Christmas is a time for coming together, for giving, and for sharing the happy occasion with those close to us, and for one Atherton man, this year’s lead-up to December 25th may be his most special moment yet.
Denis Ratcliffe, 89, has enjoyed his debut performance at his home, Belong Atherton, entertaining fellow residents with festive favourites on his electric organ. Customers and colleagues at the Mealhouse Lane care village were joined by the organist’s son, Christopher, to sing their hearts out to Jingle Bells, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and White Christmas, before giving their much-loved musician and friend an emotional applause to complete the evening’s proceedings.
Kim Calland, experience coordinator at Belong Atherton and the event’s organiser, said: “Since Denis moved into his new home with us, he’s not stopped practising on his organ. I thought it would be nice to share his talent with everyone by helping him put on his first show. He was so happy when I approached him and he couldn’t stop talking about it!”
Having learnt the piano at age six, Denis recalls his teacher introducing him to the organ, sparking his love for the instrument and in particular, the cinema organ, a common sight throughout the nation’s picture houses in the 1920s and 1930s. More recently, the former bank manager and national serviceman also presided as a choirmaster in Formby, Merseyside, before moving to Belong in early 2022 to receive 24-hour support.
Denis commented: “It’s my favourite hobby and I wanted everyone to experience the joy that can come from such a wonderful instrument; I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous beforehand but I’m happy with how it went and I’m looking forward to performing more shows in the future.”
Kim added: “Christmas is a time for giving and we’re really pleased to help Denis to fulfil a dream. He’s part of our big Belong family and we invited everyone here to support him and we’ve loved sharing in his passion – what a magical moment!”
Other events in Belong Atherton’s yuletide festivities programme include visits from brass bands, theatre performers, and young singers from nearby Rowan Tree Primary School. The village recently welcomed the community for its annual Christmas Market, showcasing artisan gifts from local independent traders, delicious treats in the onsite bistro, and a visit from Santa Claus, himself.