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Music and Beer

Amongst the hidden gems in the Congregational Federation is Beer Congregational Church. I am sorry if you have never had the privilege of visiting the enchanting East Devon Coast and discovering the unique, characterful, small fishing village called Beer. Housed in the church’s unobtrusive building is the very first Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe organ to be imported from America back in 1924, almost a century ago.

Originally installed in The Picture House in Walsall, it served to accompany silent films and when the talkies arrived it entertained the audience before the film and during the interval. It was sadly made redundant when stereophonic sound arrived. The Wurlitzer then resided in a private home but in 1957 it was installed, without its special effects, into the chapel.

The church, and in more recent times local organ builder Michael Farley and his team, did their best to keep it in good order but repair costs were high, so the church gratefully accepted help and about ten years ago The Friends of Beer Wurlitzer was formed to take over the costs of its maintenance and restoration. To raise money they booked artists to give monthly concerts. The poor old Wurlitzer was, at that time, a very unreliable instrument and often did not get through a concert without throwing up a problem during the live performance. But with TLC the instrument has come back to life and has had its bells, drums and special effects reinstated.

Beer WurlitzerThe Friends of Beer Wurlitzer’s president, Trevor Bolshaw, international theatre organist, is very supportive and the concerts now feature many of this country’s top theatre organists who love to play for us and have nothing but praise for how it now sounds. We are very grateful to our members and the eighty to ninety people who regularly support the concerts and enable us to keep the Wurlitzer in fine fettle.

To the onlooker it may seem a strange form of outreach. We respectfully turn the Church into a concert venue. We welcome people from miles around to an afternoon of musical fun and entertainment, yet we see God’s hand at work.

A recent highlight was Trevor playing the organ for a group of people with dementia who visited us from a local care home. Amongst the Wurlitzer supporters we have found an organist who is able to step in to cover for our regular Sunday organist when she needs to have a day off. Please come and visit us for a service or concert, and when you have had your spirits lifted you can make your way through the village to the beach (about three hundred yards away) and enjoy the local delicacy of a fresh crab sandwich, whilst being soothed by the lapping of the waves on the shore between two gloriously beautiful cliffs.

For more details of events.

Merril Archer