Present and Future

Leeds City Organists

Further Information

A booklet containing the full history of the organ up to 1972 can be downloaded here

Organ specifications on the National Pipe Organ Register:

Pre 1895 specification

1908 specification

1972 specification

Builder’s leaflet from 1905 on the rebuilt organ here

1859-1897 William Spark

One of the leading recitalists of the day, Spark was a pioneer of playing orchestral transcriptions on the organ. He inaugurated a series of recitals on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and later established an orchestra to give regular concerts in the Town Hall.

1898-1917 H A Fricker

A pupil of Edwin Lemare and Frank Bridge, Fricker was conductor of the Leeds Philharmonic as well as numerous choral societies in the West Riding.  He oversaw the alterations to the organ in 1908; he emigrated to Canada in 1917.

After Fricker’s departure, the post was left vacant for 55 years, until the rebuilding of the organ in 1972.

1972-1976 Donald Hunt

Organist of Leeds Parish Church, he was responsible for the restoration of the organ,  and like his predecessor conducted numerous choirs including the Leeds Philharmonic.  He departed in 1976 to become organist of Worcester Cathedral.

1976-2017 Simon Lindley

Leeds’ longest serving City Organist and one of the country’s foremost church musicians, Simon Lindley established the weekly organ recitals which continue to this day.  He raised the profile of the organ and built up the recital series to become one of the most successful in the UK.  He took the title of City Organist Emeritus in 2017, when he was succeeded as City Organist by Darius Battiwalla.

Every Monday between September and April an audience of 200-400 comes to hear free organ recitals given by leading organists from this country and abroad.  It is also frequently used in the international concert season with visiting choirs and orchestras.  It is a highly successful and popular instrument, but nearly 50 years of heavy use combined with low humidity and powerful heating in the hall have taken their toll.  Because of time constraints in 1972 many soundboards and elements of the action were renovated rather than renewed, and some of the completely new work is reaching the end of its life.  
The Swell in particular, being located at the top of the organ, is suffering from warped sliders and wind leaks, and the increases to the voltage of the action needed to overcome these problems is overloading the solid state control systems.   There are also severe access problems for

Darius Battiwalla at the 1972 console

routine maintenance.

As part of a wider scheme for major works to the Town Hall, the organ is to be completely renovated, by Nicholson & Co, to a scheme which has been drawn up in conjunction with the City Organist and independent organ consultants William McVicker and Ian Bell.   All the soundboards, wind supply, action, and console will be completely replaced: everything will be new except for the pipes.  The brilliance and clarity achieved in the 1972 rebuild will be retained but the organ will be revoiced to give a fuller and more integrated sound, and some of the colours and voices removed in 1972 will be reintroduced.  The organ will return to six manual divisions - three of them enclosed - playable from four manuals.   Full details of this can be found on the Nicholson & Co website.

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