Royal musical recognition for local organist

Norham organist Julian Bonia has received a certificate of special service from the Royal School Church Music.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 12:21
Julian Bonia with the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam.

The award is in recognition of his unstinting and selfless service to churches and their communities over many decades.

At Salisbury Cathedral, he was presented with his certificate by the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Rev Nick Holtam.

Julian is presently the rock on which church music at the historic Church of St Cuthbert’s, Norham survives and thrives – and the community are thrilled to celebrate Julian’s award too.

Julian’s musical journey began as a chorister at St Michael’s, Alnwick, where he became fascinated by organ music and technology.

At 17 in London, he bought a piano with his first week’s pay and then managed to finance some lessons with the international recitalist, Nicholas Danby. He gave recitals in and around the City of London and played for broadcast services, including a special service at Westminster Cathedral.

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Noting his practical skills, Danby persuaded Julian to renovate the organ at the City University, London.

Since 1965, Julian has been the organist at eight different churches. He moved back to Northumberland in 1974. At Berwick Parish Church, he revived a small choir and built it up to about 40 members.

He started playing at St Cuthbert’s, Norham, for two Sundays in the month and also helped at Ayton Parish Church. He then became full-time organist at Norham without any financial recompense; and for more than 20 years, he regularly dashed across the border after the Norham service to play for a service at Ladykirk.

In 1990, he started a major restoration of the Binns organ at Norham and completed it in 2000. Among many other activities, he has helped with the music at Norham school and carried out many organ restorations or installation of refurbished organs for churches including Lowick, Doddington, Berwick RC, Spittal, Fogo, Swinton and Ladykirk.