Trying out the Willis pipe organ

Trying out the Willis pipe organ

For more than 3 hours on Saturday we had a steady stream of people of all ages and musical experience arrive to try playing the Willis pipe organ for Heritage Open Days.

Bryan and Dave were on hand to guide them and help them navigate the console with all its stop knobs, couplers, pistons, keys and pedals. We heard loud and soft renditions of a range of music, some tentative and promising, some self-assured and the enthusiasm was palpable.

Viewing the exhibition

Viewing the exhibition

Out in the street, by the open door onto the high street, a hand-turned street organ played to draw attention to the refreshments, music and exhibition in the church.

Street organ playing outside for Heritage Open Days

Street organ playing outside for Heritage Open Days

Downstairs from the organ in the gallery tea, coffee, squash and cakes flowed in abundance, followed over lunchtime by soup, rolls and cheese.

Playing a piece on the Great

Playing a piece on the Great

Viewing the exhibition and photo books

Viewing the exhibition and photo books

Trying the pedals

Trying the pedals

Music for All @ SMSG information

Music for All @ SMSG information

Ride and Stride and the exhibition

Ride and Stride and the exhibition

Young hands on the Willis keyboards

Young hands on the Willis keyboards

During the afternoon we prepared for the evening event - our annual Saturday night at the Silent Movies. The technical team made sure that there would not be a repeat of last year's problem when the DVD player gave Donald a hard time during the films, their testing paid off and the event ran very smoothly.

Donald MacKenzie playing a Wizard of Oz themed overture

Donald MacKenzie playing a Wizard of Oz themed overture

After a welcome and introduction by the festival and resident musical director Jonathan Kingston, Donald gave us a Wizard of Oz themed overture featuring familiar tunes from the more famous later version of the movie before launching into the first live soundtrack to the comedy short 'Habeas Corpus' starring Laurel & Hardy, which was great fun and very silly.

During the interval we served popcorn, icecream, wine and juice to the large audience as fast as possible from 3 different refreshment stations around the church.

Donald MacKenzie playing a Wizard of Oz themed overture before the movies

Donald MacKenzie playing a Wizard of Oz themed overture before the movies

Donald explained that the 1925 version of the Wizard of Oz directed by and starring Larry Semon was quite strange in places, he had edited out a couple of frames because they had not aged well.

Laurel & Hardy in Habeas Corpus

Laurel & Hardy in Habeas Corpus

The story was different from the more famous later film, though the main characters were mostly the same and Donald's improvised soundtrack was adept in bringing out the essential elements of the action and various story lines. Thank you Donald for a truly splendid evening of musicianship in the Willis organ's annual immitation of a cinema organ.

Additional photos can be found in the Willis Pipe Organ Festival 2019 album.

Words and photos by Anna Page

Donald taking his well deserved applause afte the movies

Donald taking his well deserved applause after the movies