Review: Yorkshire Day recital by Darius Battiwalla, Leeds Town Hall, Saturday, August 1, 2020

This special Yorkshire Day concert given by Darius Battiwalla, at the console of Leeds Town Hall’s Olympian pipe organ and shared on social media, marked the starting post of a tortuous journey back to normality.

Normality meaning, in this context, the day that we can all relish the life enhancing communal experience of artists and audience connecting through live performance.

Austria and Greece have already got their act together. Why can’t this country?

Worldwide listeners to the broadcast of Saturday’s two hour-long programme from an empty Leeds Town Hall heard Darius Battiwalla give a guided virtual tour inside the gilded organ casing.

The pipework and organ chamber concealed within is as large as a three storey house.

He explained how the character of the original organ had been altered to reflect changing musical tastes.

A major rebuild in 1971 reduced the weight and thickness of sound in favour of clarity and brilliance, partially I suspect, as a counterbalance to the resonance of this auditorium.

A planned £1 million overhaul in 2021-22 will ‘re-voice’ the organ by restoring some of the darker tone colours removed half a century ago. The result will be a fuller and more integrated sound, without compromising the instrument’s clarity and brilliance.

Darius Battiwalla was appointed to the historic post of Leeds City Organist three years ago. He follows in the illustrious footsteps of William Spark, Herbert Austin Fricker, Donald Hunt and the forty year-long tenure of Simon Lindley.

In addition to solo recitals and taking part in orchestral and choral concerts requiring the organ, the postholder is responsible for planning the popular free monday lunchtime recital series.

This appealing Yorkshire Day programme showcased the range and sonic grandeur of the Town Hall organ.

Most of the composers had a Yorkshire connection: Samuel Sebastian Wesley (late of Leeds Parish Church), Edward Bairstow (late of York Minster), and Philip Wilby, a former lecturer at Leeds University School of Music.

Johann Strauss ll has no such connection but his Blue Danube Waltz, arranged for organ by Jonathan Scott, added a festive note to the proceedings. Norman Cocker’s virtuosic Tuba Tune brought the programme to a ringing climax.

Listen to the broadcast at

Geoffrey Mogridge