Organist hunters pull out all the stops

29th February 2008 at 00:00
It was an apprehensive moment for 15-year-old Jack Nichols when he played his first notes on the organ at King's College Chapel at Aberdeen University.

Jack was one of the pianists who took up the opportunity to play the university's highly prized Aubertin organ during an event organised to encourage more people to take up the instrument.

There is a chronic shortage of organists in Aberdeen and, in response, the North East of Scotland Music School staged an "Introduction to the Organ Day". For some musicians, the event proved inspirational, prompting them to enrol for lessons.

Joan Thomas, the NESMS administrator, said many pianists are pressed into playing the organ in church because of the shortage of players.

"There are quite a number of people who are currently playing the organ in a very limited way," she says. "So it was to try and help them build up confidence and increase their skills as well."

Jack Nichols, a pupil at Robert Gordon's College, wants to start learning: "It wasn't too bad - it was a bit more complicated than the piano," he said afterwards.

Elgin High pupil Hendrik Wedekind, 17, began playing in his local church a year ago. "I tried out playing the organ and I thought it was a very nice instrument, and I fell in love with it, so I decided, 'I am going to play the organ.'"

Since then, the sixth-year pupil has been accompanying the congregation at Alves Church regularly and plans to study music after he leaves school.

Hendrik was delighted to play the much bigger King's College Chapel organ, the only one in Britain designed by French master organ-builder Bernard Aubertin.

The organ sessions were led by the organist Professor George MacPhee, director of music at Paisley Abbey, who gave a recital with Aberdeen University organist Roger Williams.

Dr Williams described the shortage of organists in Aberdeen as desperate, but said: "We were absolutely thrilled and delighted that this attracted so many people. This is a start and we look forward to further exciting developments."

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