In 1922, when he was 9, Lindsay Lafford's mother encouraged him to audition as a chorister at Hereford Cathedral in England.

Lafford, an English lord who now lives in Tempe, was accepted into the choir, an experience that marked the beginning of his now 85-year music career.

Lafford, who recently turned 95, is still active in his profession, composing and printing music at his apartment and conducting at various events.

On Friday, The Singers and Orchestra of Cantemus will open its 20th season with a performance of Lafford's A Cantata of Psalms, a concert-length work for soloists, choir, chamber orchestra and organ. The piece is a setting for 21 of the Psalms of David.

Lafford's daughter, Julia Lafford Welbon, will be one of the soloists during the performance, which will be dedicated to the memory of Lafford's late wife Anna, as well as a celebration of his birthday and long career.

"I'm regarding the shindig on the 16th as a culmination of my career," he said. "I wrote it in the sense in the memory of my wife. She was a great inspiration to me and our children."

Sitting in his living room on a recent Sunday morning and reminiscing about the early days of his musical career, Lafford said it was truly a case of mother knows best.

"I started with piano lessons at 7 at my mother's behest. My father wasn't that musical. He thought that embarking on a musical career was a bit stupid because he thought it was a tenuous way to make a career," he said. "He thought I should have been a bank clerk, which would have been disastrous because I'm awful at math."

Lafford said his seven years as a chorister gave him a "tremendous amount of education in music and literature."

"We sang services every day of the week. We would rehearse every morning at 8:30 for an hour, sing at Mass, then go to school, then we would go back to the cathedral for Evensong," he said. "I was a hard-boiled professional by the time I was 12 years old."

As a teenager, Lafford learned to play the organ by studying under the master organist at Hereford Cathedral. For several years, he worked as an organist and conductor.

In 1935, Lafford accepted a position with St. John's Cathedral in Hong Kong. From there, he went on to teach and perform at several schools, including Haverford and Swarthmore colleges in Pennsylvania, Princeton in New Jersey and at the University of Miami in Florida.

Along the way he met and married Anna and they had three children: Julia, Llewellyn and Peter.

"It was wonderful to make a living at something so acceptable and so pleasant. Not that there weren't a lot of chores, like exams. I always hated giving exams and grading exams."

In 1998, Lafford was named Lord of Ridley, a title which dates back to 1230 and King Henry III.

At times, Lafford said he considers slowing down a bit, but opportunities keep coming his way. Among them, every summer for the past seven years Lafford has driven back to Montross, Va., to guest conduct at a music festival.

"When I retired, I thought I'd be coming here to this retirement community with my feet up all day long watching court TV with something cool in my hand, but it just didn't work out that way," he said, with a laugh.

Mark S. Francis, artistic director of The Singers of Cantemus, said he is thrilled to be working with Lafford.

"Dr. Lafford is a superb musician and composer who has dedicated his long and extraordinary life to music," he said. "It has been an honor to work with him - his job and gentle humility are an inspiration to all those who work with him."