IT has been described as one of the hidden jewels of the music scene by Classic FM.

The programme spans multiple genres including classical, jazz, chamber music, opera and big band.

And the Grappenhall venue has also welcomed many acclaimed artists such as guitarist Craig Ogden, who has had five albums top the UK classic chart, and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra which has helped launch the careers of many renowned musicians including Amy Winehouse.

Welcome to Live at St Wilfrid’s which has been running for 28 years and led the way for other music societies in Warrington like Friends of Walton Hall Music.

Gordon Berry, one of the original founders, said: “A lot of music societies can have a very narrow outlook on musicians and the style of music but we’ve tried to make our concerts as broad as possible and I think that’s been one of the keys to its success.

“We’ve had jazz, pan pipes, brass bands and people have said that it’s great that they can come to a concert of this standard and not have to go to Manchester or Liverpool.”

These days it is quite fashionable for churches to be used as concert venues but Live of St Wilfrid’s – formed in 1991 – was way ahead of that. Eight times a year volunteers help transform the church into a concert hall, often with a raised platform for the artist to improve visibility.

They help change the layout, get refreshments ready, move the piano if necessary, prepare lighting and move chairs while working around the church’s engagements like weddings.

Ian Roberts, who has also been involved since the first year, added: “It’s a special atmosphere. Every artist who comes here says the acoustics are virtually perfect.

“I enjoy putting the concerts on. I love being involved and it has opened my eyes to a lot of new types of music.

“There are anxieties sometimes as to how things will work out and making people available to help.

“But we’re doing it for the benefit of St Wilfrid’s Church.”

There were three concerts in the first year with the first launched by Manchester-based pianist Andrew Wilde.

The organisers – which originally included Norman Cutter who died last year and Pete Tharme who died a few years ago – then grew in confidence when they got financial support from Lord Daresbury and welcomed Warrington’s own international pianist Stephen Hough for the first time in 1992.

Gordon said: “We started inviting professional musicians from further afield and our reputation began to spread.”

Ian added: “We quickly realised all the work that goes into choosing artists, contacting agents. We did it as professionally as we could bearing in mind that we were learning as we went along.

“In Warrington at that time there was hardly anything going on but we knew we could get an audience.”

After 28 years, Gordon and Ian are still very active in organising the concerts in a committee of eight.

The pair – aged 89 and 80 respectively – say it has kept them young.

Gordon said: “The concerts have kept us going.”

Ian added: “We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it.

“We spend a lot of time in meetings laughing because of the sense of humour that we all have. The minute it becomes a laborious chore it’s not worth it.

“Stephen Hough has been a big supporter of ours and I’m sure if the circumstances were right he’d help us again. We see that as an achievement as we like to think all the artists leave here with the right impression.”

The next concert at Live at St Wilfrid’s in Grappenhall is The Pelleas Ensemble this Saturday. Visit