Auck­land’s world-class town hall or­gan to be show-cased at free con­cert

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - COVER STORY -

Kevin Bishop has no chil­dren but you get the sense there is one big ‘baby’ in his life – the Auck­land Town Hall or­gan. His pas­sion for the in­stru­ment oozes from him: ”It is a liv­ing, breath­ing thing,” he says. “It talks, it moves, it is very re­spon­sive, it has 5291 pipes and ev­ery one of them speaks; it is a won­der­ful in­stru­ment to play, it has such great tone and power.”

Oc­ca­sion­ally when the or­gan is not be­ing used and the au­di­to­rium empty, Bishop has been known to slip into the con­sole, seat him­self at the key­boards and play to his heart’s con­tent.

Bishop, a highly com­pe­tent am­a­teur or­gan­ist and pi­anist, is chair­man of the Auck­land Town Hall Or­gan Trust, a body es­tab­lished in 2006 as the in­stru­ment’s un­paid guardians.

He has a day job – gen­eral man­ager of the Sel­wyn Heights re­tire­ment vil­lage in Hills­bor­ough – but was in­vited on to the trust af­ter head­ing up plan­ning for the 2010 in­au­gu­ra­tion of the new or­gan built by Ger­man com­pany Orgel­bau Klais.

His en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious. When de­scrib­ing the or­gan tours which guide peo­ple through the in­sides of the mas­sive in­stru­ment, he says: “Peo­ple come away with their mouths shak­ing, they are quite over­whelmed at the grandeur of it.”

Mu­sic has al­ways been a big part of Bishop’s life. His par­ents had a love of the arts; both were singers and his mother also played the piano.

The fam­ily moved to New Zealand from Eng­land when Bishop was one and in 1963 at five, his mother asked him if he wanted to learn the piano; he said yes and his life­long love af­fair with mu­sic had be­gun.

“I’m not a pro­fes­sional player, but I get a great amount of plea­sure out of play­ing. It’s some­thing in­nate, some­thing in­side that stirs me, I have just got to do it.” he says.

Armed with a mu­sic diploma in the or­gan and piano from Trin­ity Col­lege in Lon­don, he be­came a mu­sic teacher at schools in Hamil­ton, Welling­ton and Auck­land be­ing ap­pointed di­rec­tor of mu­sic at St Kentigern Col­lege in 1986.

Al­though he has since moved to a ca­reer in busi­ness man­age­ment he has kept up his play­ing – fre­quently per­form­ing at lo­cal churches, with op­er­atic so­ci­eties and the choir at Sel­wyn Heights. He has also played the town hall or­gan at cor­po­rate events.

“That,” he says, “doesn’t come any bet­ter. For me as an am­a­teur to play an or­gan re­garded by many as the finest town hall or­gan in the world, is the envy of many.”

Bishop says a full di­ary of or­gan con­certs are in place for 2017 and ev­ery year three or four of the best in­ter­na­tional or­gan­ists are booked to play.

The orig­i­nal or­gan in­stalled when the town hall opened in 1911 was re­placed in 1970. How­ever in 2010 this was in turn sup­planted by the cur­rent or­gan af­ter it be­came clear the 1970 model was un­der­pow­ered and lack­ing ver­sa­til­ity.

# Four free or­gan con­certs are held each year, the next sched­uled for Sun­day July 30 at 2pm fea­tur­ing Ben­jamin Sheen, or­gan­ist at St Thomas Church in New York. No book­ings are nec­es­sary. How­ever book­ings for the or­gan tours are re­quired and can be made at heartofthecity.co.nz.

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