Stony Stratford’s restored Willis pipe organ – a ten-week celebration

The full press release is available as a PDF:

MfA Willis Pipe Restoration Celebration press release 24.02.2016

After ten years of fundraising and eighteen months of restoration work, the ‘Father’ Willis pipe organ in Stony Stratford’s St Mary & St Giles Church is finally ready to reveal its glories!

A ten-week Restoration Celebration programme this spring will show off all aspects of the newly restored and enhanced pipe organ at St Mary & St Giles Church, Stony Stratford.
With several additional pipes and stops, including the distinctive ‘Waldhorn’, and beautiful new solid wood casework, the organ will look and sound as never before. What’s more, it will play at concert pitch for the first time, allowing choirs, orchestras and other instrumental groups to perform works involving the organ.

The ‘Father’ Willis organ illustrates 50 years of technical and tonal development by three generations of the famous organ-building Willis family. Originally built by Henry Willis I for St George’s in Edinburgh, the organ was enlarged and improved there, and then purchased for Stony Stratford in 1967 after a fire destroyed the parish organ. Ten years of dedicated community fundraising, complemented by a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, have enabled the full restoration of the organ, the replacement of missing pipes, the addition of new pipes to fulfill the vision of Henry Willis III for the tonal range of the organ, and new casework.

The work has been undertaken by F H Browne & Sons Ltd and has taken eighteen months to complete.

Events in the Restoration Celebration programme are organised by Music for All @ SMSG and will be held at: St Mary & St Giles Church, High St, Stony Stratford, MK11 1BD

Details of three inaugural concerts and other events are given below:


Inaugural choral concert with the Willis Pipe Organ by The Open University Choir
Saturday 23 April 2016 7:30pm
Bill Strang - Director, Paul Daggett - Organist
Tickets £12 for adults and £2 for children (aged 16 and under)
The OU Choir’s conductor, Bill Strang, has put together a distinctive programme which, along with organ music by Widor and motets by Bruckner, includes music by several composers associated with St George’s Church in Edinburgh, for which the organ was originally built: Andrew Mitchell Thomson, its first minister; Alexander Mackenzie, the ninth choirmaster, who subsequently became Principal of the Royal Academy of Music in London; and William Bowie, the last organist, who also taught at the ancient Royal High School – where Bill Strang was one of his pupils.
The programme also includes music linked with the Open University – a choral prelude by Bill Strang based on the mediaeval Scottish Hymn to Saint Magnus; a new arrangement for brass and percussion of ‘Antiphonary’ by Liz Lane, a composer currently tutoring OU students; and John Rutter’s vibrant ‘Gloria’, written in the 1970s when he was on the staff of the OU Music Department.



Inaugural organ concert by Jonathan Kingston
Saturday 30 April 2016 7:30pm
Jonathan Kingston - Organist
Tickets £10 adults, free entry for accompanied children (aged 16 and under)
Jonathan Kingston brings his wealth of experience to this wide-ranging programme of popular organ showpieces, which will show off the delicacy and subtlety of the Stony Stratford Willis as well as its mighty power! Programme to include music by Widor, Bach and Handel – expect highlights from the ‘Fireworks’ suite and much more!

Pre-concert screening of the Willis Organ History and Restoration video
Parish Hall (adjoining the church) 6:30pm
This 25-minute video, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, covers the Willis organ restoration work as well as the organ’s history and how it works. Free entry but limited spaces; registration in advance required.


Sunday 1 May 2016 at the 9:30am Parish Mass
Blessing and re-dedication of the Willis organ by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Right Reverend Jonathan Goodall


Inaugural orchestral concert with the Willis pipe organ by MK Sinfonia
Saturday 2 July 2016 7:30pm
David Knight - Director, William Thallon - Organist
Tickets £10 (accompanied under 16s £1)
The programme includes:

  • Canteloube - Songs of the Auvergne
  • Poulenc - Organ Concerto
  • Saint Saëns - Symphony No 3 in C, ‘Organ Symphony’, Op 78


Other events will include:

  • Thursday 19 May – a free ‘drop-in’ lunchtime concert (12:30–1:15) involving The Orphean Singers
  • Sunday 29 May – a short family organ recital
  • Wednesday 8 June – a first performance of organ with handbells as part of StonyLive!
  • Sunday 12 June – a Happy 90th Birthday concert for the Queen with band and organ
  • Thursday 16 June – a free ‘drop-in’ lunchtime concert (12:30–1:15) involving local schools


Celebrations will continue later in the year with the annual Willis Pipe Organ Festival on 9-11 September as part of Heritage Open Days weekend. There will be three full days of events. See for details.

Details of the concerts and how to book tickets can be found on the Organ Restoration Celebration page.