Frithelstock church organist steps down aged 93

Gwen Barrow has decided to retire as Frithelstock Church organist after almost 50 years and aged 93

Gwen Barrow has decided to retire as Frithelstock Church organist after almost 50 years and aged 93 - Credit: Gwen Barrow

A church organist has called time on career after almost half a century and at the age of 93. 

Gwen Barrow has played the organ at Frithelstock Parish Church since the post became hers by accident at an evening service on March 14, 1971, attended with her late husband Henry Barrow. 

She said: “There was no music, so the vicar asked if there was anyone who could play and my husband said ‘Gwen can’ and from that time on, I was the organist. 

“I was the main organist but not the only one – I did not expect to be doing it for that long!” 

Mrs Barrow said she had given up her longstanding voluntary role for health reasons, but during her 49-year career she played for five different vicars as well as being a member of the church council, plus on the cleaning and alter flower rota. 

On her 93rd birthday, the current vicar, the Reverend Peter Bevan, and the congregation gathered outside her home and serenaded her with a surprise carol service in her yard. 

She told the Gazette she had enjoyed her long stint as organist, and said: “I enjoyed playing the music, but I did not like funerals, especially of it was a member of the congregation. 

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“Weddings were fun, especially if I was being invited to the reception afterwards.”  

She said all the pieces of music were favourites to her, although she did have a soft spot for Amazing Grace.

Gwen Barrow said she enjoyed playing all the organ music at Frithelstock church, although Amazing Grace was probably her favourite

Gwen Barrow said she enjoyed playing all the organ music at Frithelstock church, although Amazing Grace was probably her favourite - Credit: Gwen Barrow

Mrs Barrow’s husband Henry was a sidesman for the church for 70 years. She has a daughter and two grandsons. 

She was also a member of Frithelstock WI for 48 years, although her WI ‘career’ began in 1952 when she used to accompany her mother to Littleham WI, before getting married in 1960 and joining the Frithelstock group in 1972. 

Rev Bevan added: “On Sunday mornings, before the start of the service, she would play a medley of bright and tuneful music to welcome the congregation. Gwen has a wide repertoire of music and hymns, new and traditional, much of which she could play by heart.  

“We will greatly miss her playing and hope she will still be able to come along to church now and again when circumstances allow. Her dedication since 1971 is an inspiration to us all.” 

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