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Leeds Town Hall


DariusB
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For those who might be interested, I've created a page with information about the history of the organ (with links to specifications and a much more detailed history), a bit about the City Organists, and an outline of the future plans for the organ.   More details will gradually follow.  Any comments welcome!

http://www.dariusbattiwalla.com/Darius_Battiwalla/cityorganist.htm

Darius

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20 minutes ago, DariusB said:

For those who might be interested, I've created a page with information about the history of the organ (with links to specifications and a much more detailed history), a bit about the City Organists, and an outline of the future plans for the organ.   More details will gradually follow.  Any comments welcome!

http://www.dariusbattiwalla.com/Darius_Battiwalla/cityorganist.htm

Darius

I for one am very grateful to you for this information.  I believe we (I say 'we', although I no longer live in God's County) are very lucky to have such an excellent instrument, especially at the time when it seems that interest in the organ is dwindling and instruments continue to be replaced by electronic substitutes or scrapped completely.  I think that we are also fortunate that work is to be done to improve and/or extend the instrument.

I should be particularly interested to learn of the proposed alterations and improvements to the organ as and when these become available, and would ask if you might kindly provide such details on this forum.

In the meantime may I ask you whether, in view of the addition of a fourth manual, the stops of this new division will be taken from the existing ones or be new additions?  Also, is the enclosed fourth manual division to be sited above the Swell or located elsewhere?

Thank you again.

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Darius - I’m not sure you have the answer for this but I was a little puzzled attending a couple of orchestral concerts over the last year (Also Sprach and something else which had an organ part). Both times a toaster was used. Is the Town Hall organ perhaps not at concert pitch or might there be another reason? It seemed unusual the first time and I wasn’t sure of any reason.

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Thank you very much for the opportunity to see this, Darius, and to comment on it.  It is really good to have this information all in one place perhaps for the first time, and to have it so attractively presented and well written.  I think it is excellent.  The NPOR entry has some of my photos on now (I used to be COG but mysteriously I have become CoGo) so there is a visual record there of the console and stop knobs.   What an exciting and dramatic sound this organ makes even in its less than perfect current state and how wonderful for it to have such a positive future.  Thank you again.

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Thank you Darius. My wife and I were in there on 23rd November singing in Elgar's The Kingdom - a combined choir concert with us in Cambridge University Symphony Chorus and the Leeds Philharmonic Chorus with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra - David Hill conducting. My first visit to Leeds for many many years. The organ was used in typical Elgar style - to underpin - and was lovely and warm and concert pitch!

We did a return match concert in Ely Cathedral last Saturday and the organ was very flat - hardly surprising as it was terribly cold! The concert was dedicated to our former conductor Sir Stephen Cleobury.

Peter

The-Kingdom-ElyFlyer.jpg

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On the electronic question, I'm not sure about this - the only reason I can think of is either: the organ part was so small that they didn't want the overcrowding you get on the stage with the existing console (one of the reasons we want a new one) - or it was a touring orchestra playing at a higher pitch so they brought their own organ.

On the questions from John about stops/manuals: definitely new stops, as the colours we're missing (clarinet, vox humana, open/harmonic 8' flutes) don't exist anywhere on the organ at the moment.  If I could try to summarise the layout/division thing:

As you look at the case, before 1972, from the bottom: behind the grille, just wind system etc, no pipes.  Next level: Great (divided front and back with G&D).  Third level: Swell behind, unenclosed choir organ in front. Top level: Solo box and horizontal 8'ophicleide.  (Pedal at the sides mostly on the Great level).

In 1972, the Great and Swell stayed where they were.  The unenclosed choir was removed and replaced by the Positive behind the grille at the lowest level.  The solo box was removed so only the Ophicleide remained on top of the Swell box.

All the builders we asked had no desire to return the Solo box to the top of the organ, for reasons of climate and access.   The Great will be rationalised and brought forward (it's very spread out at the moment) and the new Solo (nearly all new pipes) placed behind it.

