St Mary & St Margaret - Castle Bromwich Parish Church

Martin Bates, our church organist:

Martin Bates, B.Mus., G.R.S.M., A.R.M.C.M., organist and choir master at St Mary & St Margaret’s, Castle Bromwich Parish Church since 2008:


There I was, back in the early 1970s, as a pianist at Manchester University studying piano with Hedwig Stein. There were some “real” organists there at that time who perhaps looked at pianists who also played the organ as rather unfortunate hybrids! Pianists only used three pedals at best; a “real” organist could cope easily with dozens!


Having played the organ at Ward End Methodist church, St Margaret’s Parish Church and at Saltley Grammar School with organ and theory lessons from Gerald Gillett and Colin Cotgreave I did know what to do with my feet.


As a teenager I gained a scholarship as a piano pupil at Birmingham School of Music (now The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) under the wonderful tutoring of Constance Warren. She was a tough task master but it meant I could get round the notes quicker than most. And so here I am now some fifty years later still a pianist but also the “real” organist at the local church in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham and probably playing as much organ as piano!


When I returned from university in 1973 to St. Margaret’s parish church in Ward End, Birmingham, I found out at first-hand about being diplomatic with members of the church choir! I have been playing full-time at St Mary and St Margaret Church in Castle Bromwich since 2008 after retiring from class music teaching for Birmingham Education Committee for 34 years at Queensbridge, Moseley and John Willmott Schools.


It is a great thrill to go down to old Castle Bromwich village now, as musicians have for hundreds of years, to do preparation work sometimes with the great choir members for the forthcoming services. I get a real sense of continuing a long line of organists and choirmasters who have sat up in the organ loft week on week doing their best. If only time machines were available through Amazon!


 Martin Bates April 2018