Key change for two town halls as organ console goes for a song

A key piece of Leeds’s cultural history will be getting a new lease of life thanks to a unique musical reuse and recycle project.

The console from Leeds Town Hall’s spectacular pipe organ has found a new home at Yeadon Town Hall, where thanks to the latest technology, visitors will be entertained by the very same notes it has played for the past 53 years.

The innovative exchange took place during the landmark refurbishment of the one-of-a-kind Leeds Town Hall organ, which officially got underway last year.

The scheme includes the removal and replacement of much of the organ’s pipework and inner workings, including the console – the keyboard which organists play during concerts.

Spotting the opportunity to salvage an important component of the historic organ, the team at Yeadon asked if they might be able to give the console a new home in exchange for a contribution to the Leeds Town Hall project.

Once an agreement was reached, every individual note and stop of the organ was then sampled and recorded for 10 seconds in a process which took a full 24 hours.

The organ console will now be refurbished and installed at Yeadon Town Hall, where thanks to specialist software and a network of 30 high-tech speakers, it will once again play sounds exactly as they were heard in Leeds Town Hall from 1969-2021.

Yeadon Town Hall director, Jamie Hudson, said: “We’re extremely proud to be bringing the Leeds Town Hall organ console to its new home at Yeadon Town Hall. Leeds Town Hall is a truly iconic building here in Yorkshire, and it’s wonderful to think that we can now enjoy a little piece of its history.

“As a bit of an organ fanatic, I can say with confidence that the organ console will be cherished here at the town hall, and it shall continue to bring joy to the local community.”

Work on the Leeds Town Hall organ is being carried out by specialist engineers Nicholson and Co. Ltd, who say it is one of the biggest projects of its kind the country has ever seen.

Originally built by Gray and Davison of London to designs by William Spark and Henry Smart in 1853, the years have begun to take their toll on some of the organ’s features, meaning the work is vital to make sure it can be played for future generations.

A fundraising campaign is ongoing to secure grant funding, sponsorship and donations to support the Leeds Town Hall organ project while the refurbishment takes place.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “Thanks to the imagination of those working across the city’s cultural community, audiences will now have the chance to enjoy the beautiful sound of the Leeds Town Hall organ in a completely new setting.

“We’re absolutely delighted there’s been a new and innovative opportunity to continue the organ’s proud legacy and that a new chapter has been written in the story of this remarkable instrument.”

More information on Leeds Town Hall, including how you can support the building by making a donation and being part of fundraising, can be found at: www.leedstownhall.co.uk/support-us

ENDS

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