‘Magnificent’ City Hall organ being restored’

The restoration of City Hall’s organ is in full swing as part of the building’s upgrade.

The organ, a key feature of the City Hall, was built by Messrs Norman and Beard of London and Norwich in 1905, the same year that the City Hall was designed.

Most of the material, fixtures and fittings used to build the hall were imported from Europe.

The specifications of the City Hall organ were drawn up by Sir George Martin, organist of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The woodwork of the organ is made from mahogany, teak and pine.

Sir George Martin spoke of it as “a magnificent instrument in every gradation of tone, from the softest stop to the most powerful tuba being found in the organ, and all under the most perfect control”, adding that “the instrument must be regarded as an artistic and mechanical triumph”.

The City has commissioned Cooper Gill and Tomkins, a South African-based company, to restore the organ, which consists of 3 165 pipes varying from 10m to 19mm.

The team members who recently worked on the organ and who will undertake its ongoing care are Harold Lemmetjies and Charles Hart.

Mr Lemmetjies, who started at Cooper Gill and Tomkins in 1982, never thought that this would become his career.

It was something he stumbled across while searching for another job. He enjoyed the rewarding work and his practical skills, including being handy with leather, soon made him the go-to man when leather repairs were required on bellows and many other pneumatic working parts.

Mr Hart started his apprenticeship in 1986, which lasted for five years. His passion for singing in the local choir led to his exposure and eventual interest in organs.

He says the complexity of organ mechanisms, in particular the tubular pneumatic of the City Hall, make the work interesting as well as challenging.

“Cape Town is fortunate to have such dedicated local expertise, not only to help us preserve our assets, but additionally to pass on this niche skill-set to next generations,” said the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond.