St. Albans Organ Theatre has been described as one of Hertfordshire’s best kept secrets. Whilst it is true that a lot of our visitors had never heard of us before visiting (and had lived in the area without realising we exist!), did you know that the beginnings of St. Albans Organ Theatre go back to the early 1960s? Since 1978 the collection has been administered by a Charitable Trust, St. Albans Musical Museum Society (SAMMS), which in 2018 was one of five charities in Hertfordshire to receive a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

If you haven’t heard of us before then here is what we do. We are responsible for a collection of mechanical musical instruments plus theatre pipe organs. We regularly demonstrate our collection with live performances, at monthly Sunday afternoon openings and theatre organ concerts, whilst also putting on other events and private functions (for more information, please visit our website).

An essential part of how we function is that we are entirely staffed by volunteers. Ever since our founder Charles Hart started opening his collection, volunteers have been at the heart of what we do. Many of our volunteers have been involved with St. Albans Organ Theatre for years, if not decades. That said we always welcome new volunteers to join the team.

Our volunteers are responsible for a range of activities. To list just some, these include front of house activities plus demonstrating and presenting the instruments to visitors. Then there are the jobs which are carried out behind the scenes. These include maintaining exhibits, the administration for openings and many others. The management committee of SAMMS is effectively the decision making body which oversees the running of the collection. There is one thing in common that links all of these roles together – it is volunteers who carry out the work. Without them, we just could not exist.

SAMMS was nominated for the Queen’s Award by two individuals who had long known of the work of SAMMS and the contribution of volunteers to its success. The application process involved a number of the volunteers meeting two Deputy Lieutenants of Hertfordshire. We discussed with them what we do, the role of volunteers and how we benefit the local community and visitors. In June 2018, we were informed that we had been successful in our nomination. The award was presented at a special event by the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire and Madam Mayor of St. Albans. What was also very special was the fact the award was presented to us in the same year as the charitable trust celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was therefore a really fitting way of recognising the commitment and dedication of our volunteers both past and present. Our founder Charles Hart had a motto “Spread a little happiness”. That is what the volunteers have achieved and we strive to continue to spread a little happiness into the future.