This instrument was originally built by Henry Willis and Sons in England between 1891-2 and first erected in the Brisbane Exhibition Hall, Bowen Park. At that time it had 4 manuals and 45 speaking stops, with tubular pneumatic action – a very advanced design for the period. While the first recital was held in 1892 for the members of the Royal National Association (the governing body of the Exhibition), public concerts were a popular attraction for many years.
In the 1920’s, the Association faced financial problems and thought of selling the instrument interstate. Mr. George Sampson, Organist at St. John’s Cathedral, suggested that it be acquired for the Civic Hall being built on King George Square and arranged a number of subscription concerts to help defray costs.
Opportunity was taken at this time to enlarge and modernise the instrument. Henry Willis and Sons, working in conjunction with local organ builders Whitehouse Brothers, converted the action to electro-pneumatic. In 1930, the rebuilt instrument with five manuals and pedals, containing seventy-six speaking stops, was playing again.
Regular concerts were given by the City Organists and visiting celebrities as well as local promising students. For many years orchestral works involving the organ were a feature of Symphony Concerts and Recitals.
Some 40 years after its first rebuild, it became apparent that much of the electrical work needed replacement and opportunity was taken to resite the Solo and Choir departments. Bringing the Solo into the one area brought into focus the desirability of rearranging the Solo Tuba as a 16′. New pipework was provided for the 8′ Tuba and Tuba Clarion 4′. As well, the Great and Pedal were provided each with a new Mixture stop, while the Choir was enlarged by a Sesquialtera II. All of this work, as well as the installation of a solid state capture system, was undertaken by NSW builders Brown and Arkley, thus bringing the instrument to seventy-eight speaking stops.
Since then WJ Simon Pierce has undertaken the general maintenance and repair of the instrument; sometimes – alarmingly – just before, or in the middle of, public recitals!
The specifications shown below are the old ones. The new specifications can be found here
Compass of Manuals CC-C, 61 notes Compass of pedals CCC-F, 30 notes
32' Double Open Bass 32' Contra Violone 16' Open Bass 16' Contra Bass 16' Open Diapason 16' Violone 16' Bourdon 16' Viole 8' Octave 8' Principal 8' Violon Cello 8' Flute 4' Fifteenth III Mixture 10-12-15 IV Mixture 15-1-9-22-26 32' Contra Ophicleide 16' Ophicleide 16' Cor Anglais 8' Clarion 4' Octave Clarion Solo to Pedal Choir to Pedal Choir to Pedal 4' Swell to Pedal Swell to Pedal 4' Great to Pedal Great to Pedal 4' Orchestral to Pedal Orchestral to Pedal 4'
16' Double Open Diapason 8' Open Diapason No 1 8' Open Diapason No 2 8' Open Diapason No 3 8' Claribel Flute 4' Principal 4' Flute Harmonic 2 2/3' Twelfth 2' Fifteenth III Sesquialtera 17-19-22 IV Furniture 19-22-26-29 16' Contra Tromba 8' Tromba 4' Clarion Solo to Great Choir to Great Swell to Great Sub Swell to Great Octave Orchestral to Great
16' Lieblich Bourdon 8' Geigen Diapason 8' Lieblich Gedackt 8' Salicional 8' Vox Angelica 4' Gemshorn 4' Lieblich Flute 2' Flageolet III Mixture 17-19-22 8' Hautboy
|SWELL ORGAN (cont.)
8' Vox Humana 16' Double Trumpet 8' Trumpet 4' Clarion Tremolo Swell Sub Octave Swell Unison Off
8' Viola da Gamba 8' Lieblich Gedackt 8' Dulciana 4' Flute d'Amour 2' Harmonic Piccolo II Sesquialtera 12-17 8' Corno di Bassetto Choir Sub Octave Choir Octave Choir Unison Off Solo to Choir
SOLO ORGAN (Enclosed)
8' Flute Harmonique 4' Concert Flute 16' Double Clarinet 8' Orchestral Oboe Tremolo
SOLO ORGAN (Unenclosed)
8' Diapason Stentor 8' Cathedral Chimes 16' Tuba 8' Tuba 4' Tuba Clarion
16' Violon 8' Violoncello 8' Cello Celestes 8' Orchestral Flute 8' Tibia Clausa 8' Sylvestrina 4' Viola 4' Flute Ouverte 2 2/3' Nazard 2' Piccolo 1 3/5' Tierce 16' Cor Anglais 8' Clarinet 8' French Horn 8' Orchestral Trumpet Tremolo Orchestral Sub Octave Orchestral Octave Orchestral Unison Off Solo to Orchestral
|5 Thumb Pistons to Solo Organ
7 Thumb Pistons to Orchestral Organ
7 Thumb Pistons to Swell Organ
7 Thumb Pistons to Great Organ
5 Thumb Pistons to Choir Organ
7 Toe Pistons to Pedal Organ
7 Toe Pistons to Swell Organ (duplicating)
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Solo to Choir
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Solo to Orchestral
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Solo to Great
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Choir to Great
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Choir to Pedal
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Swell to Choir
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Swell to Great
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Swell to Pedal
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Great to Pedal (duplicating)
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Orchestral to Swell
|1 Reversible Thumb Piston Orchestral to Great
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Orchestral to Choir
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Orchestral to Pedal
1 Reversible Thumb Piston Full Organ (programmable)
1 General Cancel thumb piston
1 Thumb Piston for “Set”
1 Thumb Piston for “Neutral Set”
Great and Pedal Combinations coupled
1 General Crescendo Pedal
Swell Expression Pedal
Choir Expression Pedal
Solo Expression Pedal
Orchestral Expression Pedal
1 lever pedal (kick-down)
Swell Pedal selection switches
40 memory channels for Piston Capture system
Memory Channel No.1 set by organbuilders only