Salisbury Cathedral Organ Plays Majestic Music During Vaccinations NPR's Scott Simon speaks to Salisbury Cathedral's Director of Music David Halls about playing music for those getting vaccinated in the church.
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Salisbury Cathedral Organ Plays Majestic Music During Vaccinations

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Salisbury Cathedral Organ Plays Majestic Music During Vaccinations

Salisbury Cathedral Organ Plays Majestic Music During Vaccinations

Salisbury Cathedral Organ Plays Majestic Music During Vaccinations

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/962358052/962358053" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Scott Simon speaks to Salisbury Cathedral's Director of Music David Halls about playing music for those getting vaccinated in the church.

Salisbury Cathedral, in Salisbury, England. Matt Cardy/Getty Images hide caption

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Salisbury Cathedral, in Salisbury, England.

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

(SOUNDBITE OF ORGAN)

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The organ inside Salisbury Cathedral peels majestically for worship. Of course, services are on Zoom during the pandemic. The 800-year-old cathedral has recently been turned into a COVID vaccination site, and those who were waiting to receive their vaccination can listen to the organ as they wait.

(SOUNDBITE OF ORGAN)

SIMON: David Halls is director of music at the cathedral. He joins us now from Salisbury, England.

Mr. Halls, thanks so much for being with us.

DAVID HALLS: It's a great pleasure. Thank you for having me.

SIMON: So what do you play?

HALLS: We start it off with sort of soothing, serene music because we felt that the age group that are coming in, who are very elderly at the moment, if they're anything like me, they don't really like needles stuck in their arm. So they need something to relax them. So we thought some classical lovely music by Handel and Bach and Mozart. And we have actually branched out a little bit more actually recently, if you want to hear about it.

SIMON: Yeah. Yeah, please.

HALLS: Well, simply because my dear parents who sadly are no longer with us are of this age group, or would have been...

SIMON: Yeah.

HALLS: ...And I thought my mother in particular loved musicals, you know, the classic musicals - "Show Boat," "Oklahoma!" So I dug out my copies of those. And I've been playing those sort of things as well, which have gone down extremely well, I think.

SIMON: Oh, that sounds wonderful.

HALLS: A few numbers from the war as well. You know, "The White Cliffs Of Dover" and things like that, which they just - you know, we're talking about age groups...

SIMON: (Singing) There'll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover.

HALLS: Absolutely.

SIMON: Oh, that always tugs my heart when I hear that, as a matter of fact.

HALLS: And sounds remarkably good on the 1876 organ as well.

SIMON: I understand you've been playing Nimrod - "Largo From Xerxes."

HALLS: Yeah. Oh, yeah, all that sort of stuff. Nimrod always goes down well.

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SIMON: I'm told that in the history of the cathedral, 1627, when a plague was spreading, the cathedral locked its doors...

HALLS: It did.

SIMON: ...To those who were infected. There is something very poetic and fitting that now it's opening its doors.

HALLS: You know, I've been working at the cathedral since 1985, which feels like a long time in many ways. But of course, when you talk about the 800-year history of the place, it's but a small part. And we've gone through the plague. And in recent times, I'm sure you've heard of the Novichok incident.

SIMON: The poisoning of a Russian spy, yeah.

HALLS: Yeah, that's right. So if these stones could speak, they would tell all these stories of the people coming to the cathedral to be healed and to find some sort of serenity, I suppose. So the fact we've got these vaccinations, which are, let's face it, beginning to turn around this awful pandemic, it feels just thoroughly appropriate that we're doing this.

SIMON: What do you hope the music you're playing might put in the hearts of people who are about to get their arms jabbed?

HALLS: I want people to be struck by the beauty of the building, the beauty of the organ music within the building, and the general feeling of hope and optimism, which pervades the place when these people are in there. So I think it's sort of a mixture of emotions, really, and we just feel privileged to be able to do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ORGAN)

SIMON: David Halls is director of music at Salisbury Cathedral. Thank you so much for speaking with us and for making life better.

HALLS: Well, it's really good to speak to you. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

(SOUNDBITE OF ORGAN)

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