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Music at St Mary's

From 1963 Service of Re-Dedication


Little or nothing is known about the early history of music at St Mary’s, almost certainly the congregation would have been accompanied by a group of musicians playing various instruments – as late as 1840 one entry in the accounts reads: “Jno Blackburn for bass strings 3/6d”. Records also show that a small pipe organ was erected in the old church, which was founded 1247, probably about the middle of the 19th century, but who the makers were or what happened to it when the church was taken down is not known.

The first organ to be erected in the present building was given jointly by Mr Edward Day and Mr Edward Howgate, and built by F Jardine of Manchester. It was opened on 17th July 1872 by the organist of “Wakefield Parish Church” and contained 30 distinct stops, 5 couplers, 7 combination pedals, which were played through 3 manuals and pedals. It was altered in 1883 by Peter Conacher of Huddersfield, 1 new stop was added to the pedals and a hydraulic engine to work the bellows, at a cost of £150.

In 1891 the organ was again overhauled, the action and keyboards being renewed, 2 stops and a coupler were also added. This time the work was entrusted to James Conacher of Huddersfield. Samuel Wilkinson Pilling, a lecturer on matters referring to the organ, initiated many of the improvements in organ construction – he also assisted at services.

Considering the date of its erection, the instrument appeared to be very complete indeed and was described as one of the finest and most useful Church Organs in the district.

There exists in the Balne Lane Library, Wakefield a beautiful design for an organ case dated 1914, unfortunately this scheme was never carried out and even today the organ is surrounded by a ‘temporary’ protective frame constructed in 1926 when the new organ was put in.

W C Ainley (well known as a choral composer in his time) is generally regarded as the first organist of the new church, although he was not appointed until 2 years after the Jardine organ was opened. Prior to his coming, various local men had officiated.

Mention should be made of Mr S Oxley (Master of the old Reformatory School) and Mr R W Rowe (Master of Mirfield National School) who were the last to share the post of organist and choirmaster in the old church. According to the Church Magazines, of 1871, they made considerable effort to build the existing singers into a choir worthy of the new building.  The report on the Consecration of the present church on 12th October 1871 states that the musical part of the service was most impressive. These two gentlemen can, therefore be credited with the establishment of a musical tradition in our present church.

During Mr Ainley’s time, great musical services were held on the Feast of Dedication and sung by united choirs, these were continued by his successor, Mr M Cook, on an even larger scale.

When Mr J E Allott became organist in 1924 he set out to create a choir of the highest order. He also began a series of organ recitals on the new organ, the completion of which largely due to his drive and initiative.

History of Music

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