The 115 combined voices of the new Blue Coat School Community Choir and the School Choir raised the roof of a packed Shirley Hall with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus to celebrate the restoration of our historic Father Willis organ, on Wednesday 29th January.
An enthusiastic audience of over 350 enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime occasion to mark our rare 145-year-old organ’s first full restoration, which was undertaken by its original builder, Henry Willis & Sons, of Liverpool, over the last 10 months.
Our Blue Coat For All organ restoration project has also encompassed a wide range of community engagement activities, from an oral history project to a series of Science Ceilidh workshops, which were all made possible thanks to a generous grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The hour long concert, hosted by BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips, featured our top two organists, Sixth Former students Daniel Greenway and Simon Cheung, alongside Old Blue and Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Director of Music, Lee Ward, from the Class of 1983.
Top of the solo organists’ bill was the internationally renowned City of Liverpool organist Ian Tracey, who was also tutored on our Father Willis organ. The new School Community Choir, which is also part of the Blue Coat For All project, was trained and conducted by Old Blue and Metropolitan Cathedral Director of Music Christopher McElroy, from the Class of 1996.
The Blue Coat Senior Choir, conducted by the School’s Director of Music Simon Emery, performed two pieces and also combined with the Community Choir to get the Concert off to a flying start with Jerusalem.
Our first two Blue Coat Organ Scholars, George Ke and Olivia Stone, were also introduced to the audience. Their five year scholarships are funded by the Young Organ Scholars’ Trust, thanks to the generosity of Liverpool businessman Keith Simpson.
We hope this will herald a new era of many such public organ and choral concerts in Shirley Hall and also in the School Chapel, using our other Walker pipe organ.
For one audience member;
“It was truly a tremendous evening and such a wonderful celebration of organ music and choral items. The organ came over with such sonorous, pure, mature, sweet, delicate and rich notes!
As a student and teacher I remember it sounding dull and tired, but that was not experienced last night. The restorers have done a fantastic job. The new organ scholars were very impressive and I laughed at hearing George call the organ a monstrosity!
The organists and singers superbly demonstrated the versatility of the instrument and the combined choirs singing the Hallelujah chorus as a finale seemed so apt.”
Shown during our celebratory concert, here is a short film that encapsulates the project as a whole.