Down and Dromore Organ Scholarship Service

Wednesday October 26th 2022

Chancellor John Auchmuthy, front left, the Rev Canon David Humphries, front right, and Dr Joe McKee, back left, with scholars at the Organ Scholarship Service in St Columba’s, Knock, on October 23. Sean Turner from Ballymoney Parish, who has successfully completed the scheme, is holding his certificate. 

Report by Angela Kerr, St Columba’s, Knock

The Down, Dromore and Connor Organ Scholarship Choral Evensong Service was held in St Columba’s Parish Church, Knock, on Sunday October 23.

A Bach Prelude, played with confidence by Tanya Zachara, a third year scholar from St Mark’s, Dundela, opened this special service.

The rector of St Columba’s, Chancellor John Auchmuty, Chairman of the Board, welcomed the scholars and all those who had come to support them, along with the Rev Canon David Humphries, the Secretary of the Board.

Sean Turner, Ballymoney Parish, was presented with his award from Canon Humphries following his three years’ tuition under the direction of Dr Joe McKee.

The scholars past and present lead the Service of Choral Evensong, directed by Dr McKee and accompanied on the organ by Alfred Casement. Brain Clements, Ronnie Drury and Rebekah Wilson, all past recipients of the award, sang with the present scholars. The Rev Canon Walter Laverty intoned the service.

Lessons were read by the rector and Gerald Hill, Organist Emeritus of St Columba’s, and Canon Humphries led the prayers.

In his sermon, Chancellor Auchmuty reminded us to give thanks for the gifts Almighty God has given us, especially through the Ministry of Music which inspires, encourages and lifts our spirits in our churches and cathedrals throughout the opportunities and challenges of these days.  

He reminded us how music can provide much needed strength to support us through the challenges we are living through and facing on a daily basis – economically, increasing cost of energy, high interest rates, the unsettled government both in Northern Ireland and at Westminster, difficult times at home or in employment.

On a positive note, he referred to the quote that ‘Music is the bicycle on which the liturgy rides,’ but emphasised that the bicycle must be kept well-oiled!  Music does not just happen. There is always the need for constant rehearsals. Organists’ posts are increasingly difficult to fill and this is where the Organ Scholarship scheme comes into play.

Participants in the Organ Scholarship Service in St Columba’s, Knock, on October 23.

The Board of Management of the Dioceses of Down, Dromore and Connor Organ Scholarship scheme invites applications for Scholarships which are awarded annually.

This scheme is in its 32nd year and helps provide and equip organists for public worship. It was established in 1990 when an anonymous benefactor, recognising the importance of the ministry of music in parish life and worship, provided a very generous endowment to train organists in these dioceses. A trust was set up and administered by Church of Ireland Trustees Board of Management.

The aims of any Organ Scholarship scheme are to provide firstly training in organ playing, choir accompaniment, choral direction and vocal techniques and secondly experience a wide variety of liturgical music.

An organ scholar’s life is a busy one, especially if balancing it along with university or school studies or in a busy family situation.

The UK’s church music tradition is arguably the finest in the world, with choirs and organist providing music of an exceptionally high standard to enhance the liturgy, but there is always the need to train more young organists who can ensure its future.

The benefits of music study are well known. The study of music fosters concentration, discipline and confidence. Music-making promotes good mental health, feelings of self-esteem and the knowledge that we are contributing something of beauty and value to society.

Current organ scholars are:

Lucy Steele (first year) – Glenavy
Clare Kelly (second year) – Jordanstown
Larissa Fleck (second year) – Armoy
Dr Mark McKinty(second year) – Larne and Inver
Grace Steed (second year) – Dundela
Tanya Zachara (third year) – Dundela
David Dunlop (third year) – All Saints & St Nicholas

Every organ in every church or cathedral is a different instrument and opens up a new world. If the idea of playing one of these on a regular basis sounds exciting and your keyboard skills are pretty good, why not consider training towards an Organ Scholarship?

Organ Scholarship Service in St Columba’s, Knock.

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