Auckland organ’s vast internal organs
Behind a century-old facade, more than 5000 pipes wait to burst into song.
Below them, enormous bellows contain enough air pressure to launch an elephant 200 metres.
Welcome inside - yes, inside New Zealand’s largest concert organ, once deemed one of the greatest of its kind in the world.
Members of the public are being invited to walk around the mammoth instrument at Auckland Town Hall and experience its sound from a whole new dimension.
Guided tours of the organ will be held during the Auckland Heritage Festival in October.
While walking through an instrument may seem strange, this one is designed for just that purpose: There are passageways at all three levels of the organ, connected by a solid oak staircase.
The original organ was built in 1911 and gifted to the city by former mayor Henry Brett.
At the time, it was described as the biggest in New Zealand and the most modern in Australasia.
But in 1970, the instrument fell victim to a new way of thinking that said organ design had veered too far from tradition.
It was rebuilt, to the tune of $72,000, and most of its pipes were replaced.
However, it wasn’t long before musicians became dissatisfied with the new model.
It was under-powered and lacked versatility.
‘‘It was a bit like taking a 1911 Chevrolet, if there’s such a thing, and putting a Ford Anglia motor in it,’’ Auckland Town Hall Organ Trust chairman Kevin Bishop said.
The organ was rebuilt again in 2010 by German company Orgelbau Klais, helping restore the vast instrument to its former magnificence.
A third larger than the original, the new organ incorporated what was salvageable from the 1911 instrument.
Uniquely, it also included the sounds of two traditional Ma¯ ori instruments: the ko¯ auau (flute) and pu¯ ka¯ ea (horn).
Today, the organ comprises 5291 pipes, ranging in length from 1cm to 10 metres, and made of materials including kauri, scientific glass, lead and tin.
The 23 bellows that push air through the pipes contain enough pressure to push an elephant 200 metres.
At the organ’s – and the town hall’s – official opening in 1911, the first song played was God Save The King.