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Newly refurbished as a recital instrument, London's Royal Festival Hall organ was re-launched on 19 October. SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE was there and was in for a big surprise.


Completed in 1954, the 4-manual organ in the Royal Festival Hall is a unique creation of its designer the late Ralph Downes and the organ-builder Harrison & Harrison Ltd of Durham. Lying silent as a recital instrument for many years, Harrison & Harrison were given the task to dismantle the console for its first major overhaul. In close consultation with its present curator Willam McVicker, it was decided to preserve the appearance and integrity of the organ. Changes have been minimal although modern facilities supplied by Solid State Logic have been added.

Many of us who have been despairing of the state of organ recitals in this country have had our views confounded. The highly energetic team at the RFH produced a capacity audience by judicious marketing. An exhibition was mounted with many of the organisations connected with the organ world present. I was there with my colleagues from Choir & Organ and copies were disappearing like the proverbial 'hot cakes'. Of course it does help to have an international artist such as Simon Preston to open the re-launch of the recital series.

Preston gave a fascinating pre-concert talk with interviewer Lynn Walker about his life and his Bach series for Deutsche Grammophon.

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Copyright © 29 October 2000 Shirley Ratcliffe, Norfolk, UK





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