Whilst outwardly the Auckland Town Hall Organ looks much as it always has, (apart from repolished façade pipes and organ case), but behind that very grand and impressive façade is a brand new organ. Admittedly there are the remnants of the 1911 instrument that were left after the unfortunate 1970 rebuild but basically it is a new organ, and what a wonderful instrument it now is. No longer the hopeful cry from the orchestral conductor ‘More organ please’. ‘Sorry, Maestro that is all there is!!”. Now it is a case of ‘A little less organ please, organist’.
Klais Orgelbau, Bonn, Germany has delivered Auckland and indeed New Zealand an instrument of international significance. The opening was an occasion for great celebration with the choirs of Viva Voce, Musica Sacra and the Graduate Choir filling the bleaches for a musical treat, the likes of which Auckland has not heard for at least forty years. Congratulations to the Auckland Youth Orchestra and young organist Paul Tarling for their very fine organ concerto. John Wells’ organ symphony, composed specially for the occasion and funded by the Freemason Roskill Foundation and the Lodge of the Liberal Arts, was a major feature of the event. When Philipp Klais had concluded his brief, very genuine remarks on the day of the opening the applause from the capacity audience was long and genuine and at that stage the audience had not even heard a note from the organ. Were they disappointed? NO. As folk departed I was at the door of the Town Hall and the joyous comments from the audience as they departed was ‘music to my ears!’
The organ is magnificent and produced the sound we had all wanted, that of the great English Town Hall organ sound. You could feel the sound all around and the deep notes rumbling through the floor as they used to do prior to 1970. And what a rare treat to have the two Maori stops as part of the new instrument and with their beautiful carving and embossed motifs, lodged within the Solo Organ.
Salutations to Klais, to Philipp and his team, including Thomas, Stefan, Markus, the team from the South Island Organ Company. Special mention to Ian Bell our erudite, engaging and hugely knowledgeable consultant from London who kept us all on our toes. Indeed the creative team of Philipp and Ian have ensured that what we have is what the citizens of Auckland wanted, and they showed it!
Special mention to Auckland City Executive Leigh Redshaw for his unfailing support and goodwill throughout the project. His work with Ian Bell, Philipp Klais and the Trust provided a highly professional and essential part of the entire project.
Throughout the project Kerry Stevens, with cameraman, Bill McCarthy, has been recording the progress of the project and it is widely expected that the fruits of their labours will be seen in an hour long documentary on one of our TV stations. This was funded by the trust and indeed the whole project, from inception, has been well documented for the future.
Ten years ago John Wells was championing the refurbishment of the organ. Indeed many thought it had been done when the Town Hall was completely refurbished 12 years ago, but that was not so. All that happened was the repositioning of the detached console from its position on the stage to a place immediately below the pipes. It was when Mayor John Banks established the Town Hall Organ Trust during his first term as mayor that things really started to happen. Well done John for ‘sounding the call’ and Stephen Hamilton for chairing the trust through five years of negotiations, fund raising and marketing the project, and now it is done.