Belfast man awarded MBE credits Salvation Army for his love of music and drama

published on 15 Jan 2019

Wilfie Pyper MBE

A Belfast man awarded an MBE for his service to musical theatre and drama in Northern Ireland has credited The Salvation Army for his love of the performing arts.

The 69-year-old, Wilfred ‘Wilfie’ Pyper, lives in Rosetta with his wife Ella and is a father of three and grandfather to Isaac and Olivia.

The retired deputy headmaster was raised in The Salvation Army and attended the Belfast Temple Corps where was a trombonist, led the choir and directed musicals. 

“My love for drama and of course music was fostered at The Salvation Army from a very early age when performing became a natural part of worship and provided a grounding second to none. While I was there I came through the ranks and as a senior soldier was principal trombone and songster leader and directed Salvation Army musicals which were performed locally and at a national level”, said Wilfie.

“At school I was directed and taught by Sam McCready – a very influential figure in Irish Theatre and at university I was given my first opportunity to direct musicals and cut my teeth on the full range of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.”

During his career, Wilfie directed musical societies both in the Province and Republic of Ireland and has been the resident director of the award-winning Belfast Operatic Company for over thirty years. As an actor, Wilfie has received many awards including recognition at the All Ireland Drama Finals and the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton. He is also the only director from Northern Ireland to ever receive the best director awards for two shows in the same season from the Association of Irish Music Societies in 2012.

And in the same year, Wilfie directed ‘Titanic the Musical’ at Belfast’s Grand Opera House with the final performance starting at the moment the ship hit the iceberg before she started sinking 100 years earlier. After such a long and illustrious career, Wilfie says his greatest joy is fostering a love of drama in young performers and he is equally as humble about his MBE.

“I still get my greatest pleasure from fostering a love of drama in the young performers I am still fortunate enough to work with and it’s a huge honour to receive the MBE and extremely humbling to receive so many messages of congratulations. However, I like to think of it as being dedicated to the vast numbers of actors, choreographers, musical directors and crew who have given me so much of their time, their talent and between us brought pleasure to many thousands of theatre-goers”, said Wilfie.

Commenting on Wilfie’s award, Major Paul Kingscott, Divisional Leader of The Salvation Army’s Ireland Division said:

"Wilfie has had a significant influence within The Salvation Army for many years and he continues to be a great encourager and supporter and his MBE is well a deserved recognition of his contribution."

Wilfie Pyper was awarded the MBE for services to musical theatre and to drama in Northern Ireland in the New Year Honours List on 29 December 2018.