The return of Blue Coat School’s rare and historic Father Willis pipe organ was marked by a memorable event on Friday 1 November, with twenty of the original 145-year-old pipes making a repeat journey by horse-drawn dray from the old city centre School buildings, now Bluecoat arts centre, to the ‘new’ Wavertree site.
The Father Willis organ was regarded as being so valuable that, after thirty six years in the old school, it was dismantled and brought by horse and dray to the present School in April 1906.
For this recreated journey, Blue Coat School’s two leading organists, Simon Cheung and Daniel Greenway, loaded the 20 restored pipes at Bluecoat arts centre aboard a vintage 1908 dray, hauled by two magnificent Shire horses.
With our students aboard, the horses and dray, driven by their owner Steve Ledsham, then made the four mile, 75 minute journey to the School, where they were welcomed by Joe Wakefield, of the original builder Henry Willis & Sons, which undertook the restoration.
The event created a great deal of local interest, with Daniel and Simon interviewed by both of the regional TV news programmes, BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada Reports, for broadcast in their main bulletins. To view ITV’s report please click here.
The eight-month organ restoration at Henry Willis’ workshops, at Islington, Liverpool, was sponsored by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The reinstallation of 10,000 parts (including 1,224 pipes) is expected to take around three weeks. Then the organ will be ‘bedded in’ as it readjusts to the ambient temperature of Shirley Hall, while being played and retuned.
The official unveiling will take place on Wednesday 29 January 2020, with a Celebratory Concert and the newly formed Blue Coat Community Choir.
As part of the Blue Coat For All project’s community outreach programme, the restored organ will be the focus of public music concerts for the first time. It will also be the centrepiece of the new Blue Coat Organ Scholarship.
The first two organ scholars, George Ke and Olivia Stone, both Year 9, are being funded by the Young Organ Scholars’ Trust, thanks to a generous donation by Liverpool businessman Keith Simpson
Photo credit: Jason Roberts