New Music for all @ SMSG website

June 20, 2015

Since the Willis Pipe Organ Organ appeal started in 2006 we have had a website and later in 2009 when it became clear we needed to have online reports of our fundraising events we started a separate blog (the website was an older design which was created before blogs became mainstream). So we’ve operated for several years with two websites for the organ appeal, which is not ideal.

When the Heritage Lottery Fund gave us a substantial grant for the 3 year project to restore the organ and create a music events and education programme at St Mary and St Giles we knew we needed a new website which could provide all the essential information about the organ, Music for all @ SMSG events (including online bookings for selected events) and the new learning programme. You can now find the new website at

We are in the process of transferring over all the information from the organ appeal website to the new music for all website, amending URLs in blog posts and redirecting web traffic to the new site, so eventually both the old site and the old blog will be closed down.  The blog posts are already on the new site, plus a lot of information about events.

Please visit our new Music for all @ SMSG website and continue to support our historic Willis pipe organ and musical activities at St Mary and St Giles Church.


Press release – Pipe Organ restoration open day

August 31, 2014

On Saturday 13th September you will have the opportunity to see inside the Willis Pipe Organ in St Mary & St Giles Church, Stony Stratford as work progresses on its restoration, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. As part of the National Heritage Open Days weekend, Music for all @ SMSG are showing the work in progress on the organ, which commenced in July. We are delighted that the organ builders, FH Browne & Sons Ltd, are participating in the Pipe Organ restoration open day, giving people the chance to look inside the Willis pipe organ and talk to the organ builders to find out about the progress with its restoration and how it works.

In addition to viewing the organ you can also see an exhibition of its history as we discover more in our research, help fill in the history timeline and enjoy delicious refreshments. There will be a variety of other fun activities such as the pipe organ quiz with a chance to win a small prize, a short video about pipe organs, pictures from the video to colour in or draw a your own picture of the pipe organ. In addition you can sponsor a pipe in the organ to help replace the missing pipes or make a donation towards building casework for the front pipes. We will also be welcoming cyclists and walkers taking part in the annual Buckinghamshire Historic Churches trust Ride & Stride event.

The Pipe organ open day is from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm on Saturday 13th September 2014 at St Mary & St Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

See more about the Pipe Organ open day at: and

The press version of this press release is available on the Organ fund website at


‘Petite Messe Solennelle’ by Rossini

April 13, 2014
Rossini in Stony Stratford

Rossini in Stony Stratford

Rossini’s final masterpiece ‘Petite Messe Solennelle’ is neither small nor solemn but contains all the features of Rossini’s much loved flamboyant operatic and orchestral styles. It was written for just twelve voices. It will be performed on 10 May 2014 in St Mary & St Giles Church, Stony Stratford for the Willis Pipe organ fund by the versatile local fund raising 18-voice choir Andante with local soloists accompanied by piano and harmonium:

Claire Turner – soprano
Ruth Peel – contralto
Jack Cornwell – tenor
Simon Woodhead – bass
Kevin McConway – harmonium
Ed Tomlinson – piano
Roger Windmill – conductor

You can obtain programme vouchers in advance or on the door for £12, £10 concessions, under 16s £1 and this includes a glass of wine or fruit juice and nibbles.  Vouchers are available from Odells, High Street, Stony Stratford and also via David on 01908 568036. See the events listing on the organ fund website for details.

Download and display the Poster Andante Rossini Petite Messe Poster and invite your friends to join you for a glorious evening of music in the heart of Stony Stratford.

St Mary & St Giles Church Willis Pipe Organ wins Heritage Lottery fund support

March 10, 2014
Making and sharing music at SMSG

Making and sharing music at SMSG

Heritage Lottery Fund

Heritage Lottery Fund

Embargoed until 00.01hours on 10 March 2014

Today, the PCC of the Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton has received £82,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its project, Willis Pipe Organ Restoration & Reach-out, in St Mary & St Giles Church, Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes.

Led by volunteers from the local community, the project focuses on restoring the 3 manual Willis Pipe Organ, researching and interpreting its history, producing audio visual, print and online learning resources to enable exploration of the organ and its history; creating and delivering an Education and Activities programme, recruiting and training more volunteer organ guides and delivering a Community Music Programme using the organ.

The HLF grant also funds the education and outreach activities of the new project and enables the commissioning of the work on the organ. The project starts in April; the organ will be restored during 2014-15 and brought back into use in 2015-16, in time to be used in Milton Keynes’ 50th birthday celebration in 2017.

The project will enable people of all ages to find out more about the Willis Pipe organ, to research its historical, musical and technical significance and will help organ scholars develop their playing skills. This rare 1882 Willis Pipe Organ will be restored to its 1932 state, to enable players and listeners to experience and enjoy its unique 50-year evolution of pipe sound and technology. A new Digital Information Source will be created to tell the story of this Pipe Organ and its contribution to community life since its installation in Stony Stratford almost fifty years ago in 1967, the year Milton Keynes was designated a New Town. The project will also deliver Learning Resources created with professional support, to enable people of different ages and interests to learn about all aspects of the Willis Pipe Organ and a Reach-out Education Programme for learners of all ages, to extend knowledge and experience of playing a heritage Pipe Organ. As part of the project, the Parish will implement a maintenance plan to ensure a sustainable future for the organ. There will be many different opportunities to get involved in the project – we’ll be looking for historians, teachers and musicians as well as fund-raisers.

