Links to History of Christchurch & the Town Hall
History of the organ dream ~ a brief overview
When the Christchurch Town Hall was opened in 1972 provision was made for the installation of an organ in the auditorium. Proceeds from some of the opening events, the sale of the Civic Theatre organ and a donation of $10,000 from Mr Jack Ferrier formed the basis of a fund towards the provision of an organ. In 1980 the Civic Music Council took up the cause and set up a fund-raising committee. Some progress was made and in 1984 the Town Hall organ Trust was established. A major boost to the fund was received in 1987 when Mr and Mrs Bernard Bicknell donated $100,000. (Mr Bicknell was the Clerk of works during the installation of the organ). In 1991 the then Town Hall Board, the Civic Music Council and other supporters invited submissions from a number of organ-building companies, with Rieger Orgelbau from Austria providing a comprehensive presentation and being accepted as the best builder for needs of the Christchurch Town Hall organ.
With a legacy from the late Catherine Calder aided by high interest rates, the fund reached $350,000 and the figure was further swelled by a grant of $150,000 from the New Zealand Lotteries Board. A cheque for $500,000 was handed to the City on the occasion of the Town Hall's 21st anniversary in September 1993. This $500,000 was added to the Christchurch City Council Organ Trust Fund of $308,000 making a total of $808,000. A new fund-rasing committee was set up by the Rotary Club of Avonhead chaired by Mr Ron Long. Their undertaking was to raise $200,000 and this meant that the Town Hall Board was able to present to Council a proposal for Rieger Orgelbau to build the organ for the Christchurch Town Hall. The total cost is approximately $NZ1.2 million.
Behind all this are the persistent efforts of many thousands in the community who have never given up the vision. Small and large groups have been behind the cause, and many have grown up always conscious of the dream of having a city pipe organ installed. As one correspondent to the webpage guestbook put it:
From the first packing crate to the end of the opening festivities we followed the naissance of the organ with video film, photographs and text. Updates were added almost daily so that others on the far side of the world could take part in this life-long dream of thousands. We hoped the simple text and small photos might also instruct a little, as well as bringing pleasure; but above all, this is a documentary, warts and all, of a major event in a community.
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"...while a pupil (in the 70s) at Christ's College I was inviegled into the various fundraising schemes for the Town Hall organ back then. I have always been very inspired by the glorious majesty and power of the organ and having visited many international performing centres, have envied those with instruments installed. It now looks as though we will have an organ well worth the lengthy wait and considerable effort." (Peter H.)
The organ was opened with much fanfare and celebration in May 1997, when almost the entire population of the 300,000 city packed the town hall to hear this instrument which so many of them had striven to obtain for so long. Read the installation pages to see how the building progressed.