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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Melbourne Town Hall instrument”

January 1, 2007

Dear Michael,

Recently you included the Melbourne Town Hall instrument in your programme.

Some of the information which is supplied by the Melbourne City Council, and thus appears in CD booklets, is incorrect insofar as the organ is concerned:

1. It isn’t the largest organ in Australia - that honour goes to the Ronald Sharp organ in the Sydney Opera House. Melbourne has “almost 10,000 pipes” (9568 according to http://theatreorgans.com/laird/top.pipe.organs.html where it is listed at #33) whilst Sydney has 10,244 pipes (#14 on the sames website). Thus, the claim that it’s the largest organ in the southern hemisphere is also incorrect - Catedral Metropolitana de São Paulo in Brazil is listed at #68 on the same list with 10,200 pipes so it’s a close tie between Brazil & Sydney. There has always been a rivalry between Melbourne & Sydney going back to Colonial times so nothing has changed on that score!

2. You mentioned that the instrument was built by Hill and rebuilt by Schantz. The original Hill organ of 1872 was rebuilt at the behest of Edwin Lemare between 1904 & 1906 and destroyed by fire in 1925 along with the hall. It was replaced in 1929 with an instrument built by Hill, Norman & Beard in a new and larger Art Deco hall (behind the original building facade).

3. All that remains of the 1929 instrument are the case and most of the pipes - everything else was built by Schantz, so it is quite correct to say that it was built by that company. Every pipe was changed as the pitch has been raised from A440 to A444 so much cutting was done. The internal layout bears no resemblance to that of 1929.

For more information on Australian organs you may wish to visit www.ohta.org.au where there is much information. Included is a link to a complete list of all the organs in suburban Sydney which makes interesting reading.

Your programme is always interesting to listen to and many thanks.

Simon Colvin
Elwood VIC, Australia

Dear Simon,

Thanks for the corrective!



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