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Town Hall Organ Recitals

The magnificent organ was built by Gray and Davison to the specification of Civic Organist, William Spark who held the appointment from 1860-1897. The 5 manual instrument was boasted to do 'all that an orchestra could do but less expensively'.

Recitals soon became something of an institution under Spark and his successor from 1898, H.A. Fricker. Distinguished City organists in our own time include Dr Donald Hunt and, from 1975, the present illustrious postholder, Dr Simon Lindley.

In Fricker's day they were normally given twice weekly on Tuesday afternoon and Saturday evenings, admission to the Town Hall area (ground floor) was free with a charge of 6d for admission to the gallery.

Operatic Excerpts
A striking feature of programmes in the early years of the 20th century was the frequent inclusion of orchestral works arranged for organ. Wagner operatic excerpts were almost as popular in this form as they were in the concert hall and included the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, the Good Friday Music from Parsifal, Forest Murmers from Seigfried and the prelude to Act 3 and bridal music from Lohengrin.

Spectacular Finale
Popular overtures were occasionally featured as a spectacular finale: Dvorak's boisterous Carnival Overture, Brahms' Academic festival and Rossini's William Tell must have been eagerly awaited highlights of Fricker's recitals.

Fricker composed his Concert Overture in C minor which concluded his recital on 1st January 1901. Current City organist Simon Lindley opened his lunchtime recital, on 6th October 2003, with the same piece.

The Organ's Renaissance
The Town Hall organ's renaissance began in 1972 following the completion of a major restoration designed by Dr Donald Hunt, then Master of the Music at Leeds Parish Church. Hunt was designated City Organist and the opening recital on the restored organ was given by the distinguished Swiss organist, Flor Peters.

New Wednesday Evening Series
A series of five Wednesday evening recitals was promoted as part of the City's Libraries and Arts Committee's 1973/74 orchestral and recital programme.  These were given by Dr Hunt, Lionel Rogg, the legendary George Thalben-Ball and BBC organist Robinson Cleaver.  Three lunchtime recitals were given by Hunt, Anthony Cooke and Anthony Langford.

A similar mix of evening and lunchtime recitals (3 of each) was staged during the 1974/5 season and featured Fernando Germani the eminent Italian organist, and Noel Rawsthorne of Liverpool's St Georges Hall.

A new and exciting era
The re-branding of the Civic orchestral and recital programme as the Leeds International Concert Season in 1980 ushered in  a new and exciting era of Leeds Music. There would be more orchestral concerts than at any time before or since the YSO years and a return to regular organ recitals. These would fit comfortably into the Tuesday lunch hour amd were designed to complement the long-established Wednesday Midday Chamber series.

Simon Lindley celebrates 30 years
Simon Lindley succeeded Dr Hunt at Leeds Parish Church in 1975 and also celebrates 30 years as City Organist. The Town Hall's weekly recitals have under Dr Lindley's stewardship become as much of an institution as Spark's and Fricker's recitals a century earlier.

300 years of music
The 2004/5 series, this year "exiled" to St Anne's Cathedral due to refurbishment work at Leeds Town Hall, encompasses over 300 years of music. Works by Pergolesi, J S Bach, Handel, English Edwardian composers Ireland, Bairstow, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Howells; have been juxtaposed with such lollipops as Sousa's Washington Post, Barber/Biggs' The Stars and Stripes for Ever, Lemare's Fantasy on themes from Bizet's Carmen, and Wagner's Rienzi Overture. Simon Lindley also performs his own Prelude, Air and Postlude. Something for all tastes!



Click images to enlarge
H.A. Fricker
H.A. Fricker
Organ Recital by H.A. Fricker, 1901
Organ Recital by H.A. Fricker, 1901
Simon Lindley, City organist since 1975
Simon Lindley, City organist since 1975
Organ and Song Recital, January 5th 1924
Organ and Song Recital, January 5th 1924
Organ Concerts and Recitals, 1977/78
Organ Concerts and Recitals, 1977/78
Evening Series 1980/81
Evening Series 1980/81
Lunchtime Series 2001/2
Lunchtime Series 2001/2




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003