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CITY HALL ORGAN (article first published : 2001-07-21)

(Extract from article in Daily News by Caroline Smart)

The renovations to Durban’s magnificent City Hall organ are scheduled for completion in early 2002 and the question is posed – what happens after its official re-introduction to the music scene? The city fathers will have restored its organ to pristine condition but the instrument needs to be heard on a regular basis, not least to justify the amount spent on its renovation.

“The organ needs to be re-introduced for all civic functions, graduations, organ recitals and Mayor’s receptions in the same way as it was used in the past. However, it also has a major part to play in the showcasing of massed choirs,” says Michael Hankinson, Durban’s former music advisor and City Organist who also believes that a new official City Organist is needed. Among regular duties, the incumbent could form an Indigenous Organ School and offer training to composers in the use of the instrument.

While it also has a built-in capacity to reduce its power to accompany solo singers or small ensembles, the organ is at its best at full power producing a sound comparable to that of a full orchestra.

”Another splendid opportunity would be the introduction of oratorio performances,” adds Michael. “When presenting their “Own Choice” items in choir festivals and competitions, most township choirs opt for works such as items from Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah or Mozart masses.

“We need to create a new South African music language – opening avenues for crossover material where the export potential is phenomenal both in terms of interesting tourists who come here and in encouraging South African works to be performed overseas. We have a lost audience of over 40 million who have been excluded from music development. Once they are included we are going to see a revolution on the music scene – for the better.”

The Durban Arts Association used to present regular organ concerts in the past and it is Michael Hankinson’s belief that this body is best suited to oversee a partnership between the organ, a possible City Organist, performers and composers.

Should you wish to register your interest in being part of programmes to showcase the City Hall organ society, please send contact details and (if applicable) relevant information regarding your choir or group to Durban Arts at 316 Avondale Road, Durban or fax (031) 312-2073.




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