Organ music and local history combined into one enjoyable day and all in one place. For Heritage Open days weekend 2013 we chose Saturday to make the Willis organ available to anyone. It was also ‘Ride & Stride’ day for sponsored cyclists and walkers riding from church to church to raise much needed funds for church restoration.

John Neal, our new organist, played the organ almost continuously during the coffee morning, providing good music for all those who braved the less than pleasant weather to enjoy with their cakes. Young children coloured in the pictures downloaded from Dan and the Magic Musician, others worked on the adapted worksheet we had tailored to our organ. The Best Kept Town award was being presented in the Parish Hall during the morning and some of the guests for that event came into the church to listen. At lunchtime, while Jill and Karen were serving a delicious light lunch in the hall, we had Dan and the Magic Musician video playing and later some slides adapted from the slides provided by, a great resource website for encouraging people to learn about the organ. A talented young organist who had come to listen was allowed to play the Willis during lunchtime, providing a further impromptu recital for those who stayed in the church.

Jonathan Harris gave a repeat of his ‘Beginner’s Guide to the Organ’ talk during the afternoon, this time watched at close hand by two youngsters as well as his three organ scholars, who all played some pieces. Anyone who wanted to was invited to try the organ, so both the young children as well as one of our organ fund team played the Willis as we started to tidy up.

We had set up a display about the pipe organ in general, some photos of the Willis organ and some photos found in the parish records box of the interior of the church when the previous organ, burnt in the Boxing Day fire of 1964, was in the church. The display also contained a newspaper article about the Flower Festival, Organ Recital and Orphean Singers Concert of 1969, and most poignantly photos of the late Derek Savage, organist at St Mary & St Giles for over 40 years, playing the Willis when the console was still in the north gallery. It was exactly 10 years to the day since Derek died, and holding a Pipe Organ Day in the church he loved so much seemed a fitting tribute to a dedicated and unassuming musician.  The history display prompted several long term parishioners to recall and share their memories, and many faces of the St Giles Choir of 1950 photo were identified by the end of the day.

I would like to thank John Neal, Jonathan Harris, Tristan, Alex and Lauren for playing the organ (as well as our lunchtime recitalist and the others who played piano pieces on the organ), all those who donated the sumptuous cakes, Jill for providing lunch, everyone who helped serve refreshments and the organ fund team for all the setting up, front of house and tidying away afterwards. Despite the miserable weather we raised £304.30 for the organ fund and welcomed many new faces to the church.

For photos of the day see Organ Day