Music at Cowley St John Parish
Director of Music
Mr Bartosz Thiede
Before 1950, a series of smaller organs were housed above the north or south chancel, with choir stalls below, all since removed.
The present organ of 38 stops and three manuals is a fine instrument, well-suited to the large volume of the building. Its origins (ca. 1850) were as the instrument for Oxford’s St Michael-at-the-Northgate, but rebuilt with three manuals by Norman and Beard (1914), and brought to St Mary and St John in 1940.
It was entirely overhauled at the cost of some £200,000 in 2010, and is in excellent working order, housed in a gallery above the west end.
The organ is listed (Index number: N11100) in the National Pipe Organ Register. See here for the organ specifications.
During the heyday of attendance numbers, ca. 1900-70, the church had a large robed choir, and from that period dates an enviable music library of four-part ‘cathedral’ repertoire.
At present there is a very dedicated, but very small, core of singers (4-6, often just short of SATB) who meet before the 10.45 service to rehearse hymns, psalms, and an anthem (usually taken from the Oxford Anthem Book).
The choir presently sings from the west gallery around the organ console, with occasional forays to the north aisle at a grand piano (Bluthner).
Service music is sung congregationally (at present Murray, with Merbecke in Advent and Lent), as are Psalms (Anglican chant). We are a hymn-loving parish, and have recently invested in a full new set of the 2013 edition of Ancient & Modern (words-only for pew copies; full music for choir).