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


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.


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.


When I returned from university in 1973, I played the organ at St Margaret’s parish church, Ward End and learned first-hand about being diplomatic with members of the church choir! Retiring in 2008 from music teaching for Birmingham Education Committee for 34 years at Queensbridge, Moseley and John Willmott Schools, I began playing full-time at St Mary and St Margaret's Church, Castle Bromwich. So some fifty years after my time at Manchester University, I am still a pianist, but also the “real” organist at the parish church in Castle Bromwich, and probably playing as much organ as piano!


It is a great thrill to go down to old Castle Bromwich village now, as musicians have for hundreds of years, to prepare with the choir for 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