Adelaide Town Hall
William Street, Adelaide

Present organ: B 1989 J.W. Walker & Sons, Brandon, Suffolk;
opened 30 Mar 1990, Simon Preston.
4 manuals, 61 speaking stops, 10 couplers, tracker & electro-magnetic stop action.



Adelaide Town Hall (1985) Photo: TB




For a history of the Adelaide Town Hall organs please click here and follow the various links.

The Adelaide Town Hall was opened in 1866, the Hill & Son organ being installed in 1877. During the hall's restoration in the late 1980s, it was decided not to restore the Hill organ (which had been severely altered and rebuilt over its life) and instead a contract was signed with the British builder, J W Walker & Sons for a new concert organ. At the time of its building, the organ was the largest mechanical action organ to have been built in the UK in more than 100 years. The new organ, designed to compliment the other organs in Adelaide, is essentially an English organ with English stop names but with a French flavour in the reeds. The key action is mechanical but has the option to have electrical intermanual "assisted coupling" if desired. The organ was voiced by Paul Fulcher and opened in 1990.






 

From the 2009 OHTA Conference Book, David Shield writes:


The City Fathers recognised that the attempt in 1969 to modernise the Town Hall organ had been a failure.  Criticism of the 1875 Hill & Son instrument had begun soon after its erection in 1877, and comments were sought from each visiting organist through to the 1960s.  In 1969 a rebuilding was undertaken but was regarded as unsuccessful.  10 years later the future of the organ was again canvassed leading to the decision to discard the instrument in favour of the new organ from J.W. Walker and Sons Ltd now gracing the Town Hall.  After storage the old instrument is being reconstructed in the Barossa Regional Gallery Hall at Tanunda.

 

The demand for “modernity” began early.  Initially the organ was regarded as having tonal limitations.  The appointment of Professor Ives as City Organist led to the addition of a fourth manual with mainly “orchestral” stops, constructed by Fincham & Hobday in 1888.  Although a soft pedal stop was added by Dodd in 1933, suggestions for harp and carillon stops that had surfaced in 1929 came to nothing.1  The visit of Marcel Dupré led to a change in pitch but not other reforms sought at the same time.2

 

It was the limitations of the combination actions that drew criticism.  Every opportunity was taken to seek the opinions of visiting organists.  Wiegand,3 Lemare, Hollins, and Nizan were all approached for comment.4  From the visit of André Marchal in 1953 to beyond that of Pierre Cochereau in 1959, the “antiquated heirloom” was a focus for comment.  The Council was urged to rebuild the organ though there was little financial support forthcoming from the public.5

 

Opinion was divided between those who wanted to discard the Hill instrument completely and those who wanted it rebuilt and “modernised”.  J.V. Peters, Lecturer in Music at the University of Adelaide since 1954, was in favour of modernising the organ.6  Peters was appointed City Organist following Harold Wylde in 1966.  Using Peters as consultant, the Council took the opportunity to alter both the tonal quality of the organ and its action radically in sympathy with the ‘Organ Reform’ movement of the time.

 

The final performance on the old organ before its “renovation” was given by E. Power Biggs on 15 February 1969.  Biggs was apparently delighted with the Hall and organ, especially its free standing nature and tracker action.  As with others asked before him, his views, on the proposed changes to the Town Hall Organ, were expected and “should be interesting”.  As it transpires his comments were not reported though he did have difficulty adjusting to the instrument.  He felt the necessity to substitute Pachelbel for the Mozart listed in the programme.  Apart from the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor “played with authority and style”, Harold Tidemann, critic of the Advertiser, felt “he played safe, sticking to the registrations he had worked out beforehand”, and working wonders with the antiquated mechanism.  The remaining items were regarded as “mostly novelties”.  Nevertheless the full house demanded no less than three encores.7

Laurie Pipe Organs Pty Ltd, of Melbourne, was the successful tenderer for the rebuild, undertaken in 1969/70.8  The inaugural recital of the refurbished instrument was given by Dr Peters in March 1970.  Unfortunately there was general agreement that the rebuilt organ was a failure.  It appeared to have lost its original character and technical problems made it unreliable and difficult to play.9

 

In 1981 enquiries began as to the future of the Hill.  Despite representations, restoration to the original condition was considered impossible as many of its original parts were lost or altered.  The decision was made in favour of a new instrument.  An appeal committee was organised, with Mr L. Barrett OBE as chairman, and Mr Andrew H. Baghurst was organ consultant.  A contract was entered into with J.W. Walker and Sons Ltd for a new organ and case in 1987.  It was to be a realisation of a late 19th century English/French instrument of 64 stops over four manuals with mechanical key action and electric stop action.  The case was to retain the 19th century character of the hall and decorative features, urns lyres and ornate ‘coat of arms’ (the central trumpet-blowing angels) were to be incorporated from the Hill & Son organ to create a link with the past.10

 

The organ was initially scheduled for opening in February but remained mute for a month.  Like its 1877 predecessor, the delay was due to the redecoration of the Hall.  Concrete dust had damaged the instrument.11

 

The first public performance of the new organ was given on 30 March 1990.  With the South Australian Symphony Orchestra, Simon Preston began the programme with a specially commissioned fanfare by Neil Currie, the Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence.  It was followed by Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 and Variations on ‘America’ by Charles Ives.  It is interesting to note that Biggs used both these items in the final recital on the Hill organ in 1969.  With the Orchestra, came Dupré’s Concerto for Organ & Orchestra in E minor and, after interval, Symphony No 3 by Saint Saëns.12

 

