16 Jul 2021
Chance to say “thank you for the music” as organ gets ready for major revamp
Music-lovers in Leeds will get a once-in-a-generation chance to glimpse the intricate inner workings of one of Europe’s most spectacular pipe organs this weekend.
Leeds Town Hall will welcome visitors both online and in person to a very special “meet the organ” event this Saturday which will be the last chance to get an up close look at the unique, 163-year-old instrument ahead of its major refurbishment later this year.
City organist Darius Battiwalla will be joined by technicians from specialist organ restorers Nicholson & Co for the event, who will discuss exactly how they will go about the meticulous deconstruction and renewal of the gigantic, 70-tonne musical monument.
Also in attendance will be representatives from the Brodrick Trust, a newly-formed charity which will be leading on fundraising efforts to support the refurbishment project in the coming months.
Fascinating never-before-seen footage recorded specially for the event reveals just a few of the impressive internal components that will be restored or replaced, including the organ’s 81 stops and 5,700 pipes as well as its soundboards and all-important console.
Speaking ahead of the event, Leeds City Organist Darius Battiwalla, who performs regularly in Leeds Town Hall organ concerts and recitals, said: “There are a lot of mixed emotions at the town hall as we get ready to say goodbye to the organ in October.
“Whilst we’re obviously sad that once work gets underway, we won’t be hearing the unmistakable sounds of this beautiful instrument for some time, we know that it’ll be in the very safest of expert hands while it’s fully restored and refurbished.
“Moreover, this project will ensure that the organ will continue to entertain our audiences and be an important part of the city’s unique musical heritage for generations to come.
“We’d love people to join us both at the town hall and online for what will be a fascinating look behind the scenes of this magnificent instrument with our colleagues at Nicholson & Co., who will explain how their work will impact on the organ and their exciting vision for its future.”
Played at the opening ceremony of Leeds Town Hall in 1858, which was attended by Queen Victoria, the Leeds Town Hall organ was originally built by Gray and Davison of London to designs by William Spark and Henry Smart.
At an impressive 50 feet high and 47 feet wide, the organ is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. The refurbishment will see decades of wear and tear fixed while the organ is re-voiced, giving it a fuller and more integrated sound for future performances.
The scheme is part of wider long-term efforts to refurbish and restore the interior of Leeds Town Hall which will see the building close later this year as exciting new events spaces and facilities are created. The new spaces will allow the much-loved building to host an even bigger programme of events and generate significant income for the council and the city.
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “Leeds Town Hall and its organ are two of the city’s most recognisable and cherished heritage assets and it’s important that we do all that we can to protect and them for future generations to enjoy.
“They are also superb examples of the how culture and the arts make a significant contribution to our local economy, and how having an imaginative and engaging programme of cultural activity generates important income, encourages visitors and builds a positive profile for Leeds as a whole.
“By taking care of these beautiful cultural assets, we are both preserving our city’s history and investing in its future too.”
Meet the Leeds Town hall Organ takes place on July 17 and is free to attend. Booking is necessary for those attending in person for COVID-19 Test and Trace purposes. To view the live stream, visit: Meet the New Town Hall Organ - Leeds Town Hall
More information on Leeds Town Hall including upcoming events and how you can support the building by making a donation and being part of fundraising can be found at: www.leedstownhall.co.uk
For media enquiries contact:
Leeds City Council Communications team