Organ Concerts at Freemasons' Hall
Since 2017 Freemasons’ Hall has been proud to host world-class organists at our biannual Organ Concerts.
These concerts are free and open to everyone. Past organists include Henry Fairs, Simon Gledhill, Richard Hills, John Kitchen MBE and Darius Battiwalla.
Please see below for more information on the upcoming organ concerts and how to book.
Virtual Organ Concert 9th December 2020
The virtual organ concert is available to rewatch here.
Freemasons’ Hall held a Virtual Organ Concert on Wednesday 9th December 2020. The event showcased the magnificent Willis Pipe Organ, and was streamed from the majestic Grand Temple in Freemasons’ Hall, London, an Art Deco masterpiece built in 1933.
The virtual audience was able to book a free ticket to watch Christopher Stokes, the present Senior Organist at the Freemasons, and organist and Master of the Choristers at Manchester Cathedral. He previously held posts as organist and Master of Music at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, and director of music at St Margaret's, Westminster Abbey.
Mr Stokes is a renowned soloist, but has also appeared with numerous orchestras, including the Hallé Orchestra, the Manchester Camerata, the Northern Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Golden Age.
The artist selected eight memorable melodies to enchant audiences:
- Sonata in G – Edward Elgar
- Toccata Giocosa (William Mathias)
- Psalm Prelude Set 1 No 1 (Herbert Howells)
- Tuba Tune (Norman Cocker)
- Chanson de Matin (Edward Elgar)
- Tune in E, in the style of John Stanley (George Thalben-Ball)
- Sonata in Eb, BWV 525(i) (Johann Sebastian Bach)
- Crown Imperial (William Walton)
Free practice sessions for RCO pupils
United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has close connections with the Royal College of Organists.
We offer free practice sessions for RCO pupils and other competent organists, both on this organ and on the Viscount digital organ in Temple 10, which is of similar size and configuration to the Willis and which was donated to the United Grand Lodge of England by the Grand Stewards' Lodge in 2017 to mark the Tercentenary celebrations of UGLE and 300 years of English Freemasonry.
UGLE provide Freemasons’ Bursaries amounting to £6,000 per annum to the RCO for distribution to pupils who have to travel considerable distances to practice – and take RCO exams – on a suitable organ. The Bursaries are also available to cover tutoring fees and are undoubtedly helpful for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The third part of the outreach has been to sponsor a Freemasons’ Prize, awarded annually to the two pupils who attain the highest marks overall in the CRCO examinations in July and December. The Colleague of the RCO grade has been introduced relatively recently to encourage those who feel that the ARCO exam is too difficult for them at their stage of development and is an encouragement to progress in their organ career. The winners of this prize are invited to visit Freemasons’ Hall to be shown around this magnificent building and to play the Grand Temple Organ.
History of the Grand Organ
The original organ was installed in 1933 by Henry Willis, the third generation in a long family line of organ builders, on completion of the Peace Memorial Building, the original name for the present Freemasons’ Hall. It had three manuals and 43 stops, giving a total complement of some 2,220 pipes and was the last big organ built by the Willis firm. Apart from being cleaned twice, it had never been touched, although we were fortunate to have had tuners who maintained it with loving care over the years. However, after 80 years it badly needed a complete renovation, which was carried out in Durham by Harrison & Harrison.
Harrison & Harrison also designed the new case above the console, which houses a further six stops (approximately 400 pipes) to enhance the sound, particularly in leading the singing. Recitalists have commented on how skilful Harrisons have been in blending their sound with that of the original organ.
The new case was purposely designed to mimic the other two cases, which were re-gilded during the restoration process, and helps to project sound straight down to the west, as well as considerably enhancing the beauty of the Grand Temple. The refurbished instrument, together with the new case, was inaugurated at the Craft and Royal Arch Investiture meetings in late April 2015. The organ now incorporates a play-back system, which means that players can record a piece and then go down and listen to it in the west. It also enables tour guides to demonstrate the organ to tour parties by playing one of several pre-recorded pieces.
Both the renovated console (which was originally painted a dull gold colour) and the pinnacle of the new organ case features the triple tau, the Royal Arch symbol which appears rarely in the building and nowhere else in the Grand Temple. This acknowledges the fact that the Supreme Grand Chapter funded the restoration of the organ, as a means of commemorating its bi-centenary in 2013.