Nicola Lisle looks forward to a grand concert in aid of St Peter's Wolvercote

As I step into St Peter’s Church in Wolvercote, I am greeted by the sound of loud tapping and clattering. Not quite what you would expect in a church, but there is a good explanation.

Two years ago, the church launched an appeal to raise money for a new pipe organ as part of a major refurbishment project that has also included new pews and new community spaces.

Work on the new organ began in September 2015, and is now nearing completion. Organ builder Robin Jennings – whose commissions have included building an organ for conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner – is thrilled to be working on the St Peter’s project.

“This is the magnum opus of my career,” he tells me. “This is a big deal for me. It’s also a big deal for a small parish like this, because there are fewer than ten new organ builds a year in the UK, so it’s a remarkable achievement for the committee. Technically this is very difficult because it’s a very difficult design to fit into a small space. So it’s been a challenge – a challenge I thrive on! I love it. I feel very lucky to be making a living out of my hobby.”

The appeal has already reached its initial target of £199,000 through donations, sponsorships, Gift Aid, village fund-raising events and a concert series. But a few extra costs have arisen, and so the fund-raising continues.

The next major event on the fund-raising calendar is a concert at the Sheldonian, featuring the Oxford University Orchestra, violinist Carolin Widmann and renowned conductor Daniel Harding, who was born and raised in Wolvercote.

The programme includes Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. Money raised from the event will be split between the St Peter’s Organ Appeal and the Oxford branch of Parkinson’s UK. Chatting to committee members Val Tate and Jackie Eatock Taylor, it is clear there is huge local pride in the fact that ‘local boy’ Daniel Harding is now a world-famous conductor – especially as he agreed to be one of the patrons of the organ appeal, despite his busy schedule (the other is Merton College’s Director of Music, Benjamin Nicholas).

“We’re very proud and grateful,” says Jackie. “With his name and Ben’s it’s made it feel important and it’s helped to raise the money.

“It’s wonderful to get that sense of solidity and professionalism and quality with these names associated with it and supporting it,” agrees Val.

Future events include the organ dedication service on December 11, followed by an official launch concert on February 25, 2017. Val and Jackie also hope to continue the concert series. “If we can establish this as a respected music venue that would be great because it brings people in,” says Val. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the church to establish itself as a community focus for music.”

The Rev Charles Draper, who has been the vicar at St Peter’s since November 2015, is delighted with the way things are progressing. “It’s a fantastic achievement to take on a project like this and produce a brand new, very high quality and long-lasting pipe organ,” he says. “The way it’s all fitted into this area is quite brilliant.”

Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique & Mendelssohn Violin Concerto

Sheldonian Theatre,

Oxford, Sunday,

November 6, 7.30pm