In front of the Swell there is a large empty space where the choir was pre-1972.  It's been boarded-out to project the sound of the Swell, which it does very well.   The new Grand Chorus would go here (it's only 6 or 7 stops, but should be stronger than the Great).

Pedal stays largely the same, but with minor alterations, including a full-length 32' reed for the first time.  

Hope that helps!

Best

Darius

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Darius, thank you for this additional information.

I do think the projected alterations/additions sound excellent choices.  The Solo with a Vox Humana (my favourite - perhaps I'm a bit odd!), a dominating Grand Chorus with, presumably, six or seven independent stops (rather than an all-in-one stop as at Liverpool), the Positive remaining where it is and with (from my own experiences) a surprisingly direct sound rather like a 17th century Rückpositiv, and above all a full-length 32' reed - no doubt a big improvement on the underpowered (my own opinion only) existing half-length reed.

I look forward to the work eventually being completed and shall make sure that I undertake the trip across the Pennines to listen to the (hopefully) opening recital.  I'll even drag along my long-suffering wife.  Please let us know when that will be, won't you?

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  • 1 year later...

Live online organ recital today, Darius Battiwalla at Leeds Town Hall, 1.05 pm

As far as I can tell, this hasn’t been previously announced.  Programme includes JSB Prelude and Fugue, in C minor BWV 546, Hollins ‘A Trumpet Minuet’ and Reger Choral Fantasia on “Hallelujah, Gott zu loben”.  Not to be missed! Access via Leeds Town Hall website or, easier, go to organrecitals.com and click on programme.

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Thanks for drawing attention to that, Rowland.

The next three Mondays, at 1.05pm, are Margaret Phillips, Thomas Trotter, and Alan Horsey.  (And today')s is still available to listen again as well.

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Darius, thank you for your recital today and indeed for the introductions to each piece. Disappointing though that we couldn't see you working instead of  the static picture of the Town Hall and the organ case. I overlooked the time, so caught it about an hour later. Was that perhaps the reason for the static picture?

 

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Thank you - glad you enjoyed it.  I'm afraid it is audio-only for the time being - video is on its way but the combination of covid and a change of technical manager at the Town Hall has put it back a bit.  Definitely on the agenda though.  Please spread the word about the concerts  - every Monday until the end of April, as we've extended the season a bit.  I'll try to give this forum a bit more notice (though they are on organrecitals.com)

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Within a month I hope, now we've got over various COVID delays etc.  There is a lot going on behind the scenes and we're all ready with lots of publicity etc (as we will need to raise money!) but until the ink has actually hit the contract we're keeping quiet.  Not long now....

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Seeing not many posts for a few days, here goes...

The most entertaining organ recital I have ever attended was in Leeds Town Hall in 1991 or 1992. I select the word entertaining in the true sense; not the most moving nor the most profound but certainly the most entertainment. I was working in Leeds city centre at the time and I got into the habit of turning up when I could, sometimes without checking the programme. There was usually a visiting cathedral organist or RCO council member type on the bill. Anyway this week it was a theatre organist called Arnold Loxam (RIP). The place was unprecedently full with an audience who sometimes sang along and swayed to his tunes. Once I got over the initial culture shock it was fabulous fun.

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An opportunity to remind people that Margaret Phillips is giving tomorrow’s lunchtime recital, streamed online at 1.05 pm.  Easiest link is via organrecitals.com and clicking on ‘Programme’.

Arnold Loxam is not forgotten and was a name which used to crop up on “The Organist Entertains”.  

Although living in the deepest south of England I have enjoyed many visits to the Town Hall and some memorable concerts there in the company of Yorkshire friends.  One unforgettable performance was Francis Jackson’s Eclogue for piano and organ - played by Darius Battiwalla and Simon Lindley respectively - during a thunderstorm!  At one point Darius Battiwalla looked quizzically up at the ceiling during a lengthy rumble of thunder, but this did not interfere with the performance.  As I recall, the concert was a celebration of Francis Jackson’s 100th birthday, and John Scott Whiteley also played.