It is not easy to read the tenor of the press comment on the organ’s performance shared as it was with the Orchestra.  Elizabeth Silsbury started by giving the organ the temperament of a prima donna, unwilling to share the limelight.  However, she felt the organ sounded even more spectacular than it looked.  Preston himself said, “it fills the room wonderfully well.”  Rather than a positive it seems the organ was too loud, the floor rumbling, ceiling shivering  “and everything in between shaking from the blasts of Double Trumpet…”.  It apparently blended well with the orchestral pieces and was least at home with Bach; Preston’s “dazzling variety of tone and color” adding little to the piece.  The comment was rounded out with forgiveness for delay and congratulations to the Council for at last giving the Town Hall “an organ worthy of its foot room”.13

 

 

 

J.W.Walker & Sons Ltd 1989

4 manuals, 61 speaking stops, mechanical key action,

electric stop action and optional coupling

 



Great
Double Open Diapason
Open Diapason
Gemshorn
Chimney Flute
Principal
Tapered Flute
Fifteenth
Furniture
Cymbal
Cornet (TG)
Double Trumpet
Trumpet
Clarion
Tremulant
Swell to Great
Choir to Great
Solo to Great

Swell
Quintaton
Diapason
Stopped Flute
Salicional
Voix Céleste (AA)
Principal
Clear Flute
Flageolet
Mixture
Bassoon
Harmonic Trumpet
Vox Humana
Clarion
Tremulant
Solo to Swell

Choir
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason
Principal
Chimney Flute
Nazard
Fifteenth
Recorder
Tierce
Larigot
Sifflet
Sharp Mixture
Cremona
Tremulant
Solo to Choir
Swell to Choir

Solo
Flûte Harmonique
Flûte Octaviante
Octavin
Bombarde
Trompette
Clarion
Royal Trumpet
Tremulant

Pedal
Great Bass
Open Diapason
Violone
Bourdon
Principal
Bass Flute
Violoncello
Fifteenth
Open Flute
Mixture
Contra Trombone
Trombone
Fagotto
Trumpet
Clarion
Tremulant
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
Solo to Pedal

16
8
8
8
4
4
2
VI
IV
V
16
8
4






16
8
8
8
8
4
4
2
V
16
8
8
4




8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
2
1-3/5
1-1/3
1
IV
8





8
4
2
16
8
4
8



32
16
16
16
8
8
8
4
4
VI
32
16
16
8
4





























































































ACCESSORIES

Capture combination action with 8 levels of memory providing:

8 thumb pistons to Solo Organ

8 thumb pistons to Swell Organ

8 thumb pistons to Great Organ

8 thumb pistons to Choir Organ

8 toe pedals to Pedal Organ

12 General thumb pistons

Reversible piston Solo to Great (thumb and toe)

Reversible piston Solo to Swell (thumb only)

Reversible piston Solo to Choir (thumb only)

Reversible piston Solo to Pedal (thumb only)

Reversible piston Swell to Great (thumb and toe)

Reversible piston Swell to Choir (thumb only)

Reversible piston Swell to Pedal (thumb only)

Reversible piston Great to Pedal (thumb and toe)

Reversible piston Choir to Great (thumb only)

Reversible piston Choir to Pedal (thumb only)

Reversible piston Contra Trombone (thumb only)

General advance (thumb and toe) with address display

General cancel thumb piston

Setter thumb piston

Keyswitch to secure piston combinations

Push buttons to select memory level

Drawstop: Great and Pedal combinations coupled

Drawstop: Assisted coupling

Balanced swell pedal

Duplicate set of thumb and toe pistons for use by registrant.

 

Compass: 61/32

61 stops over 4 manuals and Pedal
Mechanical key action (with electric option for couplers)
Electric stop action

Sequencer with multiple memory levels.

Piston board for page turner to push pistons.

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

1  The suggestion for a carillon stop was first mooted by Wiegand in a letter to the Adelaide Town Clerk dated 19 August 1896.  In 1929 the Council asked Hill Norman & Beard to price the carillon but no action ensued; TC In 1989/1929, dated 20 June.

 

2  Shield D, ‘Pitching for Change: the ABC and Dupré 1938/9’, OHTA News (October 2008), pp.20-24

 

3  Wiegand’s proposals, both tonal and action changes, were contained in: TC In, 2309/1896.  Dodd advised against most of them, TC In: 2490/1896.

 

4  For Lemare see Register, 7 September 1903, 9.1; Hollins see Shield D, ‘Alfred Hollins Passes Through Adelaide’ Organ Australia (June 2008), pp.46-48 and December 2008, p.4; Nizan see Advertiser, 1 September 1938, p. 12.5

 

5  A record of correspondence to the daily media is to be found in TC File 440B: Organ Town Hall 1 December 1959 – 14 September 1967 : newspaper references.

 

6  Advertiser, 3 September 1959: letter to editor re modernisation of organ.

 

7  Dr Enid Robertson, Arts and Entertainment, ‘Ambitious Opera Venture’, Advertiser, 15 February 1969, p.19; ibid, p.22 ‘Town Hall Impresses Organist’; Harold Tridemann, ‘Organist ‘Works Wonders’; E. Power Biggs. Adelaide 1969’, Advertiser, 17 February 1969, p.12;  recital programme 15 February 1969.

 

8  For details, see Jefferson, B., Steve Laurie Organ Builder: His Life and Works (1998), pp.190-199

 

9  Lord Mayors Gala Concert Souvenir Programme 30th March 1990

 

10 Ibid.; Organ Appeal Brochure, Town Hall Adelaide South Australia

 

11 Tim Boylan, ‘Organ Plays Right Note For Council’, Advertiser, 30 March 1990, p.8

 

12  Lord Mayors Gala Concert, Programme 30th March 1990

 

13  Elizabeth Silsbury, ‘Worth the Wait for Grandeur’,  Advertiser, 31 March 1990, p.21


 

 

 

 

 

 




Photos MQ