The restoration of the Royal Festival Hall organ

About the Campaign

The Royal Festival Hall was lovingly restored between 2005 and 2007 and as part of that refurbishment one-third of the organ was reinstalled. With two-thirds not installed, the organ was unable to perform the complete orchestral and solo repertoire for which it was designed, and the auditorium's aesthetics were affected by the hole made visible when the organ doors were open.

In September 2010 we launched the Pull Out All The Stops campaign with the aim of raising the £2.3 million needed for the full restoration and reinstallation of the 7,866-pipe Royal Festival Hall organ. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £950,000 in support of the project and over £1.3 million has been contributed by over 60,000 people, including donations to sponsor the Durham to London Pull Out All The Stops Bike Ride, undertaken by Southbank Centre Chairman Rick Haythornthwaite in July 2013.

Restoration

The project involved: repairing and handcleaning 5,000 pipes; building a new wooden organ frame; renovating the bellows and wind system that power the organ; and completely overhauling the electrics of the organ. The instrument's architectural focal point – the iconic monogram designed by Sir Leslie Martin, lead architect of the Royal Festival Hall – was also reconditioned and reinstalled.

Reinstallation

The reinstallation of the organ took place in two intensive stages, during the summers of 2012 and 2013. Thousands of individual elements of the organ were carefully labelled and transported from Durham, and then reinstalled by Harrison & Harrison’s expert team. This was followed by extensive voicing, analysis and testing of the instrument to ensure that the sound is balanced and suits the improved Royal Festival Hall acoustics.

The Future

Southbank Centre is committed to widening the repertoire performed with the organ, including regular free recitals and more opportunities for new and old audiences to enjoy the instrument, including the return of the Organ Recital Series, featuring world class organists on the Royal Festival Hall organ.

The opening of the organ in the Royal Festival Hall, London, in 1954... marked [not only] the beginning of Neoclassical organ building in Britain but also the start of the country’s Neoclassical organ composition.


Peter Hardwick
British Organ Music of the Twentieth Century (Maryland, 2003)