St-Mary-at-Finchley cherishes history of church
Church celebrates restoration of Willis Organ and the launch of Oral History Project.
St Mary-at-Finchley Parish Church has celebrated the successful completion of its Oral History Project, as one of several major community events associated with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A total of £136,000 was raised towards the restoration and refurbishment of the St Mary’s 1878 Willis pipe organ, two-thirds of this amount coming from individual donations.
Local residents and visitors from further afield gathered at the busy Parish Church and were treated to a Organ Recital on the Parish’s newly restored Willis Organ by Simon Williams, Director of Music and Organist at St George’s Church, Hanover Square. Following this the Listening Post, with sound clips taken from interviews conducted by the Oral History Project, was launched along with the accompanying illustrated 32-page booklet, Listening to Finchley.
The St Mary-at-Finchley Oral History Project was designed to document the changes in social and religious customs during the last nine decades, as told by Finchley residents past and present. This large-scale project, which involved over a hundred participants, began in September 2010 and involved gathering over 25 hours of personal reminiscences of the parish over the last 90 years.
Other community activities during the Organ Appeal included organ workshops that a thousand children from local schools took part in, a quiz about the church devised by members of the Junior Church, and increasing the accessibility of the Willis organ for organ practice sessions.
Continuing the musical theme, a CD of organ music was also launched on Saturday. Entitled Alleluyas: A Celebration of the Willis Organ of St Mary-at-Finchley, it features a wide range of organ music played by six organists including Simon Williams, Peter Wright and Gordon Kirkwood, all of them connected with St Mary’s church.
The Revd Philip Davison, Rector of St Mary-at-Finchley, said of the evening:
"This has been a fantastic way to celebrate the excellent community projects undertaken here at St Mary’s and the restoration of our cherished organ. Simon Williams gave a wonderful recital and it is great to see how the activities have brought local residents together. We are very grateful to all those who helped to raise the money to make all this possible, and for the generous donation made by the Heritage Lottery Fund."
Photo: (Background, L-R): Gordon Kirkwood, Fredrik Karlsson, Peter Wright, Thomas Hewitt Jones, Michael Strange and Simon Williams. Foreground: Alison Fisher, Director of Music at St Mary’s.