Urgently needed repairs to the historic 140-year-old organ at Barnet parish church are due to start later this year following Barnet Council's decision to make a grant of £83,000 to meet half the cost of the work.


Once the restoration has been completed St John the Baptist Church hopes to extend its programme of musical education with pupils at local schools and host a wider range of concerts and musical events.

A fund-raising appeal to meet the other half of the £160,000 restoration cost is to be launched on Saturday 27 April when the team vicar Father Sam Rossiter-Peters will highlight the importance of the organ as the “beating heart of the parish church at the heart of our town”.

Installed in 1884 by the famous 19th century organ builders William Hill and Son, the organ has not been refurbished for nearly 40 years and numerous pieces need replacing including pipes, resonators, buttons, and pistons.

Father Sam was supported by High Barnet Councillors Emma Whysall and Paul Edwards when he presented the application for a grant to a council committee which makes awards from the proceeds of Barnet’s community infrastructure levy.

Some of the organ’s pipes are broken, resonators have collapsed, and for the organ to reach its full potential buttons and pistons need repairing.

Councillor Whysall said she was delighted that the council had agreed to help with the cost of repairing the magnificent church organ at St John’s, a church which did so much work within the community – spiritually, educationally, and musically.

Equally thrilled with news of the restoration is the new director of music and musical mission at the parish church, Patryk Korczak, who was appointed in March and has been practising in preparation for his new role.

“This is a magnificent church organ, and it is so versatile, but it needs restoring. Some of the notes are not working properly and others don’t sound correct so at present I don’t think it would be possible to play a full repertoire of music with the organ in its current state of repair.

“Joining the team at St John the Baptist as director of music is a wonderful opportunity for me to have the chance of play a church organ of this versatility.

“If children were here in the church -- as well as religious music -- I could play them something from Harry Potter or Star Wars, that’s how versatile it is.”

Patryk, who recently graduated at Durham University, was director of music at chapels around Durham before securing his post in Barnet.

A restored church organ will also have great appeal for organ scholars from Queen Elizabeth’s School which has formed a new musical partnership with the parish church.

The first two scholars – year ten pupil Noah Morley (seen above practising at St John’s) and sixth former Joel Swedensky – will have an increasing responsibility for playing the organ at regular services and at rehearsals for the choir.

Joel and Noah are fully involved in QE’s extra-curricular music programme and have the opportunity to practice at the school, which has an electric organ supplied by the Royal College of Organists.

Both students – and year eight pupil Zach Fernandes – have played at QE services hosted by John’s as well as playing voluntaries at Southwark Cathedral prior to the QE Chamber Choir’s evensong at the school in the last summer term.

QE is taking active steps to inspire boys to take up the organ. Music teacher Jas Hutchinson-Bazely has started a club for pianists to come to learn more about the organ with a view to them taking lessons in the future.

Restoration of the organ is another step in the determination of St John’s to host a greater range of concerts and musical events as part of its outreach programme.

A performance of St John Passion by Bach on Palm Sunday – which included the UK-Japan Choir -- was the largest concert held at the parish church in recent years.

This Anglo-Japanese choir was established over 30 years ago by its conductor Jonathan Gregory (see above) together with his wife Yoshimi.

Mr Gregory is the associate organist at the parish church and for what was a unique event in Barnet, celebrating the strength of Anglo-Japanese cultural relationships, the UK-Japan Choir was joined by members of choirs at the parish church, St Mary’s Monken Hadley, and St Mark’s Barnet Vale.

Father Sam said the combined seventy-strong choir, backed by a small orchestra and seven international soloists, presented an amazing performance.

The event was supported by the Embassy of Japan and sponsors included leading Japanese companies with UK subsidiaries.

“We have heard back from our many guests at the concert who have asked us to pass on their personal congratulations for a superb event,” said Father Sam.

“We want St John the Baptist to become the venue for music in Barnet – so in future the Palm Sunday concert will not be a one-off. We will host more musical events in 2024.

“We have been serving High Barnet since 1250 and our wonderful organ is a focal point for us.  With this support we are all set to restore it to its fully glory.”

Perhaps this photograph provides a surprising postscript to the announcement that Barnet Council is supporting the restoration of the church organ. One of the correct weights used when playing the organ is in urgent need of replacing – currently a jug (which is the correct weight) is acting as a stand in!

To support appeal follow the instructions.

The link that the QR code sends to is: https://givealittle.co/campaigns/91001f88-60b2-41ef-8e41-c059ba190f19. This goes straight to the fundraising page for the organ.