The Grand Organ

Sydney Opera House

The Concert Hall features what is believed to be the largest mechanical action pipe organ in the world.

Designed and built by Sydney-based organ builder Ronald Sharp, the Grand Organ contains 10,244 pipes, 201 pipe ranks, 131 speaking stops, five manuals and a pedal drawstop console.

The organ is driven mechanically and it has a number of electronic accessories, such as recordable pre-set memories for playback and recording.

The instrument is 15 metres high, 13m wide and 8m deep. It is built into the rear (southern) wall of the Concert Hall, with the consoles built into a loft about 9m above the stage platform, overhanging the organ gallery seating behind the stage.

The facade displays 109 show-pipes of 95 per cent burnished tin and 24 bronze bells.

"I set out to build a musical instrument, not a piece of machinery," Sharp said after he completed the organ in 1979. "It is the largest mechanical action organ known to exist, but my main concern has always been its sound not its size. I hope music lovers will like it."

Construction of the Sydney Opera House’s Grand Organ was completed on 30 May 1979, almost six years after the Concert Hall opened and 10 years after Sharp received the commission for the instrument.

The organ, which was budgeted to cost $A400,000, was built under the supervision of the NSW Department of Public Works. By the time the instrument was handed over to the care of Sydney Opera House management at midnight on 30 May 1979, the cost had escalated to $A1.2 million.

The first of an inaugural series of recitals featuring the organ was given by Melbourne organist Douglas Lawrence on 7 June 1979.

The organ’s electronics were updated in 2002 with the installation of a multisystem, high-speed, bidirectional network (including MIDI compatibility) designed specifically for pipe organs.

Looking down onto the Concert Hall stage from the Grand Organ.

Credits: Story

Created by Sam Doust and the
Sydney Opera House GCI Team

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