THE world’s top Czech pianist has said he’ll shrug off the cool temperatures inside Hay-on-Wye’s St Mary’s Church to help raise the £30,000 needed for a new boiler and heating system.

Radoslav Kvapil is regarded as the most eminent pianist playing the Czech composers and the chance to hear the 82-year-old perform outside his native Czech Republic is now a rare opportunity.

So the chair of St Mary’s Music Committee, John Funnell, who has known Radoslav for nearly 40 years, was overjoyed when the “very exciting celebrity” accepted his invitation to give a recital on the evening of Saturday, October 22.

“This is a rare opportunity for music lovers to hear one of the greatest pianists of Czech music. We have 160 seats available in St Mary’s,” said John.

He added: “The Priest in Charge of St Marys, Father Richard Williams, has said the importance of music to the church’s continued survival cannot be underestimated. The fact the aged boiler is not able to get the temperature above 15 degrees C in the coldest months is a major problem. We can’t have musicians performing in that temperature. It needs to be at least 18 degrees C inside the church. We need to raise around £30,000 for a new boiler and heating system.

“Radoslav has said he’s very happy to come here and provide this concert because he will kick-start the fundraising.”

John first met Radoslav in the 1970s, when as a founder trustee of St George’s Music Trust in Bristol, he greeted the piano pedagogue who was giving a concert.

“He has always had this feeling towards churches and fundraising,” said John.

In Bristol Radoslav had appreciated the fine acoustics of the famed St Georges, however John said St Mary’s has also become known for its “great acoustic” and the great pianist is looking forward to his performance.

Followers of the church’s music programme have enjoyed many outstanding performances including a sell-out screening of the silent black and white thriller Nosferatu in November 2014 and 2015 as well as on Friday, October 7 this year which saw Fr Richard, an accomplished organist and extemporiser, accompany the film to chilling effect on the church’s 1800s Bevington Organ.

Fans have also enjoyed Clare College from Cambridge, Hereford Cathedral School choir, and the Volksrenije Choir from St. Petersburg, who returned for the second year on October 4 this year, as well as concerts by the Leamington Sinfonia.

Radoslav, who has performed in major concert halls throughout the world, will however, arguably, be the most celebrated musician the church has hosted.

His programme includes works from Beethoven, Chopin, Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu.

He’ll be bringing with him his latest album, recently recorded, of Chopin’s Ballads and Polonaises, not yet released in the Czech Republic, which he will sign in the church.

For John, meeting Radoslav in Hay will be particularly special. He last met the great pianist when he knocked on his door in Bristol as he recovered at home from a near-fatal car crash in 1989.

“I was a mess. He came to see me before performing in a concert that evening at the Colston Hall in Bristol. He practised the Steinway we had at that time. Our eldest daughter, Ellie, was 7. She will never forget listening to Radoslav playing the Grieg piano concerto in our bedroom, the only room large enough to house it in our rented flat” said John.

Radoslav Kvapil’s concert at St Mary’s in Hay starts at 7pm on Saturday, October 22. Tickets are £10 and are available from John Funnell on 01497 822513, 07866933600 or E-mail: funnelljohn7@gmail. Children of school age are free with an adult.