Town Hall Organ installation

Muir & MacKinlay
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This photograph, taken in 1906, shows the front showcase of the Town Hall organ, revealing some of the total of 3,189 pipes.

In 1904 the Council decided that the new town hall should have a concert organ. Tenders were called and one of the leading English organ-building firms, Norman and Beard, was contracted to make the instrument. The firm produced many fine instruments for cathedrals and town halls around the world. The organ for Wellington was built in England then shipped to New Zealand, with the installation team including Mr. Norman, head of the firm, and Harry Trustin, then a young man in his twenties. The grand opening of the new organ took place in 1906.

Harry Trustin remained in Wellington following the completion of the organ and became the resident organ tuner in the region. The Wellington Town Hall organ was his pride and joy and he practically lived with it up to the time of his death in 1951.

This organ has fulfilled a major role in the life of the city. It was played in concerts, recitals, civic receptions, university capping ceremonies, religious events, political gatherings and during both world wars, to accompany community singing assemblies. From 1906 until 1998, the position of the City Organist was held by leading musicians of the day, including Maughan Barnett, Bernard Page, Charles Collins, H. Temple White and Maxwell Fernie.

In the early 1980’s the organ was in need of repair. One option was a rebuilding project which would have changed the character of the instrument. Wisely, the Wellington City Council accepted a recommendation that the instrument should be faithfully restored to its original condition without alterations or additions.

The South Island Organ Co. was entrusted with this task and the organ has emerged as a survivor of the great English organ building tradition as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. Since its conservation in 1986 the organ is once again able to speak with the full tonal colour of a concert organ in the grand style, appropriate for a large town hall.
b/w photograph
hxw sighted: 480x390mm Frame: 600x510x20mm Breadth 60mm
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