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You can play the Father Willis!

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If you’ve ever fancied playing Reading’s famous Father Willis Organ, now’s your chance.

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The mighty instrument, which dominates Reading’s Concert Hall, is marking its 150th birthday and there are opportunities for complete beginners to pull out all the stops and have a go.

The celebratory season launches with a concert on Saturday, October 4.

It includes the world premiere of a brand-new piece of music by Soosan Lolavar.

Organist William Whitehead will team up with members of the Berkshire Maestros Academy on Sundays String Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the show, which also includes Stanley’s Organ Concerto in G.

The concert is preceded by a talk by William McVicker and Soosan Lolavar.

Tickets cost £13.50 and a VIP package, at £23, includes a centre balcony seat, a programme, interval refreshments and access to the post-concert reception.

The organ lessons will be held over two Sundays – October 26 and November 2.

Beginners lessons will run from 10.30am and 2pm for an hour, with sessions for pianists at noon and 3.30pm. Entry is free.

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On Saturday, November 15, Reading Town Hall Organ Curator William McVicker will give a talk about the history of the Father Willis Organ. Suitable for all ages, the 45-minute talk starts at 10.30am, 1.15pm and 4.15pm. Entry is free.

On the same day, there will be a Big Pipe Busk: people can make their own plastic pitch organ pipe and then join in a busking session led from the Father Willis Organ.

It starts at 3.30pm and the busk will be at 5.30pm. Entry is free.

There are also lunchtime organ recitals on a bi-monthly basis, at the Concert Hall. They all start at 1pm and entry is £5.

On Wednesday, September 17, Edward Reeve will perform, while on Wednesday, November 12 it will be Anthony Hammond. Then next year, Ben Bloor plays on Wednesday, January 21.

For more details, or to book, call Reading Arts on 0118 960 6060 or log on to www.readingarts.com.

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