Our first Pipe Organ Festival, which celebrated 130 years of the Willis and the completion of phase 1 of its restoration, was a resounding, triumphant success.  Several months of planning, negotiating and organising was well and truly worth the effort.

On Monday the organ builders tuned the instrument.  David had arranged rehearsal times for each organist during the week.  On Thursday and Friday a cipher (a note staying on) became evident during the practice sessions of Adrian Lucas and Adrian Boynton (it cleared during Thursday but reappeared on Friday).  The organ builder came out to investigate but fortunately the cipher cleared itself in time for Adrian Boynton's lunchtime recital on Friday (it may have been dust or a problem with an electrical contact).  The recital was attended by about 60 adults plus 60 Year 6 children from St Mary & St Giles school.  Adrian explained each piece and praised the quality of the organ's sound.

Adrian's programme:

  • Choral Prelude 'Wir Glauben einen Gott' (The Giant) - Bach
  • Psalm Prelude Op 32 No 1 - Howells
  • Theme and Variations - Andriessen
  • Folk Tune - Armstrong Gibbs
  • Crown Imperial - Walton (arr Murrill)
  • Toccatina for Flute - Yon
  • Suite Gothique (III and IV) - Boellmann

We served refreshments at the end of the concert.  Two of the school children have written about their experience of the concert in the school magazine 'The Weekly Link'' (dated 11 September 2012).

In the evening Simon Dearsley and his wife Philippa entertained us with a wonderful combination of organ solo, organ with soprano, piano with soprano and piano solo pieces (with an interval).  The organ pieces really showed off some of the subtle colours in the quieter pipes and Simon was full of praise for the tonal variety in the instrument "its a wonderful instrument and you must do everything you can do can in the community to love it, she is a lovely old girl and she needs as much help as she can, as she is a precious jewel":

  • Organ and Soprano: I will sing unto the Lord a new song (Judith 1888) - Parry
  • Organ: Eclogue, Op 10 - Finzi, arr Robert Gower
  • Organ and Soprano:Laschia ch'io pianga (from Rinaldo HWV7) - Handel
  • Organ: Partita in B Flat: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Minuet I, Minuet II, Gigue - Bach


  • Piano and Soprano: Sea Pictures, Op 37: Song-cycle (1899) Sea Slumber song, In Haven, Sabbath Morning at Sea, Where Corals Lie, The Swimmer - Elgar
  • Piano: English Suite in A minor: Bouree I & II - Bach
  • Piano and Soprano: Ah! Mio Cor (from Alcina HWV 34) - Handel
  • Piano: English Suite in A minor: Gigue - Bach
  • Piano and Soprano: Ah! Ruggerio crudel (from Alcina HWV 34) - Handel

On Saturday morning we were treated to a double recital - Laurence Caldecote (who has played for us before) and Stephen Moore came to play while we served refreshments.  Laurence played the following:

  • Fanfare from La Peri - Dukas, arr Gower
  • Prelude in the Classic Style - Young
  • Trumpet Tune and Air - Purcell, arr Caldecote
  • Elizabethan Serenade - Binge, arr Caldecote
  • Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne (Bux 137) - Buxtehude
  • Serenade - Bourgeois
  • Moto Perpetuo - Caldecote
  • Minute in A from String Quintet in E major - Boccherini, arr Caldecote
  • and one more piece which I didn't catch (it was a change from the programme)

Stephen played:

  • Imperial March Op 32 - Elgar
  • Prelude on the Londonderry air - Rawsthorne
  • Prelude in Eb, BWV 552a - Bach
  • Miniature Suite: Intrada, Villanella, Menuetto-Impromptu - Ireland
  • The Lost Chord - Sullivan, arr Rawsthorne
  • Carillon de Westminster - Vierne

Just before Stephen's recital his former piano and organ teacher, Geoffrey, arrived to listen.  It was such a lovely morning  of music with several people staying for both recitals.

During the afternoon anyone popping into the church heard Adrian Lucas practising for his evening concert.  One young visitor asked Dai "do they always play music in this castle?". He too showed off the tonal colours and moods the organ is able to produce and even played some Jazz on the organ!:

  • March - Orb and Sceptre - Walton
  • A Sad Pavane for these distracted times - Tomkins
  • Prelude and Fugue in E minor (BWV548) "The Wedge" - Bach
  • Overture in C major (K385i) - Mozart
  • Mozart Changes - Gardonyi

During the interval we served tea, coffee, cakes and wine.

  • Fiesta! Celebration, Conversations, Stride Dance, Song, Fast Dance, Nocturne, FInale - Farrington
  • Five Short pieces: Allegretto, Folk Tune, Andante Tranquillo, Scherzo, Paean - Whitlock

Adrian explained that the composer of Fiesta! was playing the piano alongside Rowan Atkinson during the crazy rendition of 'Chariots of Fire' at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in July.

On Sunday after mass Andrew Storer played an organ voluntary but I didn't find out what it was at the time as I was selling cakes for the fund.  At 3 pm Jonathan Harris played the organ and gave a very interesting 'Beginner's Guide' talk at the console which explained very clearly to a very attentive audience how the organ produces such wonderful sound.  Then three of the Milton Keynes Music Service organ scholars, whom he teaches, played their pieces proving that we have some talented young future organists in Milton Keynes.  Everyone was encouraged to come and try to play the organ when the young recitalists had finished.

Throughout the weekend we told people about the pipe sponsorship scheme and several people decided to sponsor pipes and we also received two sizeable donations.  We had an exhibition illustrating the history of the organ and the work in progress building a hand-turned street (monkey) organ on display.

The total raised over the weekend, including donations, refreshments, pipe sponsorships and gift aid is £1,930.56.  I know of a couple more pipe sponsorships to come in as a result of the Festival, plus the Stony Stratford Business Association has a cheque to present to the organ fund as well.

I would like to thank everyone who has helped to make our first organ festival such a happy, wonderful and memorable occasion.  The musicians - both professional and scholars - who gave their time to the organ fund and entertained us so well, the team who worked together to advertise the event, organise and serve refreshments, move furniture, set up the video camera and screen, research, print and put up the displays, explain the pipe sponsorship scheme, make announcements, present gifts to all the musicians and 100 other small but essential tasks.  Without David coordinating everything so efficiently and sensitively the festival would not have run so smoothly - thank you David for a job well done.

The next post in this blog will mention some of the feedback we received via our short questionnaires and some more photos.