Liverpool Blue Coat School aims to boost the number of UK young organists – and especially female players – with a new organ scholarship hailed as being “unsurpassed outside London”, offering tuition on its own two pipe organs and two cathedral organs.
Fundraising for the new Blue Coat organ scholarship began with the launch of the ‘Pipe Up’ campaign for people to sponsor any of the school’s historic Father Willis’ 1,224 pipes, ranging from £10 for the one and a half inch octaves to the 16ft octaves at £250.
The Blue Coat organ scholarship will significantly increase the number of young people learning to play the organ and as Blue Coat School is a co-educational state grammar school, not only will it attract a wide-diversity of students but also increase the number of female players in a male-dominated area of music.
The scholarship is made possible with the award of a £180,600 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant for the School’s Blue Coat For All project centred on the restoration of its Father Willis organ, plus a further £32,155 raised by match funding for the project from charitable trusts and donations from friends of the school.
The NLHF grant will allow the school to use the restored Father Willis organ for community outreach schemes, such as public organ and choral concerts for the first time and workshops for primary and specialist schools’ pupils.
In addition, it is planned for students, both from the Blue Coat School and externally, to be tutored on Liverpool Anglican Cathedral’s Willis organ (the UK’s largest organ) and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral’s Walker organ.
The project’s launch was celebrated with a gala organ concert at Liverpool Cathedral, with a programme of six organ and five choral pieces. The concert’s organists all had links with Blue Coat, either as teachers or past and present students.
The event was presented by Roger Phillips, senior broadcaster at BBC Radio Merseyside. Special guests included Prof Peter Toyne, CBE, co-chair of YOST (Young Organ Scholar’s Trust) and Blue Coat ambassador; Nathan Lee, head of National Lottery Heritage Fund North West; Mark Blundell, Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside and Peter Woods, High Sheriff of Merseyside.
Mike Pennington, The Liverpool Blue Coat School headteacher, said: “The NLHF grant means we shall not only be able to restore our rare Father Willis organ, but also launch our Blue Coat organ scholarship, combining the organ resources of our school with those of the two great Liverpool cathedrals will create a superb national music training opportunity for young people.”
Peter Elson, Blue Coat For All project manager, said: “This is the first step in the Blue Coat organ scholarship and will start something really special in the world of music and whose influence in creating a new generation of organ players will recharge the great British tradition of organ music. Where else will young organ students be tutored on four incredible organs?”