HOLDING the record for the largest audience ever seen at the Sydney Opera House in 1979, lifetime organist David Parsons has played to some packed venues and adoring fans.
But he was equally at home yesterday playing at the humble Bexhill Uniting Church, which seats just 70.
Since being invited to play the legendary Bexhill pipe organ for the first time 22 years ago, Mr Parsons has come without fail every year, playing a total of 50 concerts to devoted local fans.
Admirers have even been bussed all the way from Brisbane and Port Macquarie to witness the virtuoso in an intimate setting.
Wife of 55 years Beverley said Mr Parsons started playing church organs at 11, when his family found he could instinctively play a piece of music by ear.
One piece of music, The Swan, he plays entirely with his feet on the organ's pedals. "He lives and breathes it," she said. "He plays music that appeals to people and he plays it very well."
One of his famous techniques is delivering almost any request without sheet music; over his entire career he has only missed one or two tunes. "He plays music people love. David's theory has always been if you're going to give a concert, you play what your audience wants, not what you want," Mrs Parsons said.
The Bexhill Uniting Church is one of the smallest churches in Australia to boast its own pipe organ.
Grant Virtue, organist since 1940, tracked down the organ "for a song" in 1962 after the advent of the cheaper electric organ made handmade pipe organs somewhat outmoded. It was kept by the original owner's son in several boxes split between two houses either end of Brisbane.
"He always hoped it might finish up in a church some- where, so he let us have it for just 250 pounds," Mr Virtue said.
It took Mr Virtue six months to lovingly reconstruct the pipe organ and install it in the church, after trucking it down with a pig lorry owned by a member of the Bexhill congregation.
It's now insured for more than $100,000.