More needed, but strong start to church organ fund-raising

Matthew Cooke
Matthew Cooke

Matthew Cooke, director of music at St Mary’s, Petworth, is reporting a good response to his new CD in aid of the church’s organ appeal.

“We had a very successful launch evening. The audience seemed to enjoy the lighter programme, which included items from the CD. The evening ended with a surprise rendition of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March number 1 (Land of Hope and Glory) led with gusto by St Mary’s choir, complete with patriotic outfits and flag-waving! During the refreshments afterwards the CD was played on the church sound system.

“Whilst the appeal is certainly progressing well, we have a fair way to go until we reach our target of £10,000. There is a possibility of applying to a trust for financial support once we are half way there, but I still very much wish to encourage people to buy the CD, and for them to encourage others to do so too. It is an ideal Christmas present with plenty of cheerful music, played by popular demand.

“The CD is now on sale at Petworth Bookshop, St Olav’s Bookshop (North Street, Chichester), St Mary’s Littlehampton and St Andrew’s Tarring. Of course people can also acquire CDs direct from me, and that includes mail order. We also welcome additional donations/legacies towards the appeal fund. Contact me at southdownsorganist@gmail.com or 07776 075275 for further info.”

The CD features well-loved organ music played by Matthew, plus the odd surprise item.

Matthew explained: “The reason for recording the CD was to fundraise for maintenance work on the organ. Many people assume the organ consists solely of the pipes visible on the case, but it is much more complex than that and, much the same as with a car, maintenance is required after a time.

“The last major rebuild was 30 years ago and there are jobs that need doing aside from regular tuning and we also need to build up a contingency fund and, of course, this kind of specialised work does not come cheap. A well-cared for pipe organ will last for hundreds of years, however. Indeed in Northern Germany and the Netherlands there are instruments that, other than a degree of rebuilding, have changed little in character since the time of the composer J S Bach (1685-1750).

“I initially invited sponsorship for the project in units of £50 and £100, and advance (discounted) CD orders, and received a very positive response. In addition, both Gavin Barrett (the producer), Sarah Barstow (my assistant) and I have given our time for free, so, in spite of going over my initial budget, the project is already in profit, so every CD sold will benefit the appeal.

“Part of the reason for the project was to raise awareness of the appeal, and I am hoping that we may receive some more sizeable donations and even legacies from those who feel able to give more. I think the message has got through that the organ is an asset to both the church, and to the wider community. It is not my personal property but I am fortunate enough to be custodian of it.

“The repertoire for the CD was chosen from a list by those who completed a sponsorship form or ordered CDs in advance. I also took on some other individual requests that were made. On the whole, I chose music that was well within my capabilities as an organist. As the requests were from a sizeable sample of people, the title Well Loved Organ Music is justified, I feel. The programme order took some thought as the pieces were a fairly-random selection, but the finished product does flow quite well really.

“We recorded using three pipe organs, in order to demonstrate differences in character and quality between instruments. I made a familiarisation trip to Tarring and Littlehampton the week before the recording in order that the process was as efficient as possible. The recording took two days and was quite intensive and, whilst an expert may notice a few small blemishes, I feel I have done justice to the music and, given that the majority of tracks are continuous (unedited) takes, I hope that people feel there is a coherent sense of performance which may have been lost had we recorded several more takes.

“The CD booklet looks very professional and has some excellent photography as well as some very readable programme notes. With over an hour’s worth of music, I think £10 is a very reasonable price.”