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Blue Coat School’s pioneering Organ Scholars, George Ke and Olivia Stone, have reached a landmark in their course by both passing the Grade 4 exams with Distinction.

The Year 10 students, both 14-years-old, started learning to play the organ in 2019 after passing the first auditions for the new Blue Coat School Organ Scholarships, which are five years long. The Grade 4s are the first organ exams they have taken.

This unique music course, the only one of its kind at a UK state school, is designed to take advantage of the newly-restored historic Father Willis organ in Shirley Hall, the School Chapel Walker organ, and their ‘big cousins’ at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral (Britain’s biggest) and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. The scholars are tutored by Old Blues Lee Ward (Lead), Director of Music at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, and Daniel Greenway (Deputy), 19, Anglican Cathedral Organ Scholar, who is Organ Grade 8 with Distinction (pictured right in the Cathedral Organ Loft).  

Olivia Stone said; “I was really happy with the exam result. The examiner was very nice and it’s good to be able to work towards a challenge.

“I auditioned for the Scholarship as I loved the piano and thought I could expand my skills, but I didn’t know anything about it beforehand and went in head-first. It was a crazy opportunity!

“It’s very different to playing the piano, having to use your feet and several keyboards and pulling the stops in and out. As the course progressed it got better and better. I’ve not been disappointed.

“I didn’t expect it to be such a big instrument and every organ is different, whereas pianos are the same. Playing the Anglican Cathedral organ is incredible. There are pipes everywhere you look. It’s huge, strange, magical and quite majestic.”

George Ke said: “Going on the trip to the Willis organ works and seeing how organs are constructed was fascinating. I’d not seen anything like this and I’m inspired by the organ’s complexity.

“You have to express music in a different way on an organ, it’s about phrasing, not hitting the notes harder. I find mastering this very satisfying. I love playing the Bach preludes and fugues, interweaving their simultaneous themes together.

“The School’s Father Willis is very nice as the pipes are close to you and there is little delay in the sound, whereas the giant Cathedral Willis organ is the opposite as the pipes are so far away and there’s a significant time delay and you have to readjust your sense of rhythm.

“It’s a really lovely gorgeous sound and such a cool instrument with all its stops to give you this amazing range of colours. The scholarship gives us this opportunity to experience this incredible instrument. To be in the organ loft and see visitors looking up as you play some wonderful passage is a fantastic feeling.”

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