New composition for a grand old dame

Sydney Town Hall OrganOne of the largest instruments of its kind in the world that has entertained audiences young and old for more than a century is about to enter a new world of music.

To celebrate the magnificence of Sydney Town Hall’s 19th century grand organ, and to mark the 175th anniversary of City of Sydney Council, an immersive, contemporary composition, which will receive its premiere performance in November, has been specially created.

The piece by Sydney composer Austin Buckett will incorporate the many unique characteristics of the organ. Drawing from historic change bell ringing patterns, an immersive minimalist composition will transport this historic instrument into the 21st century.

Buckett’s previous works have featured at Carriageworks, Melbourne Festival, MSO’s Metropolis Festival, Melbourne Recital Centre, The Now Now Festival, Vivid, the ANAM Quartetthaus, and his work Aisles, which premiered last year’s Sydney Festival, was a finalist for Instrumental Work of the Year in the 2017 APRA Art Music Awards.

“Music from the historic organ has thrilled Town Hall audiences for 127 years,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore. “The new composition will give listeners an opportunity to reflect on the world famous organ’s history as a symbol of our city’s pride and aspirations.”

The organ, designed by Messrs William Hill and Sons of London and installed in Town Hall in 1890, was the biggest organ ever constructed. Belgian Auguste Wiegand was appointed as the first City Organist in 1891. He commenced regular recitals; a tradition which continues to this day with current organist Robert Ampt.

Once described as “the finest organ ever built” it stands more than 13 metres tall and has over 9,000 pipes and 150 stops and couplers, including a unique, full-length 64 foot-pedal stop. In 2015, the City completed a five-year $1.2 million restoration project to return the national treasure to its sound and glory. Its estimated cost of replacement is some $20 million.

Austin Buckett’s composition will premiere on Sunday 5 November 2017 as part of the Our City: 175 years in 175 objects exhibition at Sydney Town Hall. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Sydney Town Hall Organ – courtesy of the City of Sydney