On Friday 17th January, Cranleigh School hosted its first ever Organ Outreach Day, and judging by the numbers and enthusiasm of those who attended, it will not be the last one. Twenty-eight pupils from nine different schools in London and the southeast, aged between 8 and 16, many of whom had never played an organ before, accepted the invitation to come and play the splendid Mander organ in Chapel, and were given guidance by Philip Scriven, the School’s Organist-in-Residence. They played music ranging from Bach to John Lennon, and the hope is that the experience of playing the Chapel organ will have helped to inspire and enthuse them to start learning the instrument themselves. One often hears stories of gloom and doom that interest in the organ is waning, but the presence of so many budding players told another story. Later in the afternoon, a number of organ enthusiasts from the Surrey Organists’ Association and other local churches were able to play and explore the instrument for themselves, and this was then followed by an interview and “Extravaganza” recital for the Friends of Cranleigh School.

After this, Mr Richard Saxel interviewed Mr Scriven in front of an interested audience, and he spoke eloquently and entertainingly about his musical journey from being a young chorister at Westminster Abbey, via his studies at Charterhouse, Cambridge, Vienna and New York, to working in the world of English Cathedrals and finally to Cranleigh School. Mr Scriven then rounded the evening off with a concert performance in Chapel of some of the most iconic and inspiring pieces of the organ repertoire, including works by J.S.Bach, Thalben-Ball’s Pedal Variations on a theme of Paganini, which showcased Mr Scriven’s extraordinary footwork, and Widor’s evergreen Toccata. This was an outstanding end to an immersive day, with the magnificent Mander Organ at its heart. Plans are already being prepared for a second such event in the autumn.