Geoff and John film Jonathan Kingston at the Willis organ

Geoff and John film Jonathan Kingston at the Willis organ

Two of the strands of our Heritage Lottery Funded Organ project involves reach-out to the public and education.  In our bid for funds we decided that one way of serving both these strands would be to produce an educational video about the Willis pipe organ, how it works, the problems requiring restoration, its history and how we use it today.

We also wanted some exhibition materials to use in the church at Music for all @ SMSG events and some pull-up easy to store banners were the ideal solution.

Geoff filming John Neal in October 2015 for the video

Geoff filming John Neal in October 2015 for the video

So these were included in our successful bid for Heritage Lottery Funds and scheduled in to the project.  Other strands, such as the history research and restoration, had to happen before these could be completed.  In fact the video took more than 18 months to produce simply because the restoration work took that long!

We started filming just before the organ was dismantled, in July 2014, and filming took place periodically throughout the restoration and even included a visit to the workshops of FH Browne & Sons in January 2015.

Jonathan does a piece to camera for the video

Jonathan Kingston does a piece to camera for the video

Geoff Wheeler and John Moss worked patiently with us throughout the production of the video, David Wolfson worked with us on the script (and did all the narration) and John Page provided technical advice about how the organ works and the correct terminology to use.

After the restoration was complete, the organ needed to be played a lot to identify any minor problems, so we had several different organists come to play it and write in the book.

Geoff and John film Jonathan Kingston at the Willis organ

Geoff and John film Jonathan Kingston at the Willis organ

Then, once FH Browne & Sons had fixed the few issues which were identified, they tuned the organ and Jonathan Kingston came to play for a 3 hour recording session on 5th March in which he played extracts of pieces we needed for the video and spoke about the organ to the camera.

I must admit that morning was an absolute pleasure for the few of us who were in attendance and at one point while I was standing in the aisle with my camera on a tripod, listening to Jonathan play Widor I realised the enormity of what we had achieved in 10 years of fundraising and it made me a bit tearful!

Jonathan Kingston plays the Willis organ for the video

Jonathan Kingston plays the Willis organ for the video

Once the organ project team had signed off the completed video at the end of March we invited all our volunteers to an informal social coffee morning (in which they did not need to do any work!) to see the new banners and the video.

Jane Wolfson, David Wolfson and I had worked on the banners for 2 months, pulling together photos and text which could be easily absorbed by people who are not familiar with pipe organs (Jane had sought advice from a Museum friend about what kind of information to include).

Volunteers admire the banners

Volunteers admire the banners

We held the volunteers coffee morning in St Mary & St Giles school hall on 23rd April.  When I walked into the hall and saw the banners for the first time I admit to more tears as they looked so smart.  Everyone was very enthusiastic about them and they prompted lot of discussion.

Once we all had some tea and cake (provided by Lesley) we settled down to watch the 28 minute video (all the sections).  The volunteers were universally enthusiastic about it and Kieran Salter gave a lovely speech at the end in which he thanked all of us for all our work over the past 10 years.

Volunteers watch the organ video

Volunteers watch the organ video

Now the video has been seen by the volunteers we're sharing it with everyone at regular free public screenings in the Parish Hall, the first of which will be on Saturday 30th April at 6:30 pm, before the inaugural Organ recital by Jonathan Kingston. You can book a seat in advance.

The two sections on how the organ works will not be shown on this occasion, however the sections on the history, problems with the organ, restoration and how we use it today will be shown.

Volunteers watch Jacob in the organ video

Volunteers watch Jacob in the organ video

Jonathan's recital promises to be very exciting and tickets are available in advance online and on the door.  The new banners will be on display at the concert.

Words and photos by Anna Page

Discussing the banners at the volunteers coffee morning

Discussing the banners at the volunteers coffee morning