Reigniting the dying art of organ playing

Reigniting the dying art of organ playing The school organ located in the Chapel of Christ the King

13 May 2021

Organs are one of the hardest instruments in the world to play and because of this, there are very few organ players in the country. St Paul’s Collegiate School has reignited the craft of playing this classical instrument through a scholarship programme and have produced some top quality student organists.

St Paul’s Organ Scholarship Programme was created in 2010 when a dwindling number of students were less interested in learning the instrument. Former headmaster, Grant Lander, initiated the scholarship programme, with a vision of reinvigorating students’ perception of the instrument so the school could benefit from having several capable student organists.

“There are very few schools in New Zealand involved in organ playing, so we felt a social responsibility to make a commitment to teaching the instrument given it is used three times a week in Chapel services and assemblies,” says Mr Lander.

The scholarship is available to ten recipients each year who are chosen from auditions for those students who hold at least a Grade 7 in piano.

Those who are accepted into the programme receive organ lessons from Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral Organist, Dr Philip Smith. Dr Smith is renowned as one of the top organists across the nation and his passion for teaching the notoriously difficult-to-learn instrument resounds well with staff and students.

“We are very lucky to have one of the best organists in the country who comes to St Paul’s to teach our students through this prestigious scholarship,” says Director of Music, Mr Tim Carpenter. In return for their lessons, students learn four or five hymns each and play these hymns for the school to sing to at chapel services and assemblies.

Mr Carpenter says having the organ on display in the school chapel has encouraged others to want to learn how to play this incredible instrument. This alone has excelled the prestige among students as the organ is often front and centre in most school gatherings.

Eleven years later, the programme is stronger than ever with spaces rarely becoming available until students leave the school.

For those wishing to express their interest, students can bring their impressive resume to music teacher Delwyn Ringle and line up for consideration.