CAPTION: Young people will be offered subsidised tuition and get the opportunity to perform at their local church

PipeUp Devon scheme pulls out all the stops to inspire young organists

Posted: 25th September, 2020

A new scheme to encourage young people to learn to play the organ is being launched in Devon by the Diocese of Exeter.

PipeUp Devon has been set up by three experienced organists: Andrew Millington, the former Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral, Peter King, the Organist Emeritus at Bath Abbey and Ian Curror, the former Director of Music at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

It aims to inspire 11 to 18-year-olds who already play a musical instrument to give the organ a go.

It is hoped training up a new generation of organ players will eventually increase the number of people available to play some of Devon’s historic church organs.

Beginner to Advanced Tuition

Pipe Up Devon has been inspired by similar schemes elsewhere

Andrew Millington said “Mozart described the organ as ‘the king of the instruments’.

“We hope to revitalise the art of organ playing by offering training to young players.”

He said the organ was an instrument for everyone, regardless of class, background or age “The organ and church music has been my lifelong passion since I was a parish choirboy and I would consider myself neither posh nor holy (try as I might with the latter!)

“A degree of innate talent is needed in order to make progress, but basic enthusiasm is the key, plus some parental support.”

The PipeUp Devon initiative follows a similar successful scheme in Salisbury Diocese.

“Organists delight in the rude noises they can produce with their feet and the opportunity to shock unsuspecting congregations with their loud trumpets.” Peter King, Bath Abbey Organist Emeritus

Students who take part will receive subsidised tuition at all levels, from beginner to diploma standard.

They will be taught by experienced tutors, with lessons available across Devon.

Opportunities For Performance

Peter King said he had begun playing the organ as a school boy, but with fewer children now regularly going to traditional church services, there were less opportunities for them to hear the organ and be inspired to play themselves.

He said: “Playing the organ is endlessly fascinating because all organs are different, each has its own range of colours.

“Because some churches need an organist every Sunday there are lots of performance possibilities, so students will not be learning the instrument in a vacuum.

“Leading a congregation in the singing of a hymn or a carol can be an exciting responsibility, there may be 100 or more people in the building (in non-Covid times) and you, as the organist, are in charge!”

The funding has come from the Ouseley Church Music Trust and the St Wilfrid’s Trust, as well as money raised through the Exeter & District Organists’ Association.

Part of the scheme involves students volunteering to play the organ at their local church once they have learned the basics.

It is hoped this will benefit the student, the church and the local community.

Peter King said learning the organ could really suit young people who liked a physical and mental challenge, “No other instrument requires you to play with both hands and both feet, to play on two, three or four keyboards and to change stops.

Learning the organ is challenging but rewarding

“Acquiring the skill to manage all that is a tremendously satisfying experience.

“Organists delight in the rude noises they can produce with their feet and the opportunity to shock unsuspecting congregations with their loud trumpets.

“Holiness is the last thing that is needed in an organist, and is often not found. On the whole we tend to be rather an earthy lot!”

Andrew Millington agreed that playing the organ was a special experience.

“There is nothing like the thrill of filling a large building with glorious sound and enhancing worship in regular services and special ceremonies such as weddings,” he said.

You can find out how to sign-up for PipeUp Devon here.