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Fond farewell for church organist
AN organist who dedicated many years to two Oxford churches has retired after playing his final performance.
John Collier, 68, of St Nicholas Parish Church in Old Marston was given a rousing round of applause by the congregation.
Mr Collier has lived in Cowley for 26 years and started playing at the church back in Easter 1992.
He was previously the assistant organist at St Michael at the North Gate Church in Cornmarket Street for 25 years.
The retired headteacher said: “You can just think of all the sermons I have listened to.
“It is a really friendly church and has been really good over the years.
“I’m getting a little bit of arthritis in my hands which makes it difficult to continue. But age catches up with all of us.”
Having had no formal music lessons, he picked up playing the organ and developed his skills over the years.
He plans to continue his involvement with the church and hopes to spend more of his time showing social groups around Oxford’s Cathedral at Christ Church.
Vicar at St Nicholas Parish Church Rev Tony Price paid tribute to the organist.
The Rev Price said: “John has always been an unassuming person. He has always wanted the music to serve the worship of the congregation.
“He’s always been more than happy to play both traditional and modern music which just fits in with what we want to do.
“The thing that people really loved about John is that at the end of the service he would play a special piece as everyone was leaving.”
On St George’s Day he would play traditional English songs and on St David’s Day he would play the Welsh National Anthem.
Fittingly on his last performance on Sunday, December 30, he played Auld Lang Syne, both for the New Year and also as his way of saying goodbye.
In the last three years he participated with the church choir in the Oxfordshire Choir Festival.
The annual festival for the Royal School of Church Music took him to some special locations.
Mr Collier added: “The most recent event was at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. That was something special.
“It was quite a nice note to go out on when it happened back in October.”
Mr Collier is Oxford born and raised, attending Oxford High School for Boys in George Street as a child.
He studied at a teacher training college in Dudley in the West Midlands and moved back to Oxfordshire to work as a teacher.
His first teaching job was at Blackbird Leys Primary School.
He then went on to work at North Kidlington Primary School, St Ebbe’s Primary School and Bampton Primary School.
Spending around 40 years in teaching, he finished his career as the headteacher at Dr South’s School in Islip.
James Kennard, a medical student who has been a member of the church for four years, has been appointed as the new organist.