The Grand Organ

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

By Sydney Opera House

Grand Organ, keyboards, with 131 speaking stops either side (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

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.

Grand Organ, pedal division pipes (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

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

Concert Hall, Grand Organ (2015) by LatchkeySydney Opera House

Concert Hall lighting, Paul Najor, 2015, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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"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."

Organ virtuoso Cameron Carpenter rehearses on the Sydney Opera House's Grand Organ, Sydney Opera House, 2011, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Grand Organ, division of a few of the 10,154 pipes, detail, Sam Doust, 2016, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Grand Organ, division of a few of the 10,154 pipes, detail, Sam Doust, 2016, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Grand Organ, tops of pipes, detail (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

Grand Organ, tops of pipes, detail, Sam Doust, 2016, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Grand Organ, division of a few of the 10,154 pipes, detail, Sam Doust, 2016, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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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.

Grand Organ, electrical works, detail, Sam Doust, 2016, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Grand Organ, electrical works, detail, Sam Doust, 2016, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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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.

Organ virtuoso Cameron Carpenter in interview, Sydney Opera House, 2012, From the collection of: Sydney Opera House
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Grand Organ, tops of pipes, detail (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

Grand Organ, tops of pipes, detail (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

Grand Organ, division of a few of the 10,154 pipes, detail (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

Grand Organ, keyboards, with 131 speaking stops either side (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

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

Grand Organ, some of the 131 speaking stops, detail (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

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.

Grand Organ, some of the 131 speaking stops, detail (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

View from Grand Organ onto Concert Hall stage (2012) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

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

"Organ on" sign (2016) by Sam DoustSydney Opera House

Credits: Story

Created by Sam Doust and the
Sydney Opera House GCI Team

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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