in 1944 and in 1946 he joined the committee of the Ilkley Concert Club as a founder member, a link only broken with his death.

The two themes of music and local activism marked David’s massive contribution to our area.

For much of his adult life he spent time as a volunteer with the management committee of the local youth club, for many years as Chair, and his example encouraged others to contribute as well. David’s help was outstanding because of his energy, persistence and ability to see where the greatest need lay.

However of all David Pyett’s lasting achievements the most outstanding lie in the field of music. His interest was founded on his ability with the clarinet, which he always put to the service of others. An enthusiastic teacher, he encouraged pupils of all ages and abilities at the Ilkley Music Centre, formed in 1976 and for which he was responsible as part of his role as Organiser of Adult Education in the Ilkley and Wharfedale Area. When effective funding was removed from the Music Centre in the mid-1990s, and efforts to maintain a small group of clarinet players seemed likely to fail, David stepped in. By his leadership a flourishing clarinet choir developed that continues today.

The Wharfedale Recorded Music Society is another organisation for which David has been responsible since its inception in 1944. Few are aware of this modest long running group that holds weekly meetings, from autumn to spring, presenting talks and listening to outstanding recordings of all forms of classical music. David was responsible for obtaining Lottery funding for state-of-the-art audio visual equipment to enhance the performances and to keep the evenings well supported.

Pride of place among his achievements must go to David’s beloved Ilkley Concert Club. From the beginning, as a youngster in 1947, David was an active committee member, but his most outstanding contribution came as Chairman for an extraordinary 36 seasons from 1976 to 2012.

David Pyett took over as chair when the club, despite a distinguished history, had diminishing audiences and could have faded away. David recognised that to survive and flourish he must attract high quality musicians to perform major works from the repertoire, as when the club first formed. With great determination David made himself known to the leading musical agents and pursued his aim of engaging both established and up and coming artists to play demanding works covering a wide range of instruments and styles. David’s detailed knowledge of repertoire and artists, developed from his own interest and study, was invaluable and gained the respect of leading agents and the musicians themselves.

Crucially the drive and energy shown in raising the quality of the concerts led to increased audiences and greater financial security. The Club now has the remarkable record of having fully sold its 476 tickets to annual subscribers for more than thirty seasons. Under David’s leadership and careful guidance Ilkley Concert Club has maintained a position as one of the biggest and most successful music clubs in the UK bringing numerous musicians of world renown to Ilkley - a privilege enjoyed by few comparable small towns anywhere. It is a measure of the man that David always gained greatest pleasure from knowing the large, loyal audience had access over the years to music and musicians of the highest quality within easy reach of home and at an affordable price. This has opened the joy of classical music to many who would otherwise have regarded it as beyond them.

Involvement with musical activities led to many other local initiatives which have had far reaching benefit to the community. Recognition of a gap in music provision in Bradford and his connections with Bradford College led to David being made responsible for the establishment of the Bradford Cathedral Chamber Concerts, devising programmes with such expertise that an audience base was established that allowed the Chamber Concert series to run for more than 25 years.

When the ‘Friends of the King’s Hall & Winter Garden’ was formed David immediately became a member and vice-Chairman. He played a major part in the steady improvement of the facilities so that the Hall and Winter Garden became more attractive and more widely used, and in turn more revenue was generated so the improvements could continue.