ANYBODY who wants to hear Anthony Hall’s work in action need only visit Swindon’s Holy Rood Church on Thursday, September 12.

At 7pm, internationally-acclaimed organist Paul Hale will begin the inaugural recital of the newly renovated and expanded organ.

The project was a labour of love for Anthony, who owns Malvern-based Clevedon Organs and has worked on instruments in locations ranging from modest churches to cathedrals.

Although he lives in the Midlands, he grew up in Highworth and is organist at Holy Rood, which he regards as his home church.

The organ is sometimes described as the king of instruments and Anthony agrees.

“It’s the sheer size, complexity and volume,” he said.

“There is no similar instrument that could be heard over the top of an orchestra. In every sense it’s an instrument on a massive scale.

“The other side of it is that every single organ is different.”

The instrument at Holy Rood dates back nearly nine decades.

“It was built originally in 1930 by a company called Ainscough. They were based up north - possibly Leeds.

“It had two manuals - keyboards - and pedals. It had perhaps about 19 stops so was quite modest in size.”

Stops are the mechanisms which give the instruments a variety of musical voices.

Over the years, the congregation grew as Holy Rood welcomed new Swindonians from countries including Italy, Poland and Ireland, and in 1970 the church was extensively enlarged.

“In 1971,” said Anthony, “the organ was also expanded, but has still kept its 1930s roots.

“That was done by Osmond of Taunton.”

The next renovation, in 2000, was done by Anthony and a colleague, Simon Plowman. The number of people attending the church has steadily increased, with many members of Swindon’s Goan community joining the congregation.

“Over the last 20 years, since the organ was last improved, congregations are regularly up to 1000 people. On feast days like Easter and Christmas, we can have up to 2,000 people.

“It’s an extraordinary place. I think I’m right in saying we have one of the largest congregations in the UK for a Catholic church.”

In part because of this growth, the decision was taken to improve the organ once more, adding voices and making the instrument more powerful.

Other new refinements include a third keyboard and a mobile console, allowing organists to play in various parts of the church if needed, rather than being confined to a given area.

New sounds have been sampled electronically from a vast library of organ notes in other places of worship and added to the Holy Rood instrument’s repertoire.

There are seven additional pipe stops and 169 extra pipes, bringing the total to 1,237.

Anthony began training as an organist at 12 - and built one as a school project at 14.

He went to university in Manchester.

“I studied to be a lawyer first of all, but during that time I started in my spare time overhauling or keeping going the organ at Manchester University - Holy Name Church.”

Anthony found himself spending more and more time doing this work, and realised he should be a professional organ builder.

He travelled to Austria to work with a prestigious firm, Rieger Orgelbau, for two years. There he learned many of the techniques which serve him to this day.

Further experience came with a Worcestershire firm, Nicholson & Co, which he followed with a stint as a freelancer.

Anthony founded Clevedon Organs in 2005.

“There are probably no more than 300 people working in organ-building - it’s a very, very niche trade.

“There are probably about 50 companies, ranging in size from 40 people down to one-man bands.”

Everybody is welcome to attend the September 12 recital.

There will be no entry fee, but a donation of £5 is suggested. The church website is