Enhancing and improving the skills of church organists in Herefordshire and South Shropshire

Diocese of Hereford Organists’ Training Scheme

  • Is your church lacking an organist for services, weddings and funerals?
  • Have you ever considered learning a challenging and rewarding instrument?
  • Are you an existing organist wishing to improve technique, improvisation skills and new repertoire?
  • Do you find adapting hymns and worship songs difficult: would you appreciate more training?
  • Would you simply like to find out more about the instrument you play?

The scheme, which is inter-denominational, embraces these objectives

  • To provide the churches of the Hereford diocesan area with a greater number of organists than is presently available.
  • To help existing organists improve their skills so that they are able to serve their church with confidence, enhanced ability, and success.

The scheme offers churches

  • The opportunity to assist in the training of new organists, who can provide an invaluable service to their church.
  • The opportunity to help existing organists improve their skills at the organ, thus enhancing the quality of worship.

The scheme offers existing church organists

  • The opportunity to update or improve skills in areas in need of refreshment, with the possibility of sponsorship from your church.
  • The opportunity to provide training for a deputy or assistant organist.

The scheme offers students

  • The opportunity to transfer existing keyboard skills to a second and exciting new instrument.
  • The opportunity to offer your skills to your local church and become of real value to your local community.
  • The opportunity to sit an assessment to mark your achievements and to obtain recognition for this.

The scheme aims to improve the standard of organ playing in services at all levels of ability, from beginner to diploma standard. Students would be expected to have tuition with an approved tutor at regular periods, either weekly or fortnightly. They would also be expected to undertake an appropriate amount of practice, ideally and preferably on an instrument with pipes.

Many churches have sponsored a candidate, typically providing up to half of the tuition fees, although the costs can easily be split differently. In these cases, the student will often be asked to undertake (within an appropriate timescale) certain organ playing duties for the church. The exact level of these would depend upon the ability and experience of the student and the advice of the tutor.

Wherever possible, the student should receive some lessons on the organ of the church concerned, helping him or her to use the instrument to its full capability. Upon completion of a year’s tuition each student is encouraged to sit an assessment, after which a written report is provided.

The panel of experienced tutors is led by the Director of Studies, Hilary Norris, and includes Peter Dyke, Roger Judd, Martyn Lane, Fiona Chryssides, Richard Walker, Shaun Ward, Tim Hollinghurst and Jonathon Nicholls.

Upon successful completion of an assessment, a certificate recognising the candidate’s achievement will be presented at the annual Diocesan Choirs Festival at Hereford Cathedral or at another suitable occasion.


A number of educational workshops around the diocese is also arranged at regular intervals. These have ranged from basic service-playing training days to more advanced sessions on liturgical improvisation and masterclasses on the organ music of J S Bach, French composers and others. Masterclasses and workshops have been led by eminent national figures such as Professor Peter Williams, Roger Judd MVO and Jacques van Oortmerssen.

For further information, including details of current tuition fees and to book a place on forthcoming workshops, please contact the DHOTS Honorary Secretary:

Mr Grahame Taylor
Harvest House
Ashford Carbonell

01584 831147 e-mail

The scheme is supported by the area committee of the Royal School of Church Music, on whose website details of forthcoming events may be found, and the Herefordshire Organists' Society, which meets monthly and arranges recitals, masterclasses, lectures and visits to organs in the county and further afield.

The Herefordshire Organists’ Society also organises an annual day outing, usually to a large town or city where several organs are visited. Social meetings are included in the programme and quarterly newsletters are issued giving local news and views and details of events; through the society’s affiliation to the Incorporated Association of Organists, a subscription to Organists’ Review may be obtained at 25% discount.