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Ella, Diocese of Exeter
Ella, Diocese of Exeter
Church News

Teenagers encouraged to learn the organ with subsidised lessons

by Cara Bentley

With organs sitting untouched in historic churches across the country, the Diocese of Exeter has offered to teach young people how to play in the hope that it will produce a generation of passionate organists who can keep the tradition alive and increase the number of people who can play in church. 

Children and teenagers, between the ages of 10-18 in Devon, are being offered subsidised lessons by the Church of England diocese, from beginner to diploma standard. 

Students are given 30 lessons a year at a cost of £15 per hour and will be taught by experienced tutors, with part of the scheme involving students playing at their local church once they have learned the basics.

The 'PipeUp Devon' initiative follows a similar scheme in Salisbury Diocese and the funding has come from the Ouseley Church Music Trust, the St Wilfrid's Trust, as well as money raised through the Exeter & District Organists' Association. 

Andrew Millington, the former Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral, is one of the organists who has set it up and has been playing in Cathedrals for 40 years. He told Premier: "It's a very thrilling experience, particularly playing in a big building, filling a wonderful building with glorious sounds and also stirring congregations to sing."

He reckons there are 600 churches in the diocese but a serious lack of people who know how to accompany a singing congregation. 

"We need a new generation of organists to come along and inspire people with their music in church...those of us who've had a lifelong profession in the organ world realise what an exciting and wonderful instrument it is and we want to inspire youngsters to take up the organ and really enjoy it and do services in the worship of the church."

The lessons are available to young people who already play a musical instrument, ideally piano or keyboard, as it can be difficult to master, but Millington said the engineering and inner workings of the organ make it a fascinating hobby for many: "I think it appeals to all sorts of aspects: obviously it's the music, it's a technical challenge because you've got the pedals, you've got the stops - there's so much to think about on the technical side compared with the piano - so it's a challenge in that respect...but equally it's very exciting and rewarding."

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