Nomination for a Broadcast Award...

Organ Stops

Organ Stops - Saving the King of Instruments is a documentary feature film about the crisis facing Britain’s pipe organs. One step ahead of the bulldozers, a small band of enthusiasts are fighting to save precious instruments that were until recently the glory of their communities.

James Dawson’s feature documentary is an elegy to a disappearing musical world. In Britain today beautifully made and historically important pipe organs are being scrapped in their hundreds. Once at the centre of our culture pipe organs are now neglected and unloved.

Martin Renshaw has spent his life playing and building pipe organs; this poignant insight into a fast-vanishing world follows him as he travels around the country attempting to rescue them.  “It’s a real crisis. At least one British church closes each week and half their organs are worth saving.” 

Martin and a small band of organ “anoraks” travel the country on rescue missions.  In one ex-mining village in the north of England he discovers a fine organ whose salvage and “rebirth” becomes the redemptive story at the heart of the film.

Along with the pipe organs that played their music, the working-class Christianity at the centre of life in so many small towns and villages in the UK is disappearing. Aged congregations are dying off so numbers are dwindling.

One stalwart in hanging on is sprightly 95-year-old Blanche Beer, who played the organ at her local Chapel for eighty years.  She faces the loss of her church and her precious instrument. Her vivid description of life as a pit-village organist is a wonderful insight into a musical world that is fast disappearing.

Martin reckons that in ten years there’ll be no congregation at all for thousands of rural churches many of whom are home to rare and wonderful pipe organs that will simply rot away – “it’s what keeps me awake at night.” So his life is dedicated to saving as many as he can. This film follows Martin’s struggle and looks at the work of other eccentric organ lovers who are also battling to preserve threatened instruments in their own way.

‘Organ Stops’ is filmed, produced and directed by James Dawson and made in association with Wingspan Productions.

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