 

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My late friend, David J Rogers, was a frequent visitor to the Town Hall and other Leeds venues, (and no mean organist himself) He was always sat in the middle of the first row, ready to stick his trusty Tandy PZM microphones on the stage lip. I know he always had permission from 99% of the performers, but I always wonder if he had it 100% of the time

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Good to see my father's name in print again. He died in 2010 and the anniversary of his death is  on the 14th of March. He would have been 105 this year   I didn't attend that concert but he did talk about it many times with me.  He was always delighted to receive a call from Simon Lindley who on occasions asked him to play at a Town Hall open day.  My Dad was quite a devil and relished the chance to use the positive division as the accompaniment manual and couple down the Swell to beef it up.  As you say the audience reaction tells the tale.   I remember watching him set pistols once at the Town Hall and I thought, surely that can't work.   I surly did.

Keith Loxam. 

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I went to the opening recital in Leeds Town Hall after the c 1970's rebuild. (17th of May 1972)

It was given by Flor Peeters. I'm sorry, and forumites might find this an heretical thing to say, but my only recollection about the recital was being bored to death!!

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I have a copy of the programme which I’ll post when I get home later.   It’s unusual by today’s standards -  I’m not that surprised at your reaction.  And it also explains a lot about organ building styles at the time! I think it’s over half way through before he plays anything written after 1750....

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1 hour ago, DariusB said:

I have a copy of the programme which I’ll post when I get home later.   It’s unusual by today’s standards -  I’m not that surprised at your reaction.  And it also explains a lot about organ building styles at the time! I think it’s over half way through before he plays anything written after 1750....

I remember a recital in Westminster Cathedral c. 1975. I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember who the recitalist was—someone famous. The first two pieces were by Byrd; played on loud chorus reeds.

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3 hours ago, innate said:

I remember a recital in Westminster Cathedral c. 1975. I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember who the recitalist was—someone famous. The first two pieces were by Byrd; played on loud chorus reeds.

Could it, perchance, have been E Power Biggs? I remember some Sweelinck in St George's Hall, Liverpool where the antiphony between chorus reeds and tubas seemed ever so slightly inauthentic?

Ian

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4 hours ago, innate said:

I remember a recital in Westminster Cathedral c. 1975. I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember who the recitalist was—someone famous. The first two pieces were by Byrd; played on loud chorus reeds.

 

My late wife would talk of a recital in York Minster given by an eminent organist, still alive today, who made liberal use of the big Tuba which, and I may be wrong about this, she reckoned was sited at the front of the case. She was sitting on the front row and went home with ringing in her ears!!!

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I was at a recital in Salisbury Cathedral in the mid-1990s given by a well-known player, happily still with us, and suffered the full effects of the Salisbury tuba(s) - plural possible as he may have used the 4’ clarion as well - and very shortly after had a perforated left eardrum with excruciating pain.  Nevertheless I greatly admired the Salisbury Father Willis, and still do.  HW III left his mark on his grandfather’s organs at St George’s Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral, and I have often wondered whether he did more at Salisbury than Sir Walter Alcock possibly realised.

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I enjoyed the recital from Leeds today, in particular the Saint-Saens. As it happens that tune had been rattling round my mind a few weeks ago and I just couldn't place it.

Regarding thunder, some time ago I was at a concert by Ben van Oosten on the Metzler of the Grote Kerk in The Hague. During Guilmant 1, a few lightning flashes came during the first movement, then rising wind and rumbling thunder accompanied the second movement - it's surprisingly difficult to distinguish thunder and 32 footers during a quiet movement in a huge church - and then, as if on cue, Mother Nature and Mr van Oosten let rip for the final movement. It was fabulous, with smiles all round. Organ recitals should be fun.

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