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Blacon organist keen to bow out on a good note

Published date: 14 May 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A VETERAN church organist who has retired after 62 years of playing in Chester’s churches is selling off his sheet music to raise money for charity.

Ray Harper, 85, of Highfield Road, Blacon, finally stopped playing last November.

He started his playing career as far back as 1951 at St Mary’s Church, Handbridge, when the church organist left to train to become ordained.

“I was what you call a reluctant organist,” said Ray. “I was in the choir at the church and I could play piano so when the organist left I was volunteered.

“I believe I was given a God-given gift and I thought it was only right I use it in his service. Because of that I did most of my playing on a voluntary basis but I really loved it.”

Ray played at a number of different churches, including in Blacon as well as in the city centre at the former Holy Trinity Church – where the Guildhall now stands – and most recently at St Werburgh’s Roman Catholic Church.

He was heavily involved in restoring church organs throughout the city including raising £22,000 for the restoration of the organ at St Werburgh’s 10 years ago.

Outside of his playing commitments Ray was a sports photographer and covered Chester City matches before becoming a Cheshire County Council officer in the pensions department.

He met his wife through his playing as she joined the Holy Trinity Choir and the couple were married in 1958 at the same church.

Now Ray wants to sell his sheet music to raise some money for Macmillan Cancer Support. So far he has raised £255 for the nurses.

He said: “I have music by Whitlock which is very good, some of the French composers, a bit of everything really from the classics to the American and English styles.

“I haven’t really got a favourite. I’ve enjoyed playing it all so I’m hoping other organists will enjoy the music as well.”

If you want to buy any of Ray’s sheet music or find out what he has available call him on 01244 372822.

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