Music and history buffs now have another opportunity to experience City Hall up close and personal, with the start of new dedicated tours of City Hall’s 120 year old Father Henry Willis organ.

These unique new tours offer a ‘behind the scenes’ look at one of Australia’s largest and oldest organs, and the chance to learn more about its exciting history.

City Hall’s organ is fondly known as a “Father Willis” because it was constructed in 1891 by renowned organ-builder Henry Willis, of Henry Willis & Sons, in Camden Town, London.

The organ features more than 4300 pipes, the tallest of which stand at an impressive 13 metres high and the smallest at just 10 centimetres.

Originally the organ was commissioned by the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association designed for the Brisbane Exhibition Concert Hall, with installation in 1892.

Later, in 1900 Council purchased the organ and it was relocated, enlarged and modernised for Brisbane’s new City Hall which eventually opened in 1930.

Interestingly, there are no two identical pipe organs in the world; each one sounds and looks different, and our Father Willis organ is regarded as one of the best pipe organs in Australia.

When City Hall closed for its $215 million restoration in 2010, the organ was also restored, taking four years to restore reinstall and tune all 4,300 pipes before its rededication last year.

The painstaking restoration of the organ also included specialist works such as French polishing, cabinet making, leatherwork, electrical wiring and computer programming.

The sound of each of the 4,391 individual pipes was recorded before removing it from City Hall in 2010, to make sure it would sound exactly the same as the day it was removed from City Hall.

This meticulous restoration work is definitely worthy of being admired up close and these tours are the perfect way to not only see the organ but to hear it in all its glory, with a performance by a qualified organist.

Fans of the organ can also hear it in action during a special performance by Spics and Specks star Barry Morgan, at his concert Mr Barry Morgan Plays the Big Organ, on 15 October.

The free 45 minute tours are being held at 1.30pm on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, following the Clem Jones Concerts.  Bookings are essential and can be made at or by calling (07) 3339 0800.

Cheers, Graham