Organists have been offering musical accompaniment to the cathedral's use as a vaccination centre.
Among the more unusual – and architecturally awe-inspiring – centres for administering the Covid vaccine in the UK has been Salisbury Cathedral. And as if the 13th century soaring Gothic nave and Purbeck marble columns (which you can discover in detail in the video below) weren’t enough to add grandeur to the occasion, the cathedral organists added a further element: between them, they have so far clocked up around 270 hours at the console, offering musical accompaniment for those receiving their vaccines.
The cathedral has now released a special album to raise funds for NHS Charities Together, the membership body for 241 NHS charities. Called Salisbury Meditation – Music for the NHS, it’s been recorded by the Assistant Director of Music, John Challenger on Salisbury’s Father Willis Organ, and embraces popular pieces by composers including Bach, Elgar, Brahms, Handel, Saint-Saëns and Vaughan Williams which would have been heard during the vaccination sessions.
‘Since we started playing for the vaccinations in January, we have felt a particularly close tie with NHS workers, volunteers, and patients coming in for their jabs', said Challenger. ‘The response to the music has been incredible, so this is a chance for us to thank the NHS team for their heroic work.
‘Personally, it has been very moving to witness such an historic effort. Many of the patients who come in are already part of our congregation and community, and their vaccination provided their first outing in a very long time. There were tears. I think coming into this sacred building, having not heard “live” music for so long, meant a lot to them, particularly hearing our beloved Father Willis organ once again. It has certainly marked a milestone in my life.’
Reflecting on his part in the project, the album’s producer Andrew Mellor said: ‘I approached John about the album because I wanted both to contribute to the NHS effort but also to raise awareness of music and musicians, and the role they can play in healing and coming to terms with the kinds of tragedies we have seen during this pandemic.
‘We face difficult times ahead in art, music and culture, and this story has shown the value and importance of music, and its role in sustaining our wellbeing and happiness, and in enriching our lives,’ Mellor added.
In a nice local link, the album is distributed by [PIAS] UK, owner of labels including Harmonia Mundi, and whose Head of Classics, Richard Gay, is a Salisbury resident.
Salisbury Meditation – Music for the NHS is available for streaming and download from today.