St Albans Cathedral organist hopes David Bowie tribute helps grieving fans

PUBLISHED: 12:35 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:42 14 January 2016

St Albans Cathedral organ scholar Nicholas Freestone has won praise for his poignant tribute to David Bowie. After the video went viral on YouTube, the Abbey was visited by ITV London reporter Peter Smith and cameraman Tony Hall.

St Albans Cathedral organ scholar Nicholas Freestone has won praise for his poignant tribute to David Bowie. After the video went viral on YouTube, the Abbey was visited by ITV London reporter Peter Smith and cameraman Tony Hall.

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ITV London has visited St Albans Cathedral to film its ‘humble’ organist Nicholas Freestone playing David Bowie hit Life on Mars.

David Bowie’s legions of heartbroken fans have been moved to tears after a video of a St Albans Cathedral organist’s ‘breathtaking’ tribute went viral, with 3.2 million views.

After news of the music legend’s death broke on Monday (11), the Cathedral’s 24 year old organ scholar, Nicholas Freestone, played a rendition of hit single Life on Mars.

It was uploaded onto YouTube and posted on Facebook later that afternoon, with staff at the historic cathedral unprepared for the explosive affect on social media.

Just two days later, the tribute’s total reach on the Cathedral’s Facebook page was over 10.7 million, with 3.2 million views of the video, 127,000 likes and shares, and 3,200 comments.

On YouTube, the rendition had received 134,066 hits by yesterday (Wednesday) morning.

Stunned marketing and friends assistant Helena O’Sullivan said: “It was a nice tribute to David Bowie, but the aim wasn’t to get this amount of attention.”

When the Herts Advertiser spoke with Nicholas on Tuesday, moments before he was to be interviewed by ITV London for a live news report and while church staff were taking calls from news agencies, he said: “We were all very shocked to wake to the news of David Bowie’s death.

“So we wanted to do something for people who worship and work here. I absolutely adore Life on Mars; it is one of his best songs, and it works well on the organ, so I put it together, and had an impromptu ‘concert’ for the church community, staff and worshippers.”

Nicholas said he did not intend playing any other David Bowie songs on the organ as, “Life on Mars is a song with harmonies which suit the organ – you don’t need guitar and drums working alongside it.”

People listening to his rendition have admitted to having “chills down my spine” and crying.

One commented: “Damn, I promised I wouldn’t cry…” while Val Williams wrote on Facebook: “Nicholas Freestone…that was utterly breathtaking…I have a lump in my throat the size of a rock and my eyes are leaking. Of all the tributes I’ve seen today for David Bowie, yours was glorious…simple…heartfelt and unique.”

Local resident Vanessa Gregory tweeted: “As always @StAlbansAbbey knows how to express what is in our hearts”.

The organist admitted to being humbled by the response to his rendition, saying, “it has clearly touched a lot of fans. I think it has helped people to cope with the grief of losing a cultural icon”.

Now 18 months into his two-year post as an organ scholar, Nicholas recently played the organ for Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson when he held a fundraising concert for the Cathedral.

• Peggy Jones, David Bowie’s mother, died in her late 80s in 2001 at a nursing home in St Albans, according to a BBC report.

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