First Ormskirk Organ Day – Saturday 9 September, 2023

Date for your diary

Part of the Tower and Steeple Heritage Project

Saturday 9 September

To include an afternoon Masterclass on the organ, given by Dr. John Kitchen, FRCO, MBE and followed in the evening by an evening recital by the renowned Tom Bell. More details, prices, booking procedures and times, etc. to be provided nearer the time.

The Masterclass is provided under the auspices of the Royal College of Organists and sponsored by the Liverpool Organists’ Assocation. Participants may be of any level of playing, and should bring along their own music. Tuition will be under the direction of Dr John Kitchen.

John Kitchen, MBE, Ph.D, MA, BMus, LRAM, FRCO

Born in 1950, John Kitchen’s interest in playing the organ began at the age of 7. Originally from Coatbridge, he was awarded a MA and BMus from Glasgow University before becoming Organ Scholar at Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied organ under (now Dame) Gillian Weir and composition under John Rutter. During this time, he was awarded his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists. His doctoral thesis was titled “Harpsichord music of seventeenth century France: the forms, their origins and developments, with particular emphasis on the work of Louis Couperin (1626–1661)”.

From 1976 until 1988, he was Lecturer and University Organist at the University of St Andrews. When the department closed, temporarily, in 1988, he moved to the University of Edinburgh, where he became Senior Lecturer and University Organist. He is also Organist to the City of Edinburgh. His especial academic interests focus on early keyboard music and he has recorded the complete works of William Russell (1777-1813) and Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780). For many years, he has also served as Director of Music of Old St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh. He was awarded an MBE for his services to music in the 2016 Birthday Honours of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Tom Bell, GRNCM

Tom Bell moved from Gateacre, Liverpool, to Ormskirk, at an early age. He undertook his primary education at Ormskirk CE Primary School and then attended Ormskirk Grammar School (now Ormskirk School) for two years before moving to Kent. His father was, for a short time, Organist at this church and it was here, whilst at primary school, that he sang in the choir and became interested in playing the organ. Subsequently, studying Organ at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, under Kevin Bowyer, he became a prize-winner. He has recorded commercial CD’s in locations including Blackburn and Durham Cathedrals, as well as St. Bartholomew’s, Armley, Leeds (home of the famous Schulze organ). These have included the complete organ works of Arnold Schoenberg – no mean feat!
Tom is Director of the annual London Organ Day, in which capacity he has worked previously alongside John Kitchen, and Royal College of Organists Director for the North of England, Wales and the Isle of Man, for which purpose he relocated to Lancashire. Previously, he had been Director of Music in churches in Westhoughton, Esher and, latterly, St Michael’s, Chester Square, Belgravia, where one of his predecessors was Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame). He is married with one infant son, has interests in fell-walking, real ale and steam trains! He is very much looking forward to returning to perform on the organ which first sparked his interest in the organ and all that it entails.
He has played recitals at many of the major cathedrals in the UK and, in two recitals at Blackburn, in May, he will be playing two pieces by Olivier Messiaen – L’Ascension and Messe de la Pentecôte.
Tom is a regular columnist in the Organists’ Review. In collaboration with Richard Brasier, he recently led a UK tour for organists hailing from all over the USA, entitled ‘Pipeworks‘. As part of his RCO portfolio, he is heavily committed to introducing ordinary young people from other-than-privileged backgrounds to the sound, music and playing of the organ.

Parbold Sing4Fun Concert 4 March 2023

Parbold Sing4Fun provided an evening of fantastic entertainment for a large gathering; some local, others visitors. Many people have stopped me since the evening to say how much they’d enjoyed it, and I agree completely. If you weren’t there, I’d hope we’d be able to repeat the experience at some point in the future, albeit with a different programme. But there was, as they advertised, something for everyone. Sincere thanks go to all the individual members of the group, including, of course, their Leader, the irrepressible Jo MacRae, and their fantastically adept accompanist, Nigel Hill. And, of course to the members of the congregation of Ormskirk Parish Church who worked so hard on the refreshments and on manning the door! Wonderful stuff!!

Tower and Steeple – Ormskirk Parish Church Heritage Project

Wednesday 25 January saw the official launch of our Heritage Project. As the church building is used infrequently during the week, we are aiming to return it to its original, mediaeval function, as a meeting-place for the whole community. The aim is to make it suitable for use in hosting a wide variety of events. Initially, this would include only those which could take place in the building as it now appears, but the limitations of a building which, despite its immense size, currently has only a limited amount of performance space, are very much appreciated.

To resolve this, we aim to secure funding which would allow us to make some changes to the furnishings of the building whilst maintaining its integrity as a place which reflects the history of the town itself through its architecture, monuments and memorials. This will involve the involvement of an architect with considerable experience of working in such a building, so that nothing of its present character is lost.

We hope to end up with a building which is flexible enough to be able to cover all eventualities. Ideas already mooted by members of the public have included art exhibitions, classical music concerts, rock concerts, dance, boxing matches, food and beer festivals, awards ceremonies, etc. So, if you have any aspirations to put on an exhibition, an awards ceremony, a workshop, a conference or congress, or anything else, if this takes off, you’ll be able to do it in the surroundings of a beautiful and historic building, reflecting a new dawn in the history of our town!

Please do let us know your thoughts and suggestions!

The ‘Tower and Steeple’ logo projected onto the roof of the South Aisle
Jazz-Band entertaining through the evening
Delegates meet each other, following the opening presentation, to discuss the possibilities for their group or business

First Concert since Covid Lockdown!

Saturday 4th March 2023 will see the renowned light music choir – Parbold Sing for Fun – entertaining one and all in Ormskirk Parish Church. This really will be an evening for everyone. The choir, under the skilled direction of Jo MacRae and with superb and imaginative accompaniment by the incomparable Nigel Hill, is exactly what it says; a group of singers singing ‘for fun’! But do not assume that implies any lack of skill; their performances have been first rate and they aim to cover a musical menu including something for everyone. At a nominal ticket price of only £3 per head, this is worth its weight in gold! Although tickets will be available on the door, please do buy in advance, if at all possible, as this will enable us to gauge numbers for catering purposes!

For more information on the choir, follow the link:

Details of the conductor and accompanist can be found at and

William Denman of York (1825-1911) – a discourse by Dr Max Elliott

The builder of the organ currently in Ormskirk Parish Church was one William Denman, a former apprentice of Robert Postill of York, who himself had previously looked after the old organ in Ormskirk. Postill had been a major player in the organ-building industry based in York, had rebuilt the organ in Durham Cathedral and built one for the chapel in Blenheim Palace, and had also built a number of instruments around our area, including St John’s, Burscough Bridge, Westhead Lathom St James and what is now Lord Street West URC in Southport. Denman would have worked with him on these and this is the most likely reason for his being appointed to build the new organ in Ormskirk.

Dr. Max Elliott, a former President of the York and District Organists’ Association, completed his PhD thesis on the organ builders of York and has presented a fascinating and detailed online discourse on the life and works of William Denman to that Association, which can be found on YouTube, and which is included here with his permission.

Please do have a look! It can be found by clicking the link below:

Organ Student qualifies

Mark Jones, who hails from the neighbouring parish of Aughton Christ Church, has recently gained the Associateship of the North & Midlands School of Music (ANMSM) in Organ Performance. Mark is a pupil of Dr Colin Porter, who regularly plays the organ at Ormskirk Parish Church for funerals and who travels to Ormskirk Parish Church to teach him.

Mark tells us:

I recently became a member of North and Midlands School of Music. A few days after my fourteenth birthday, I sat the Associate Diploma in Organ Performance, at Ormskirk Parish Church in Lancashire. I was quite nervous, as this was my first organ exam. Chris Pilsbury, the Academic Registrar, tried to put me at ease and talked me through the assessment process.

The church was very cold and I had to warm my hands with hand warmers in between playing my pieces of music. At the end Chris discussed the music with me and told me that I had passed. I later received an encouraging report from him.

I wouldn’t have achieved this without Dr Colin Porter (Chairman, NMSM). I started organ lessons with Colin when I was eight years old, as an organ student with a bursary from the Lythgoe Fund of the Liverpool Organists’ Association. I couldn’t reach the pedals then. I’ve grown a bit now. Colin has been a great encouragement to me and an amazing teacher.

I hope to do the Licentiate Diploma in the future.”

The assessment took the form of a recital at an appropriate level of difficulty. Mark’s programme included the following pieces, with a short viva voce with the examiner at the end:

  • March of the Priests (from ‘The Enchanted Flute’) – W A Mozart, arr. Dr CWP
  • Prelude in D from ‘L’Organiste Moderne‘ – L J A Lefebure-Wely
  • Tuba Tune – C S Lang
  • Air & Gavotte – S. Wesley
  • Prelude & Fugue in E Minor (BWV 533) – J S Bach
  • Andante – T Mee Pattison
  • Allegro – T Mee Pattison

I am hoping that Mark will be able to perform a recital at the church at some point in the future.

Mark recorded his performance, which is available on YouTube at:


Please note that, due to precautions being taken to slow the spread of the current Coronavirus outbreak, the Church of England has suspended all formal public services indefinitely, in support of social distancing measures.  We hope to be back to normal as soon as possible!

Ormskirk Occasional Singers – Christmas Concert, 29 November 2019


Once again, the Ormskirk Occasional Singers, under the baton of former OPC Organist, Michael Kelsall) treated us to a memorable evening of musical delights!  Punctuated by audience-participation with seasonal hymns, the programme included a number of very familiar items, as we as some not so familiar.  This consisted of:

  • Adam lay ybounden
  • Gabriel’s Message
  • Cherry Tree Carol
  • And the Glory of the Lord (Messiah)
  • For unto Us a child is born (Messiah)
  • Angels’ Carol
  • O Holy Night (solo)
  • Angelus ad Virginem
  • Sans Day Carol
  • Star Carol
  • Up, good Christen Folk
  • Wassail
  • What Cheer
  • Rejoice and be Merry
  • Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day
  • Masters in this Hall
  • The Christmas Song
  • Jingle Bells
  • Storke Carol (duet)
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • We Wish you a Merry Christmas

What appeared to be a very long programme was entirely mitigated by the high performance quality throughout the concert.


Michael Kelsall (above) also played an organ solo; no mean feat given that his music was so tattered that each page was completely loose; a page-turner’s nightmare (as I soon discovered!).  The concert was well-supported and we look forward to future visits by the choir.


Liverpool Cathedral Choir at Ormskirk

Saturday 12 October, 2019

Cath Choir

Not related to the Organ Appeal, but worthy of a mention, is the visit by the Choir of Liverpool Cathedral who gave a free concert of popular choral music, with donations as a fund-raiser towards their annual visit to foreign parts.

Directed by Cathedral Director of Music, Lee Ward, and accompanied by Professor Ian Tracey, Cathedral Organist Titulaire, the sound in the church was phenomenal.  The concert lasted about an hour, and was made up of the following programme:

  • Zadok the Priest – Handel
  • Jesu, joy of man’s desiring – Bach
  • Crucifixus – Lotti
  • (Organ solo) Crown Imperial – Walton
  • Justorum Animae – Stanford
  • Te Deum – Vaughan Williams
  • Jubilate – Britten
  • This is the day – Rutter
  • Let the people – Mathias
  • (Organ solo) Toccata in F – Widor
  • Hallelujah Chorus – Handel

Lee Ward’s demonstrative conducting was a model of how to give the choir continuous reminders of exactly what was needed, in terms of dynamics, phrasing and general style and had none of the hallmarks of the ‘token’ conductors so often seen.  Professor Tracey managed the organ as he always does, never obviously falling foul of the instrument’s inconsistencies!  All in all, an excellent experience which no-one should have missed!


Liverpool Cathedral Choir at Ormskirk Parish Church

Damaged pipes!

Despite the organ loft being kept locked, at some point towards the end of August 2019, an unknown (and unauthorised) person seems to have accessed the inside of the organ and, in so doing, moved along the central passage board of the Great Organ, catching and damaging the resonators of  seven of the treble pipes of the Great 16′ Trombone.  Whoever did this needs to realise that moving around inside an organ is hazardous in the extreme!  Some pipes were bent, others had snapped at the point where the resonator meets the block and, in one case, the entire resonator had parted company with the block.

Staff from David Wells Organ Builders responded immediately they were informed by accessing the church and removing the affected pipes for repair.  Whereas previous repairs by other builders had amounted to simply re-soldering the resonators to the block, in this case, new sleeves were made for the bottom of the resonators and the blocks re-bored to accommodate them, providing a stronger mechanical joint as well as the soldering.  The image below shows one of the affected pipes lying on the passage board; the reconstruction can clearly be seen, as can the proximity of the resonators of the smallest pipes to that passage board.