George Cobley, a current pupil at the School, gives a viewpoint on the role of the organ in school life today.
Life at SHSB is incredibly varied with many extra-curricular activities available. I have found that the most unique of these are the activities involving the school's glorious pipe organ. My involvement with the organ has given me a number of opportunities which I would never otherwise have had. Not only does it provide an extraordinary opportunity for the musicians of the school, it also contributes a great deal to enriching school life for all pupils, creating music for everyone in the environment of assemblies.
Using and working with the organ is a brilliant experience. Many students are able to benefit from this with the weekly 'organ club' meetings led by Mr Symes, which allow experienced pianists to try their hand at the organ, with the aim of eventual performance in assemblies. This is a great time to gain new skills, look at new pieces, and discuss aspects of organ technique. The members of organ club are free to use the organ at any time for practice of improvisation, hymns or other works. The sound of organ music wafting down the corridors reminds me on a daily basis how lucky I am to go to a school with so much tradition and a sense of community.
The school's organ has not remained the same however, since I entered the school. Recent stop additions such as the new sesquialtera, with a truly haunting sound, make the organ even more of a delight; one can happily sit, experimenting with new combinations and vastly different sounds. This has been made possible by the work of Mr Usher, a former student and teacher at SHSB, who comes into the school to help maintain and update the organ. Often assisted by students, he is able to keep the organ in perfect tune, meaning it sounds at its best, as well as creating new stops such as the aforementioned sesquialtera. Going inside the organ chamber is another experience in itself. The sheer scale of the instrument is very impressive and never ceases to amaze me. Knowing how this instrument works has given me yet more respect for it.
Obviously, the organ comes into its prime in our whole school assemblies, twice a week. In every assembly, pupils entering the hall are welcomed by the sound of improvisation, which also heralds the arrival of the headmaster. Frequent hymns help keep up the traditions of the school and allow students to admire the versatility of the instrument.
The organ then, is a key aspect of school life, and has enhanced my time SHSB greatly, providing unique experiences and increasing my understanding of music.