St Mary’s Church building has a very good acoustic, and music of much diversity may be heard within the ancient walls.
In addition to the beautiful sound of our competent Sunday choir, the church is used regularly for recitals and concerts covering many different musical genres.
Laurence Elvin, writing about the organ in the April 1938 edition of Musical Opinion says: “The instrument is of great interest, representing as it does the work of Father Willis at the early part of his career”.
The organ’s life began in 1861, when it was a two manual with pedal instrument. It was installed in the west gallery of the Church, but in 1889 was moved into the St Leonard’s Chapel (on the north side of the Chancel). A choir organ was added to it by Ivey.
Later, in 1922, Willis added the swell aeoline. In 1959 the organ was taken back to its original position in the west gallery. By 1986 the mixture of pneumatic and mechanical action and the soundboards were in such poor state that a complete restoration was needed.
Following an appeal for £25,000, the action was made entirely mechanical and the two sesquialteras were returned to their original positions (the pipework having ‘travelled about’ the organ case over the years!).
A Quint mixture was added to the great.. All other voicing was returned as closely as possible to its original state, and a Harmonic Piccolo copied from from an original stop at St John’s, Taunton which is about 3 years younger.
The restoration was carried out by William Drake, who also left provision for a pedal 16′ Ophicleide should funds ever permit its installation.
The influence of the French organ builders is part of the charm of Willis organs, and this tonality is certainly present in the sound of the organ here.