Southern TLC for capital's organ

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014
South Island Organ Company managing director John Hargraves
BIG SOUND: South Island Organ Company managing director John Hargraves compares a small organ pipe with one of the larger pipes of the Wellington Town Hall organ.

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It took eight men five weeks to dismantle the 50 tonne Wellington Town Hall pipe organ to transport a third of it to Washdyke for restoration.

South Island Organ Company specialist workers will spend three years on the 1905 Norman and Beard of London instrument.

It is one of only three in the world of the company's pneumatic, grand concert organs from that era which is still original. The organ is 10 metres high and 4m deep, and consists of 3500 pipes.

The restoration is expected to cost at least $1.5 million to complete.

South Island Organ Company managing director John Hargraves said the dismantling project involved a team of riggers, a special spider crane, scaffolding and a ramp.

The heaviest pipe, which is 10 metres long and weighs in at 700kg, is made of zinc, while the smallest ones, which are the size of a pencil, are an alloy of tin and lead.

The organ underwent restoration work in 1986 and 1992 but not all of its parts were accessed.

A refurbishment and strengthening of the hall to meet earthquake building codes has allowed for the organ's total removal.

The work is expected to start on the instrument in April after the historic research is done, and will include French polishing by hand.

"Hand polishing is very inefficient, but the only way to create an appropriate proper finish," Mr Hargraves said.

A voicing room is used to ensure the pipes all sound "beautiful" at the same tone and volume.

The pipes have different pitches, sounding like string, flutes and brass instruments, while reed pipes work in the same way as a duck caller.

Precise manipulation is required to adjust the pipes' sounds.

The Wellington pipe organ is one of 17 the Timaru company has in storage.

The others are from churches damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes and the future of some of them is uncertain.

An organ from the Knox Presbyterian Church in Bealey Ave, Christchurch, is being restored and rebuilt at the moment by 12 staff and an organ from St Michaels and All Angels in Oxford Tce has just been restored.

The Timaru company is the only one in New Zealand working on pipe organs at such a large scale.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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