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Organist takes on 800–hymn marathon challenge to boost parish funds

A Dublin organist is to play the entire Church Hymnal to raise funds for his parish. David O’Shea, Director of Music at St Philip’s Church in Milltown Parish will play through the Church Hymnal (5th edition) on Friday June 11. The Hymnathon will be livestreamed on Music at Sandford and St Philip’s YouTube channel starting at 9.30am next Friday morning.

David O'Shea at the organ in St Philip's sister church in Sandford.
David O'Shea at the organ in St Philip's sister church in Sandford.

Over the last 15 months parish funds have been hit hard and in exploring suitable alternative ways to raise income, David settled on the hymnathon as it is an event which can easily be followed remotely. Donations are invited and details of how to contribute are below.

There are 719 hymns and a total of 799 tunes in the Church Hymnal and some tunes are used several times resulting in over 800 pieces. David will play the first verse of each hymn. He has calculated that the Hymnathon will take approximately 10 hours to complete.

He is planning to play the hymns in order from start to finish which will mean that, because of the way the hymnal is structured, he will also proceed through the seasons of the Church year. So those wishing to tune in for some ‘unseasonal’ Christmas cheer, for example, can do so and David expects to reach Christmas at about 11am. He will shout out the hymn numbers as he goes along so that people following at home will know where in the hymnbook he has reached.

Asked if he had put in any additional training for the gruelling marathon of organ playing, David answered: “In a foolhardy way, no”. However, he added that he had spent many hours playing piano at feiseanna and would often practice for six hours at a time before an organ recital. He says he will take some breaks and already has received kind pledges of tea and homebaked goods during the day.

David would know a lot of the hymns in the hymnal through regular inclusion in services however he expects there will be many he has never played and the hymnathon offers a chance to explore lesser known church music.

He has been part of other hymnathons with singers or a series of organists but this will be his first solo event and the first time he has attemped the entire hymnal. “This is an organ marathon. But it is something I have thought of doing as an endurance test,” he comments agreeing that a global pandemic presents an opportunity to try new things. “My organ shoes may be worn out by the end of the day,” he adds.

You are invited to tune into the hymnathon during the day on the Music at Sandford and St Philip’s YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjpXKvUfmixmFLZGptJLkpw

Donations will be gratefully received to: St Philips Church, Milltown, IBAN IE43 AIBK 9310 9842 7130 31, BIC AIBKIE2D or via St Philip’s Milltown Parish GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/f/st-philips-parish-dublin-6


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