THE music played to entertain those receiving their Covid vaccinations at Salisbury Cathedral have inspired the creation of a new album to raise money for the NHS.

The cathedral's assistant director of music, John Challenger, and director of music David Halls have clocked up around 270 hours at the organ console.

John and a small group of music specialists have recorded Salisbury Meditation – Music for the NHS, a digital album of classics played during the vaccination sessions.

John said: "Since we have been playing in the cathedral there has been a really strong, friendly link between us and the health workers and the volunteers. It felt like an irresistable thing to do really to try and spread the good news even further really.

Salisbury Journal:

PICTURED: John Challenger  Credit Ash Mills

'Relaxing and calming'

"The album is made up of tracks the pieces we have been playing at the vaccinations. We've had to widen our repertoire considerably to keep ourselves interested over the hours. This is album is some of the works people have been asking for. It is meditative, the music is relaxing and calming. We are trying to get across the atmosphere of the building to people who haven't been there."

John says one popular request that seems to have come back "again and again" has been Bach's Air in D. There were also requests for music played at people's weddings and other memorable occasions.

Salisbury Journal:

PICTURED: Vaccinations at Salisbury Cathedral  Credit Spencer Mulholland

A memorable experience

"It makes it memorable for us. I never thought I would be accompanying vaccinations on the pipe organ. It is a bizarre thing. But we have had so many positive comments and people saying it has made their visit. People said they felt so calmed and overawed by the size of the building because lots of people have been stuck at home not able to see anything. It is good for them and for us as well. It is a real feel good thing to do," added John

Salisbury Journal:

PICTURED: Vaccinations at Salisbury Cathedral  Credit Spencer Mulholland

The album is on sale from today (Monday, March 29), and along with fundraising, celebrates the work of the amazing Sarum South Primary Care Network team, who have topped more than 20,000 jabs in the Cathedral since January.

"I can't wait for it to be released. I just hope people like it. We have had huge fun making it and hopefully we can share a few of those wonderful feelings and share them around the world."

A way to say 'thank you' to NHS staff

At the weekend GPs from the Salisbury started administering the second round of Covid vaccinations for the over 80s in Salisbury Cathedral, and its organists once again provided the musical backdrop.

John says this is a way to thank all the NHS worker for their hard work over the last year.

Salisbury Journal:

PICTURED: Vaccinations at Salisbury Cathedral  Credit Spencer Mulholland

The album, which was also in collaboration with award-winning classical music recording producer and engineer Andrew Mellor of AJM Productions Ltd, features sixteen tracks played by John on the cathedral’s renowned Father Willis Organ.

Andrew is no stranger to recording in cathedral settings - doing work at St Paul's Cathedral and cathedrals in Paris. 

He said: "It is really the height and the distances involved. If you're sitting in Salisbury Cathedral your perspective on how the instrument is really affected by where you are in the building. There are obviously many vantage points to hearing it. You have to take a bit of time to find the place where it will work."

There were stands 40 to 50 feet in the air to capture the sound of the organ. 

"It is a lovely acoustic and a wonderful instrument. The fundamental ingredients are there to make a good recording."

Salisbury Journal:

PICTURED: Vaccinations at Salisbury Cathedral  Credit Spencer Mulholland

Funds raised will go to NHS Charities Together, the membership body for 241 NHS charities that give £1 million every day to help our hospitals do more.

Ellie Orton, Chief Executive for NHS Charities Together, said: “Thank you, Salisbury Cathedral, for supporting NHS Charities Together. It was inspiring to see the reports on how the Cathedral had adapted to being a vaccination centre and it must have been wonderful for those getting their jabs to hear John’s music. I urge everyone to buy the album not least because the funds raised will help us continue to support NHS workers, volunteers and patients at the centre of the crisis, and every donation will make a difference.”

How to get the album

The album is being distributed by classical music specialist [PIAS] UK.

The image for the album cover was supplied by Declan Spreadbury, Central Booking Coordinator for Plastic Surgery at Salisbury District Hospital and a keen photographer in his spare time.

Salisbury Meditation – Music for the NHS is available for streaming and download from Apple Music, Spotify, Presto Music and all other leading DSPs and features many well-known works, including composers such as Bach, Elgar, Brahms, Handel, Saint-Saëns, Vaughan Williams and Boëllmann.

There is no physical version of the album due to the short time frame to get the album released but it is something that might be considered later on in the year. 

Click here stream or download the album.

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