As I mentioned earlier, the Auckland Town Hall has a new organ. Strictly speaking, it's a restoration, but calling it a restoration is like referring to Captain Cook's axe. 3 new handles and 2 new heads, but it's still Captain Cook's axe. About 4/5 of the organ's pipes were renewed, and it was brought into the electronic age. It even has a connector for a flash drive.
I'd heard broadcasts of it, and been impressed enough to give the Organ Trust a hefty donation as well as paying large rates to the Auckland City Council when I lived there, so I thought I should hear this thing live as soon as I could.
The opportunity came today. The Council gives 3 or 4 free recitals a year, usually with the City Organist. This Anzac Day, the organist was Thomas Heywood, from Melbourne, Australia. I decided to go to it.
Program: Offenbach- Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld.
LvB- Coriolan Overture.
Mozart- Rondo from 4th Horn Concerto.
JSB- Passacaglia and Fuge in C minor BWV 582.
J. Strauss Jnr- Trisch-Trasch Polka.
Hayden- Andante from Surprise Symphony.
Tchaikovsky- Intro, Waltz and "Rose" adagio from Sleeping Beauty.
Plus a couple of encores, Chopin's Military Polonaise, and a Music Box by someone I didn't recognise. Tom Heywood wanted to show off the new koauau pipe. (It's a Maori flute).
Transcriptions were mostly by Heywood himself.
I kept thinking of the only other live organ recital I've been to, by Gillian Weir in the Dunedin Town Hall more or less 40 year ago. (Let me just park my Zimmerframe...). She commented that she hated "herds of bellowing diapasons." There were plenty here; but also a lot of finer stuff that really showed off the organ.
One of the other things that it showed off was the lack of serious hi-fi in my life. Another was that if I want a decent seat for the September concert I have to be there at least an hour early. The place was packed. The queues went out the door and along the street in both possible directions. I arrived at 1pm for a 2.30pm concert, and could therefore get well to the front of the queue.
Tom Heywood opened with a comment about the time he turned up to rehearsal in New York ( the guy's a serious organist, not just an Aussie) and found a rock group struggling to make a recording. "Give me more bass," wailed the vocalist. "I can't," wailed the bassist. So Heywood cut loose on the organ. "Yay", said the rockers. "That was great!"
As far as the program goes, I am not a fan of transcriptions; not even these, though I noted that the Tchaikovsky worked well. Heywood said that although Tchaikovsky wasn't an organist, his orchestral scores were very easy to transcribe. They just "fell on to the page". As you might gather, Tom Heywood introduces his pieces. He's a very out-going guy.
However, I wasn't there to listen to the music; I was there to listen to the organ. He could have played anything. The opinion I had formed from the broadcasts I'd heard was confirmed. This is one fine instrument. Heywood waxed eloquent about it several times, and I have to assume he meant it. If he hadn't, he could have shut up, but he was most loquacious, and praised the organ several times, and the Organ Trust for making the renovation happen. He called for rounds of applause for the Trust 3 times. Nothing was said about the long-suffering ratepayers who forked out about $2.5 million of the $3.5 million it cost, but you can't have everything and, having heard the result, I am very happy with the expenditure. The job was done properly.
If any of you are organ fans, and want to visit, the next recitals are on September 19th and December 5th. Admission is free. Everything else costs, and there is a collection at the exits afterwards.
The recitals are recorded by Radio NZ Concert and presumably show up on their web stream sooner or later.