Build an Organ Free Family Saturday at firstsite

An important part of the Organ Restoration Project’s outreach programme is an exciting collaboration with Colchester’s contemporary arts centre firstsite. Over two weekends in November 2014, sound artist and composer Duncan Chapman joined visual artist Willow Mitchell to run four very special ‘Free Family Saturday’ workshops for children and parents. In the sessions, children and their parents and carers were introduced to the organ through conversations and activities around sound, air and the organs relation to place.

In the first session on Saturday 15th November, Duncan brought along his giant inflatable for a ‘Build an Organ’ style workshop. After exploring the different shapes, sounds and sizes of the pipes, the group of around 20 children and parents created their own organ from the inflatable and were delighted with the sounds it made as the air was released.


It sounded a little something like this:


Music making

Also at the session was a tiny, beautifully made miniature wooden organ, which had be brought to firstsite specially for the project. The organ works by one person lifting the bellows and letting them slowly fall and expel air, whilst a second person plays the keys. Some of the group were almost professionals by the end of the session!

Mini organ

After exploring the sounds of the organ, Willow asked ‘what might these sounds look like?’ and ‘what did they make you think of?’. Answers ranged from ‘like dust falling’ to ‘crocodiles’!

Using these ideas, the children used black and white paper, clear laminates and tracing paper to create abstract patterns. Some of these were played as ‘graphic scores’ on the miniature organ.

Cut out patterns

Another activity using giant spirographs focused on the movement of the air through the pipes. Look at some of the beautiful patterns that were created!


Spirograph 1

Spirograph 2

Spirograph 3