This Willis Pipe organ was originally built by ‘Father’ Willis in 1882, one of the most famous Victorian organ-builders, and remains a shining example of the excellence of his work. It was enlarged and enhanced by his son and again by his grandson Henry Willis III in 1932. It was moved from its original location in St George’s Church, Charlotte Square in Edinburgh to Stony Stratford by Starmer Shaw Organ builders in 1967. Henry Willis III used modern technology to expand the instruments built by his grandfather, yet retained their tonal character, for modern musical and liturgical purposes without destroying their original sound. The instrument at Stony Stratford is a fine example of the Willis dynasty of organ building, with a superb console (restored by F. H. Browne & Sons Ltd in 2011), but in need of much restoration of the basic mechanism and the pipework. When the organ is restored, Stony Stratford will be one of only a very few parishes in the country to have a fully functioning Willis III church organ.

Commenting on the award, Fr Ross Northing, Rector of the Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton, said that the HLF grant was: “not only good news for the Parish Family, but for all the people of Milton Keynes; especially present & future musicians.”

Come to find out more about this exciting project at an open meeting on Saturday 5th April at 3:00 pm in the Parish Hall adjoining St Mary & St Giles church for all members of the community to learn more about the organ project and how to get involved.

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said:
“We are delighted to be involved in this truly community based project to save this historic Willis Pipe organ. The restoration and preservation of the instrument and its history will ensure current and future generations will be able to enjoy this special heritage feature in Milton Keynes for years to come.”


Notes to editors
About St Mary & St Giles Church and Music@SMSG
The Church of St Mary & St Giles exists to worship Almighty God and to serve the people of the Parish, and further afield, whether they worship or not. For more information about the church see the Parish website at

Music at St Mary & St Giles (Music@SMSG for short) is an increasingly important part of our regular activities, as one of the ways in which we serve the wider community. We founded the Pipe Organ Restoration Action Group in 2006 and this has run nearly 150 fundraising events with results which demonstrate local support for our Pipe Organ far beyond the church family. We organise a variety of concerts and musical events for the enjoyment of the wider community, as many as possible of these using the Willis Pipe Organ. We also encourage other local musical groups to make use of our church because of its good acoustic and lovely Grade 2* listed setting. For more information see the Music@SMSG page on the organ fund website

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 36,000 projects with more than £5.9bn across the UK.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact
Anna Page, Music@SMSG on 01908 263717,

Winter Harmony concert

November 20, 2013

The Milton Keynes Barbershop Harmony Club presents a concert of variety on 23 November in St Mary & St Giles Church which promises to be an evening to remember.

MK Acapella, the Men’s Barbershop Chorus, sing old favourites, popular music & carols. Caribbean Culture People sing traditional folk music from afar and the Barbershop Quartet Pony Express sing popular music in four parts.  They are joined by Thornton College Chamber Choir who will sing enchanting Choral Music, and the Sue Hill Trio presenting Classic Jazz standards.

There will be refreshments and a raffle too.

Programme vouchers are £8 adults, OAP/U16 £5 and available in advance from Odells in Stony Stratford / on the door or call box office on 01908 410270.

This event is for the organ fund and everyone is very welcome.

Download the Winter Harmony Concert poster

Pipe Organ Day 2013

September 4, 2013
Pipe organ day 2013 poster

Pipe organ day 2013 poster

Our Pipe Organ Day takes place on Saturday 14th September from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at St Mary & St Giles Church, Stony Stratford. It is part of the national Heritage Open Days and will give you an opportunity to hear the Willis Pipe organ being played by various organists.

The day starts with a musical coffee morning – John Neal our new organist will play an informal recital while you enjoy delicious refreshments. A light lunch will be available from 12 noon in the Parish Hall.

At 2:30 pm Jonathan Harris will give his popular ‘Beginners Guide to the Pipe Organ’ talk, along with a mini recital followed by a recital by three of his organ scholars, we’ll be serving tea and cakes at this event too. This is your chance to learn how the organ works.

There will be displays about the organ and some simple activities for children of all ages to learn about the organ during the day. Pipe sponsorship forms will be available if you’ve like to dedicate a pipe in the organ to someone.

If you’re planning to participate in the annual Buckinghamshire Churches Trust Ride & Stride event, St Mary & St Giles Church will be open all day to welcome you so this is your chance to pause for breath to enjoy music and refreshments in a beautiful church before you pedal or walk to the next church on your list.

Silent Movies come to Stony Stratford

June 24, 2013

We have a real rare treat in Stony Stratford on the 6th July – two Silent Movies with LIVE pipe organ accompaniment! Donald Mackenzie, who is the resident organist at London’s Odeon Cinema Leicester Square will play the Willis organ in St Mary & St Giles church to accompany a fun Laurel & Hardy film and the classic Buster Keaton movie ‘The General’.  This event will be a fun and unusual evening’s family entertainment suitable for all ages .

The first movie starts at 7:30 pm.  Popcorn and ice cream will be available and adult entry vouchers entitle you to a glass of wine (there will be juice for the children) during the interval.  You can purchase your vouchers in advance from David at MK 568036 (or via or at the door, so make sure you get to the church in good time to get a seat before the show starts.

Poster Silent Movie