The organists at St Augustine’s have held their positions for lengthy periods, and there have been only seven officially appointed since 1908! The organist (now known as the Director of Music, Organist and Choirmaster) is responsible for the organ, music for worship and training the choir.
There is a story that an organist was asked to resign because he played the recessional hymn too quickly and the choir had not time to finish processing round the church before the hymn finished! This seems somewhat a harsh punishment these days!
The first recorded choirmaster and church organist was Mr Gustavos Curnow, who worked in the Railway Record Office. He was replaced by Mr Clayton West, who worked in the rail workshops as a progress chaser or Materials inspector. Mr Bill Williams, Mr Geoff Webb and the Rev David Woodhouse and Mr Ivan Cotton followed on.
As with many people connected with the history of St Augustine’s, there was once a strong link with the GWR Railway works, for which the town is so famous.
Current Organist – Neil Fisher
From 1990 until 2001, Neil was Organist and Choirmaster at St Andrew’s Church Blunsdon where he built up a small enthusiastic choir from scratch and joined with the vicar and PCC on the selection and installation of the new organ. He has also played several local organs as a relief organist covering for holidays.
He started playing at St Augustine’s in 2002 as a relief organist, and was appointed organist in 2003. He took over the position of Director of Music in October 2004 and now conducts and trains the choir as well as playing for services.
He has played at the following cathedrals: Liverpool Anglican (largest organ in the UK), Liverpool Roman Catholic, Plymouth Roman Catholic, Manchester, Wells, Bristol, Winchester, Chichester, Gloucester and Norwich.
He’s also played at the following churches and abbeys: Buckfast, Tewkesbury, St Mary Redcliffe (Bristol), Cirencester Parish, and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Mr Ivan Cotton
Revd David Woodhouse
Mr Geoff Webb
Mr William D Williams
Bill Williams was a very worthy successor to Clayton West. He won a Gold Medal in the Swindon Festival in 1969 for composing a new tune to “O Jesus I have Promised”. The current organist is custodian to Bill’s music.
Mr Clayton West
Clayton West, choirmaster and Organist died in November 1968, after many years of dedicated service to the Choir, and Music of St Augustine’s. A photograph in his memory was presented to the church soon after. He had been organist and choirmaster for 38 years. Not only would St Augustine’s miss his dedication, but his choir camps would be sadly missed by many of the young lads in the Parish. Mr Robert Marsh organised the 1969 outing for the younger choirboys to London.
Mr Gustavos Curnow
Gustavos Curnow was first organist at the church, and worked in the Great Western Railway works.