IT will go down in history as the first ever Prom performed in sign language.

And it’s a Huddersfield musician who will bring the music to life using just his hands – enabling the greatest classical music festival in the world to be accessible to deaf people.

Paul Whittaker OBE will sign an entire two-hour Stephen Sondheim concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday at 7.30pm.

Paul, who was born deaf, said: “There are 19 items in the programme, so I have to learn all those.

“A score was sent about three weeks ago, so I’ve been busy learning it all and working out how to sign it.

“Some songs are quite easy to learn, while others are much more complicated.

“Sondheim’s lyrics are not always easy and there’s a lot of subtext in places. So far I’ve probably spent about 30 hours memorising the songs and working out the signing.

“This programme is actually a lot harder to learn than a musical theatre show as there’s no narrative – just lots of songs from lots of shows.”

Paul, from Marsh, has been signing since he was 10 and began signing for theatre audiences in 1992.

The first show he signed was Joseph at the London Palladium and since then he’s performed Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, West Side Story, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Evita and Cats.

Paul, who now lives in Rishworth, said signing music was very different to signing ordinary speech.

The 45-year-old said: “A song is a very concentrated art form, where you have a character expressing very clear emotions in a short space of time, plus the drama of the situation they’re in and, occasionally, lots of subtext.

“In Sondheim, what you actually hear lyrically, is not what’s really going on.”

Despite breaking down boundaries and signing the first ever prom in front of thousands of spectators, Paul said he wasn’t apprehensive.

He said: “I’m not nervous, although it is a huge event. It’s a privilege to take part in the greatest classical music festival in the world and make it accessible to deaf people.

“It is a major step in ensuring that deaf people are not excluded from such major artistic events and raises awareness that deaf people can and do enjoy music.”

Throughout the two hour concert, which includes an interval, Paul said he doesn’t get physically tired doing the sign language.

He said: “It can affect you emotionally. When you’re performing you’re not aware of being tired – adrenalin takes over and you’re so wrapped up in what you’re doing.”

Paul founded the charity Music and the Deaf in 1988 from his mum and dad’s attic room in Huddersfield.

The charity, at Northumberland Street, continues to provide people of all ages, and with varying degrees of hearing loss with the opportunity to access music and the arts.

In the early 1980s a young Paul applied to Durham University to read music, but was turned down because he was deaf. He went on to be turned down by 12 universities purely because he was deaf.

But in October 1983 he was accepted by Oxford University to read music.

Later, he studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and went on to receive an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2007.