Leicester Chronicler

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Time reveals all

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Two thousand years of Leicester's history


Listening to the historic heartbeat of the City of Leicester
and its environs in the English East Midlands

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Design and text Stephen Butt 2005-2009
Revised 11/10/09
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De Montfort Hall Organ


"I have pleasure in sending you the enclosed cheque in payment for the new organ at the De Montfort Hall. I consider your charges are most reasonable, and wish to assure you that the work has given me the greatest satisfaction - in fact it could not have been better had I gone to the first builders in London.  All the great organists who have tried it are delighted  with the instrument."

Alfred Corah


The De Montfort Hall


Early in 2004, organists in the English East Midlands celebrated the remarkable achievement of the complete renovation and rebuilding of all three of the city's major organs at Leicester Cathedral, the Church of St James the Greater, London Road, and the De Montfort Hall.

The most significant of these instruments, historically, is the De Montfort Hall organ, assumed to be the only surviving example of a large concert organ constructed by the Leicester organ builders, Stephen Taylor & Son Ltd.

Its survival, refurbishment and significance was celebrated in a special birthday recital evening on Thursday 18 February 2004.


De Montfort Hall organ original drawing


The organ was a gift to the town of the local industrialist Alfred Corah, and members of the Corah family took part in the opening concert.

The company of Stephen Taylor and Son was founded in 1866, and was based in Severn Street, off the London Road, in Leicester. The Taylor family had begun building organs as early as 1855 as represented by the instrument at Scraptoft Parish Church. The company was absorbed by Walkers of York in the 1960s.

Quality was the hallmark of Taylor's instruments.  They were built of good quality materials and were notable for their easy access for repair and maintenance.  The De Montfort Hall organ has over six thousand pipes, yet it is possible to walk through the instrument in order to reach all of them.

Stephen Taylor, whose great-grandfather built the De Montfort Hall organ, still lives and works in the city and took part in the 90th Anniversary Recital Evening.  His grandfather was six years old when the organ was installed, and crawled along the bass pipes whilst they were lying on the floor of the hall awaiting assembly.

Part of the rear of the De Montfort Hall was rebuilt in order to accommodate the larger pipes. The builders responsible for this work were Newby and Sons.  Remarkably, the instrument has not been repaired or overhauled until the recent refurbishment, and as a consequence still has its original tracker action. It's value has therefore increased because it has retained its original components.  Until about 1965 the organ was tuned and maintained under a contract with an organ tuner based in the Leicestershire village of Huncote.

It is thought that one of the conditions laid down by the Corah family was that a permanent civic organist be appointed.  This was never honoured. 

The organ case is of solid dark mahogany, and was painted in the 1970s.  In 1983, Rushworth and Draper offered a quotation of about 20,000 for the repair of the instrument. 


Programme for Inaugural Recital


The 2004 Anniversary Concert featured a programme of light entertainment items and popular organ music including the celebrated Toccata and Fugue in D minor by J.S.Bach, and C.S.Lang's Tuba Tune.  The organists were Andrew Fletcher, organist of St Thomas's Church, Stourbridge, and John Bellamy, formerly of St James the Greater, Leicester.   Preceding the concert, members of the audience were offered free tours of the instrument and could attend the rehearsals.

The organ's first recital in 1914 included Wagner's `Tannhauser', Brahms' Hungarian Dance in F sharp minor, Rubenstein's Russian Patrol, and Arthur Sullivan's `Brightly Dawn'. from The Mikado. Mrs Reg Corah was the soloist in a performance of Elgar's `Land of Hope and Glory' "with organ obbligato".

The evening commenced, of course, with the National Anthem.

Organs are `voiced' before installation, this essential work being carried out in a special Voicing Room.  A highly-skilled job, each voicer had his own hallmark which is recognisable even today.  Geoffrey Burton Hollings worked as a senior tuner for Taylors and is remembered by many in the city as a skilled and talented organist and musician.

Hollings worked for many years in schools in Leicester as a pianist, and served as organist at the First Church of the Christian Scientist, just yards away from the De Montfort Hall.

In a letter to the Taylor company written in January 1915, one distinguished organist wrote of Hollings' work "I was particularly struck with the artistic voicing and the tone generally, especially as regards the reeds which are beautifully round and smooth.  I have seldom played on a more sympathetic instrument.  My sincere congratulations upon a notable achievement."

Geoffrey Hollings died peacefully at Ivydean Rest Home in Earl Shilton on Friday 15 February 1985. 


De Montfort Hall


Colour image of De Montfort Hall courtesy Leicester City Council
Black & white images from original Taylor & son Ltd documents
in ownership of Taylor family, used with permission, excepting
final image Neville Chadwick