Greyfriars Kirk’s Peter Collins Organ, 25th Birthday

Leighton + Poulenc organBack in the 1980’s, Greyfriars Kirk was a much more sombre and forbidding building than it is today. Replica flags of the Covenanting armies hung above the arches, the building was full of fixed pews and the old organ was on its last legs, stuffed away in an organ chamber at the West End of the church, where the choir room now is.

Thanks to the foresight of the Minister of the time, David Beckett, and a group of enthusiastic members of the congregation and Kirk Session, a vision was developed of a lighter, more welcoming, flexible space which could serve as a beautiful home for the congregation and also welcome performing arts organisations to harness the Kirk’s tremendous acoustics.

The crowning glory of this vision was to be a new organ by Peter Collins, sitting resplendent on a gallery at the West End, speaking directly into the body of the Kirk and filling the building with a glorious palette of baroque sound, but capable of handling music of any period and style with ease.

As it turned out, the organ was a visual as well as aural triumph – a magnificent vision of towers, carved woodwork and gleaming organ pipes framed within the great Romanesque arch installed by the architect of the Kirk’s 1931-38 restoration, Henry Kerr.

To celebrate the huge catalytic effect that the organ has had on the life of Greyfriars Kirk, the congregation decided to hold a year long festival of worship and the arts. A series of major concerts, worship events, talks, workshops and art exhibitions are taking place throughout the year, designed to give enjoyment and also to encourage an exploration of the place that the arts has had in the life of Greyfriars and the Church of Scotland.

We are delighted to be performing as part of Greyfriars Festival and to be joined by one Britain’s finest and most respected organists David Briggs for the spectacular Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings. David’s skills in the art of organ improvisation will also be on display. A suitably high profile concert of musical riches to celebrate a wonderful instrument, which is a key asset in the musical life of Scotland.

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