Sydney Town Hall’s grand organ – Photo of the day
Published by Paula Bray on June 21, 2011 in Photo of the day.
Sydney Town Hall’s grand organ
This Kerry photo shows the magnificent organ in Centennial Hall, the Sydney Town Hall’s major public space. The name of the hall refers to the date of its completion, 1889, just 101 years after Sydney was founded.
Centennial Hall was the largest concert hall in Sydney until the Opera House was opened in 1973. The photo captures the height and breadth of the organ, the metallic sheen of the pipes, and the elaborate features of their casing. At the time it was made, the organ was the largest in the world. It was made in England, and a test concert was held there before it was shipped to Sydney. Breaking the organ up and packing it for shipment must have been a daunting task; the largest pipe is 64 feet (about 20 metres) long, and in total there are about 9000 pipes.
The City of Sydney’s website has some great photos of the organ as it is now. They show that the prominent text that appears in relief on the entablature beside the organ in the Kerry photo, referring to John Harris (the mayor who was in office in 1889), has been ungraciously removed by his successors. His transitory grab for glory would have been forgotten were it not for the photographic evidence – and a derogatory reference in the Broken Hill newspaper the Barrier Miner of 21 August 1890, which also mocked the name Centennial Hall and called the organ a white elephant.
Other newspaper reports available on Trove tell us that the hall took five years to complete and suffered a cost blow-out of 70%, and that it took another nine months after the opening of the Hall (marked by a concert and party paid for by Harris just before he left office) for the organ to be re-built and tuned. The organ was first played for an audience in Sydney in August 1890, by William Thomas Best, the same celebrated organist who had played at the test concert in London.
Photography by Kerry and Co
No known copyright restrictions
Post by Debbie Rudder, Curator
- © Copyright Powerhouse Museum