Stalwart High Peak pipe organist steps down after 60 years

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A dedicated pipe organist is stepping down after 60 years playing for Buxton and Hope methodist churches.

Mary Morten, 78, began playing aged 18 when Hope Methodist Church’s resident organist offered to train her.

She had been attending the church with her family since she was a child and said she ‘just kind of did it because it was there’.

During her time at the two churches Mary has played for ‘countless’ services and occasions, including weddings, funerals, christenings and songs of praise.

Grandmother-of-three Mary said: “It’s just something which can be very uplifting - it’s an exhilarating thing to do and can be very rewarding.

“As an organist you can interpret things your own way but I have always enjoyed playing hymns.”

A pipe organ has one or more keyboards - though the one played by Mary has three - and a pedalboard played by the feet.

Mary - who had no formal training and learned directly from other organists - is stepping down reluctantly due to the onset of arthritis in her fingers.

She said: “My fingers have dictated that I give up - it’s just one of those things.

“I can still play but wanted to stop playing before I can’t do it any more.

“The congregation in general have been very kind and nice and generous in their good wishes messages - I really appreciate that.”

To mark her extraordinary achievement Mary was given an Arts Serve Award - which are presented to those who have served the church through the arts.

She was also given a wine stop made out of a dismantled organ stop.

Helen will now carry on helping out with the family business - running their holiday cottages at Cowdale Hall Farm.

Fellow organist John Anfield, 76, who has played alongside Mary for 32 years, said she had achieved ‘an amazing 60 years of playing the methodist organ’.

However John added that he now had to recruit someone else to fill the gap left by Mary.

He said: “Church organists are in short supply - particularly younger ones.

“Churches Together in Buxton has had a scheme for several years where we pay for young people to have organ lessons but then they go off to university and we never see them again.”

John is appealing for someone settled in Buxton for the foreseeable future to come forward.

He added: “We have the most wonderful organ built in 1895.”