Bristol church to start hosting heavy metal music concerts

The nave at St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol Credit: St Mary Redcliffe

St Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol is hoping to host its first heavy metal concert at the beginning of 2025.

The idea started last August when doom metal bands, Pantheïst and Arð, performed with David Pipe, the cathedral organist at the Diocese of Leeds, at Huddersfield Town Hall.

The performance was featured on Radio 4’s Sunday Worship which prompted dozens of churches to explore the idea of pairing heavy metal with a pipe organ.

Joe Cryan, director of music at St Mary Redcliffe, is hoping this new sound will welcome more people to the church.

He said: “We’re looking at diversifying what our offering is. We’re always thinking, how can we reflect what Bristol looks and sounds like today.

“Bristol is becoming more and more a secular city. Bringing new people into the church to hear the organ in a new and exciting way is something I’m really keen to do."

Joe Cryan, director of music at St Mary Redcliffe Credit: Joe Cryan

Mr Cryan added that the organ at St Mary Redcliffe was famous around the world.

“Handel played it and Howells. We have a history of big musical players using our organ to structure how music can sound in the Church. So why not think of it in different ways?"

According to the church's records, the famous composer Handel was friends with the Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, Thomas Broughton, in the 1700s.

It's thought he may have played the Harris and Byfield organ that was fitted in the church at that time - some of whose surviving pipework was incorporated into the modern organ.

Of course, the idea of playing heavy metal music in a church isn’t for everyone.

In February, Canterbury Cathedral had to defend its decision to host a silent disco after a petition calling on the event to be cancelled received more than 1,500 signatures.

Mr Cryan said he understands why there might be “a bit of conflict” over the issue but insists the idea is “an absolute positive”.

“If we’ve got a heavy metal band coming in, then it’s going to bring in new voices, new perspectives and new ideas on what the church can be," he said.

At least seven metal bands have contacted St Mary Redcliffe so far to express their interest in performing there.

However, it won’t be until early next year that the 12th century church hosts its first heavy metal concert.