Tributes to Edinbugh pianist who decoded Rosslyn Chapel musical code

Tributes have been paid to Tommy Mitchell, who passed away aged 85.Tributes have been paid to Tommy Mitchell, who passed away aged 85.
Tributes have been paid to Tommy Mitchell, who passed away aged 85.
TRIBUTES have been paid to a renowned Capital musician whose groundbreaking work helped unlock secret musical code hidden in the walls of Rosslyn Chapel.

Tommy Mitchell passed away at the age of 85 after a year-long battle with bowel cancer less than four months after son Stuart also passed following a similar illness.

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Celebrated Edinburgh pianist who decoded Rosslyn Chapel musical arrangements to ...

The father and son duo hit the headlines in 2005 for deciphering musical cymatics carved into the ceiling design of the iconic Rosslyn Chapel, made famous in the Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code.

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Renowned pianist Tommy MitchellRenowned pianist Tommy Mitchell
Renowned pianist Tommy Mitchell

However, Tommy was also a well-known member of the capital’s jazz scene, regularly playing to packed out halls at the Balmoral and Caledonian hotels.

Mr Mitchell was born in Bellshill, but arrived in Edinburgh after serving with the RAF in Iraq to start work at renowned music shop Rae Macintosh.

He was taught to play piano by local musician Alex Shaw and later turned professional after being made redundant from his job at Scottish and Newcastle breweries.

Mr Mitchell’s son, Ally, 57, described him as a “popular and well-loved” member of the city’s music scene, adding: “He had so many artistic pursuits. He was a musician, a painter, a poet, he was always doing something artistic.”

“I remember him playing in these hotels, all the musicians who regularly played on the circuit knew him and they all spoke very highly of him and his work.”

It took Mr Mitchell senior 27 years of painstaking study to discover the pitches and tonality of rectangles and cubes adorning arches on Rosslyn Chapel ceiling - dubbed “frozen music”.

He later wrote the book ‘Music of the Cubes,’ providing a unique insight into the hidden symphonies contained within the carvings at the historic building.

The process was covered in 2005 documentary broadcast on the Discovery Channel in the United States - an updated version of which is due for release early next year.

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Stuart passed away in August at the age of 52 after a short fight with lung cancer. Family members held a celebration of his life and work at Stockbridge Parish Church in November featuring performances of his work by guest musicians including his son, Lewis.

Ally added: “Stuart was his protégé and I think he took his diagnosis hard, but he battled on for a year after his diagnosis.”

Mr Mitchell continued: “They worked so closely together, so it was obviously really tough for him.”

“But I know he was extremely proud of everything they achieved together.”