I had great fun playing the newly restored Willis organ at St Mary & St Giles in Stony Stratford in September this year.
The organ has just had a £250,000 major overhaul by F H Browne & Sons which included adding 4 stops that had been prepared for, but never made, and also replacing a 16 ft Waldhorn that had been stolen in 1962 when the organ was in St Georges Church in Edinburgh for whom it was originally made. The restoration work also included the manufacture of 2 new pipe cases, the organ sitting in chambers on the north and south side of the west end with console on the gallery in between.
It is a great credit to the local community that such a huge sum was raised to restore the organ with a substantial part of the funding coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Part of HLF grant aid often depends upon the community benefit that will be derived from the project. I am really pleased in this case to see that this will come from use of the pipe organ as part of a general musicals education programme, but with a specific mission to bring the pipe organ to the attention of youngsters and also make it available for anybody to play (subject to reasonable care).
So here is a sadly all too rare location where the doors are wide open to players in great contrast to the attitude I so often met as a youngster (a long time ago now!) which was – KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OUR ORGAN! To take advantage of this lovely instrument you can book a visit at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations of £5.00 per hour are requested which is a tiny amount to contribute for the use of such a comprehensive and historic instrument.
Willis was known for the fiery style of his reeds and this instrument is no exception to that tradition. So if you are interested in playing, or want to use the instrument for teaching, or just curious as to what makes a fine organ, the Willis at St Giles is a good place to start the journey.
There is also a festival once a year so keep an eye out for that in September 2017. To keep in touch with events at St Giles visit www.musicforallsmsg.org.