Friday, December 28, 2007

Young Organists' Day at Sydney Town Hall

Dropped by Town Hall for a free lunchtime organ concert. It's not everyday that the Town Hall is open to the public, so I took the opportunity to check it out on this Young Organists' Day. There were originally 10 pieces all in all, reduced by one because Nicholas Liney can't make it. All of the players were quite young - ranging from 11 to 16 years of age. And what's remarkable is that all of them are multi-talented. Most of them play more than one instrument. Others interest include composing, conduction, chorale, football, aviation, debating, etc.

Programme below:
  • Chorale in A minor - Cesar Franck (1822-1890) - Gary Cheung
  • Benedictus - Max Reger (1873-1916) - Samual Allchurch

  • Scherzo - Eugene Gigout (1844-1925) - Jessica Lim

  • Toccata from the 5th Symphony - Charles Marie Widor (1844-1937) - Jonathan Chan

  • Toccata in 7 - John Rutter (b. 1945) - Adrian So

  • Transports de joie - Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) - Luke English

  • Toccata in C minor - Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) - Marianne Ching

  • Toccata from "Captain Logon Variations" - Colin Brumby (b. 1933) - Nicholas Liney

  • Duet: Marche Triomphale - Anon (1850-190?) - Jessica Lim and Edith Yam

  • Prelude and Fuge on B.A.C.H - Franz Liszt (1811-1886) - Marko Server
After the concert, kids (and others) were invited to try out and play the Grand Organ. It is truly the "King of Instruments." The whole pipe structure occupied most of the stage, yet the organist's booth is just big enough for two people to sit side-by-side. There are panels of stops left and right to control the sound of the organ, and in the middle are rows and rows of keys and pedals. I quote from the programme: "The Grand Organ of the Sydney Town Hall was the largest organ in the world when it was opened in 1890 by the acclaimed British organist W T Best. Build by William Hill and Son of London, the organ have five keyboards for the hands and one for the feet. There are 126 speaking stops and nearly 9,000 pipes ranging in length from a few centimeters to almost 20 meters; the largest belonging to the famour pedal stop Contra Trombone 64'."

After the concert, I went to the lobby and joined a tour of the town hall organized by The Friends of the Sydney Town Hall. Apparently, Town Hall is being closed for all of 2008 till mid-2009 for major building renovations, so really happy I came along today. Unfortunately, I left my camera in the office. Such a pity because there's so many things to take pictures of. First is the Vestibule with the grand chandelier. The ceiling of the hall is repainted in its original colors. The dome in the middle of the room is decorated with twelve glass panels representing the 4 basic elements and the 8 virtues. The chandelier used to be raised and lowered, but now it's fixed in place. It comprises of 1,952 pieces of crystal. Next, we visit the Grand Staircase with its stenciled decorations. Beside it is a bird-cage lift installed in 1906. It is said to be the oldest and sole surviving example of its kind still operating in NSW. Too bad we didn't get to try it out for a ride. Up to the second level, we had a magnificent view of the Centennial Hall with the Grand Organ. Our guide tells us that the metal ceiling of the hall was specially designed to withstand the vibrations from the organ. Moving on, we visited the Council Chamber, where the city council meetings are held, and the Lady Mayoress' Rooms, where certain items from the Sydney Town Hall Collection are displayed: a chair from the Queen's inauguration, a large Sevres porcelain-covered vase, a lock of hair from Napoleon Bonaparte, etc. We then went down to the basement to check out some construction areas where bodies have been uncovered (and put back in). Not surprising as the site used to be the Old Sydney Burial Ground from 1792 to 1820. For our last stop, we visited the Town Hall House to look at its scale model of the Sydney CBD.

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