A POPULAR choir director who only got married four months ago has died suddenly.

Neil Shepherd a freelance classical and theatre organist, music teacher and choral conductor based in Truro, Cornwall died last Wednesday leaving behind his wife Katherine who he only married in July.

Writing on the Cornwall Community Choir Facebook page Anne Thorn said Neil had an "indomitable spirit" and a "passion for music and singing".

"I know many of you have already heard, but for those who haven’t, I am so sorry to tell you the terribly sad news that our beloved choirmaster Neil, passed away suddenly on Wednesday night.

"We are all in complete shock and overwhelmed with sadness and of course our thoughts and prayers are with Katherine, his girls, his mum and all his family and close friends.

"Neil had such an indomitable spirit and passion for music and singing, and devoted his whole life to his music and his choirs.

"Life can be so cruel but I hope his family are comforted to know his legacy is enormous and he touched so many lives by bringing together choirs in communities which makes such a huge difference to people’s lives.

"It is especially sad of course for Katherine as they were just starting their new life together and were so happy, so I’m sure we will all want to support her as much as we can."

She added: "There is nothing else to add at this time apart from – Rest in Peace Neil and I promise we’ll all keep singing in your memory and will remember you for the rest of our lives."

Commenting Angela Drew said: "Absolutely stunned... what an amazing man - So full of music, to say that he will be greatly missed is an understatement. I am so proud to say that I was a part of his choirs. Special thoughts go to dearest Katherine, his two girls, his mum and everyone whose lives he enriched through music and singing. Rest in peace Neil, I will never forget you and the joy you brought me."

Neil was the director of the 300 strong Cornwall Community Choir, 80 strong Local Vocalz and Laudate! Chamber Choir.

He was born in Hindley, near Wigan in Lancashire. After college in Manchester, he took up his first teaching appointment at Lawrence House Preparatory School, Lytham St Annes followed by a position at a school in Clitheroe.

In 1996 Neil moved to the South West spending time in Cornwall, Bristol and the Cotswolds. He was living in St Ives. He had been involved in the music world for the last 35 years and had had a wide range of experience including teaching, church music, broadcasting (including contributing on many occasions to the BBC's "Songs of Praise" and "Sunday Half Hour"), theatre organ playing and choral workshop management.

Over the last 37 years, Neil has held church appointments as organist and Director of Music at Standish Parish Church (near Wigan), St James the Great, Daisy Hill, St Thomas' St Annes on Sea, Cirencester Parish Church ("the Cathedral of the Cotswolds"), Keynsham Parish Church (Bristol), St Peter's Hindley (Wigan) and St Ives Parish Church (Cornwall).

He organised and promoted regular choral workshops and organised events with several top names over the years, including Sir David Willcocks, John Rutter, Bob Chilcott and Stephen Cleobury amongst others.

As an organist and choir-trainer, Neil performed in many cathedrals, churches and abbeys both in the UK and abroad, including conducting a world premiere in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris by the celebrated British organist and composer, David Briggs - "Messe pour Notre-Dame" - described by critics as the "finest double organ mass since Poulenc". As an organist, Neil has broadcast several times on BBC network and local radio including several broadcasts from the world famous Mighty Wurlitzer in the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool.