Cathedral releases album of organ music played during vaccinations

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 29, 2021
Coronavirus – Mon Mar 29, 2021 (PA Wire)
0:01am, Mon 29 Mar 2021
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Salisbury Cathedral has released an album of organ music played during vaccinations, to raise money for NHS Charities Together.

The album, named Salisbury Meditation – Music For The NHS, features 16 tracks played on the cathedral’s famous Father Willis organ.

Since January, more than 25,000 people have received their Covid-19 vaccine at the historic site, which was built 800 years ago.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 29, 2021 (PA Wire)

John Challenger, assistant director of music, developed a programme of music to be played during the vaccinations along with David Halls, director of music.

They have clocked up 270 hours at the organ console since January, treating people to calming pieces by Bach, Handel and Pachelbel as well as music from Harry Potter and the Second World War.

Mr Challenger described the album, which is released on Monday, as “the most extraordinary turn of events”.

“At the start of January, I don’t think I would ever have predicted what was going to happen,” he said.

“I was aware that we were going to be vaccinating in the cathedral, but once we started playing music for people the response was overwhelming, so we felt compelled to continue all the way through.

“We try to play music which is calming, which is familiar, and music which just makes people feel like they’re welcome.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 29, 2021 (PA Wire)

“Largely it’s quiet music, it’s relaxing music, but occasionally there’s a burst of something more energetic. We do try to take people’s requests as well.

“We’ve had quite a lot requests for film music and quite a few pieces that people had at their weddings, which is a really nice thing.

“The feedback the stewards receive as they’re leaving is wonderful, so it’s just great to be doing something that makes people feel a bit better.”

The cathedral’s organ was built by Henry Willis – one of the giants of Victorian organ-building – between 1876 and 1877.

Mr Challenger described it as the “most remarkable instrument” and said the sound people hear now is the same as Henry Willis would have heard more than 140 years ago.

He said the album celebrates the work of the Sarum South Primary Care Network team, who have been running the vaccination centre in the cathedral.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 29, 2021 (PA Wire)

Salisbury Meditation is a collaboration between Mr Challenger and classical music recording producer Andrew Mellor. It is distributed by [PIAS] UK.

The cover image was supplied by Declan Spreadbury, central booking co-ordinator for plastic surgery at Salisbury District Hospital, who is a keen photographer in his spare time.

Tracks include pieces by Bach, Elgar, Brahms, Handel, Saint-Saens and Vaughan Williams.

Suzy Tyrrell, 63, a retired Army nurse who has been vaccinating people at Salisbury Cathedral, described the organ music as “amazing”.

“To have the music playing, it’s spine tingling, especially when people recognise a piece of music,” she said.

Former flight sergeant Louis Godwin, 95, was one of hundreds of people to receive their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral over the weekend.

The great-grandfather of 12 was one of the first to be vaccinated when the centre opened on January 17 – with pictures of him giving a thumbs-up after having his Pfizer/BioNTech jab going around the world.

He has since been contacted by two fellow air gunners – including one he joined up with – as well as relatives in America and a police officer he worked with as a new recruit more than 60 years ago.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 29, 2021 (PA Wire)

“People have popped up all over the place – it’s marvellous,” Mr Godwin said.

“Everything is so well organised here, people are so cheerful to you and happy; they make you very comfortable and really you don’t feel a thing.

“I feel I’m quite well protected now as long as I’m careful. I’m think we’ve got a good future now if we’re careful.”

Mr Godwin, who has been using FaceTime and Zoom to keep in touch with his family, said he is looking forward to seeing people he has not seen for a year when restrictions ease.

Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, thanked Salisbury Cathedral for raising funds for the charity.

“It was inspiring to see the reports on how the cathedral had adapted to being a vaccination centre and it must have been wonderful for those getting their jabs to hear John’s music,” she said.

“I urge everyone to buy the album, not least because the funds raised will help us continue to support NHS workers, volunteers and patients at the centre of the crisis, and every donation will make a difference.”

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