Our organist (and choir master) Nigel Walton celebrated 50 years as an organist at a special evensong on June 7th. We were pleased to see so many people, including many who rarely (if ever) have heard evensong. The music, including Zadoc the Priest, Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn and Nigel’s preferred responses, were of course chosen by Nigel.
Nigel became interested in the organ when he heard the instrument being tuned at his father’s church in All Saints, Exmouth. He taught himself to play and occasionally stood in for the organist. When his family moved to a small village near Totnes in Devon in June 1959, Nigel became their organist at the age of 15. In time, a church from a neighbouring parish heard about Nigel and persuaded him to become their choirmaster and organist as well. They even bought him a motor scooter so that he could make it in time between the churches! The church had a first rate adult choir (all over 20 years older than Nigel) and he greatly enjoyed directing them as they were of such a high standard.
In 1963 Nigel came to Bristol University to read music, and on graduation was offered a job at Bristol Grammar School in charge of music. During this time he was organist and choirmaster at St Mary’s, Stoke Bishop, follwed by St Paul’s, Clifton. In 1972 he went to Queen’s College, Cambridge to do his PGCE.
Next came a complete change of direction – to the night club scene. Nigel moved to Bermuda to become MD of a night club and on returning to England played in venues as diverse as Bristol’s Beirkeller and Ronnie Scott’s in London.
After a few years, Nigel was offered the post of Head of Music at Churchill School, although he kept his hand in at the clubs as well. In 1979 he was persuaded to return too the church scene and became choirmaster and organist of St Alban’s. Nigel’s father married him and Nicky in October 1980 in St Alban’s surrounded by choir members singing a full choral Eucharist, and using a team of there organists to provide an amazing musical celebration.
Nigel had a break from St Alban’s around 1986, but on his return he and Nicky worked together to rebuild the choir and continue the strong choral tradition which St Alban’s in our united parish has always enjoyed.
As part of the celebration Nigel and Nicky recently visited his first churches, where they met people who remembered him on sight.
(Adapted from an article by Nicky Walton)