Music Making

We are currently using a digital organ.† The previous organ was a two manual instrument with pedals, a 1996 rebuilding by Michael Thompson of Burton-on-Trent of an earlier three manual instrument erected in 1908 by J.H. Adkins of Derby. That in its turn replaced, and perhaps included pipework from an organ built in 1873 by Brindley and Foster of Sheffield.

A previous organ had been installed in the old west gallery in 1844, the subscription list for which is still preserved in the contemporary parish register.

Before 1820 Flight and Robson, ‘organ builders to the Prince Regent’,  had supplied the earliest organ now known to have been placed in the church and this may have been a barrel-organ of the kind then much favoured by country parishes. The present organ has two independent departments, the larger situated on a newly erected west gallery and the smaller, operated from the same console, in the chancel. Both organ cases are the work of Advent Hunstone of Tideswell and were originally made for the Adkins organ before the Great War.

During most of the nineteenth century and probably before, a small orchestra frequently also accompanied the singing of services. The church band was said to have consisted in 1870 of ‘fiddles, a clarionet and a bassoon’.  Another source records that Phoebe Bown led the choir and played the ‘cello in Matlock Church for many years. Already by the thirtieth year of her age, in 1802, she was widely famous as an eccentric character: ‘Both jockey, cow-herd and musician’.

A more distinguished figure from this district, Thomas Greatorex, became organist of Westminster Abbey in 1820. He was born in 1758, the son of Anthony Greatorex, a leading local musician and composer. Evidence for musical activity at an earlier period is rather scanty. There were organ builders at Wirksworth in 1503 when William and Nicholas Stroke are mentioned in the Calendar of Patent Rolls (see W.L. Sumner ‘The Organ’, Page 104). Although, as already noted, Henry Smith, Rector of Matlock, is described on his brass in the chancel as, inter alia, a musician, the instruments he bequeathed to his nephew in 1634 are regrettably not themselves specified. Of some two hundred local sixteenth to eighteenth century wills and inventories examined recently, only one or two indicate the testator’s musical interest. Two or three ‘pairs of old virginals’,  a dulcimer, a drum and a trumpet provided the only known instrumental music for the Matlock of the period up to 1750.