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Andrew Palmer
News Editor
8:00 PM 2nd June 2021
arts

Leeds Town Hall Pulls Out All The Stops To Preserve Historic Organ

The magnificent Leeds Town Hall organ.
The magnificent Leeds Town Hall organ.
It’s an historic conservation project that’s sure to strike a chord with music lovers all across Leeds and beyond.

Leeds Town Hall’s one-of-a-kind organ, which has been part of the city’s heritage for more than 160 years, is set for some major restoration work designed to protect and preserve it for future generations.

One of the largest of its kind in Europe, the towering 50 foot-high organ was designed by noted architect Cuthbert Brodrick and famously played at the opening ceremony of Leeds Town Hall, attended by Queen Victoria in 1858.

Over the past 163 years, the organ’s unmistakable sound has filled the building’s stunning Victoria Hall during countless gatherings, events and concerts, entertaining audiences from Victorian Leeds’s high society as well as today’s popular modern day recitals.

Now as the decades of wear and tear begin to take their toll, a team of highly specialist engineers has been drafted in to take on the mammoth task of replacing the instrument’s soundboards, wind supply and console.

The project will also see the instrument re-voiced, giving it a fuller and more integrated sound during future performances.

Leeds City Organist, Darius Battiwalla with the Leeds Town Hall organ. Credit Justin Slee.
Leeds City Organist, Darius Battiwalla with the Leeds Town Hall organ. Credit Justin Slee.
Leeds City Organist, Darius Battiwalla, who regularly takes to the stage at the town hall to play the organ, said: “The organ is a genuine one of a kind and it’s an absolute honour to be the latest in a long line of musicians who have taken on the responsibility of sharing its wonderful sound with our visitors and audiences.

“Performances on the organ are extremely popular and not only de we regularly attract hundreds-strong audiences for our free recitals, the organ also play a huge part in our international concert season. Inevitably, years of such heavy use and hard work have taken their toll.

“The history and heritage of the organ is such that over the years it has developed something of its own personality for those of us working at the town hall, and we’re delighted to see it getting some much-needed care and attention after so many decades entertaining the people of Leeds. Thanks to this project, the organ’s fascinating story will continue and generations of future music-lovers will get to experience its beautiful music.”

The organ refurbishment scheme will cost a total of £1.8m, which will initially funded by from Leeds City Council, allowing the work to be carried out as soon as possible and minimise the time the organ will be out of action.

The funding will then be repaid to the council by a fundraising campaign, which will include grant funding, sponsorship and donations and which will take place while the refurbishment is ongoing.

The scheme is part of wider efforts to refurbish and restore Leeds Town Hall, taking care of a Grade 1 listed public asset whilst also ensuring the building can host large-scale events and concerts which 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 has been the heart of the city for generations and is one of the city’s best-loved and most recognisable buildings.

“The town hall and the organ also plays a central role in the city’s annual programme of cultural events and activities, generating significant income for the council and our local economy.

“The organ itself is a piece of musical heritage of international significance and it’s hugely important that both the building and its magnificent instrument are protected and preserved for future generations.”

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