After being dormant for some time, Derry’s famous Gothic Guildhall concert organ is set to come back to life as part of the city’s Hallowe’en celebrations.
Derry City and Strabane District Council is hosting a series of dates with Dracula in an evening of free Gothic organ recitals in the Guildhall’s Main Hall this Friday, October 30th.
Acclaimed local organist Stewart Smith will be master of ceremonies in the guise of Count Dracula.
The unique 15 minute recitals – at 7pm, 7.30pm, 8pm and 8.30pm on Friday – will be the first opportunity for the public to experience the mighty sounds of the impressive concert organ since its recent refurbishment restored it to its former glory.
The Guildhall organ has literally been through the wars during its 100 year history.
The organ - the second to be fitted in the Guildhall since it opened in 1890 - was designed by Sir William Paratt, organist of St George’s Chapel in Windsor.
This is a unique opportunity to experience the magnificent sounds of the newly refurbished concert organ and we’re anticipating a big influx of visitors for these free recitals which also feature a dramatic Gothic themed backdrop as part of the Hallowe’en festivities.Tara Nicholas, Visitor Services Officer at the Guildhall
It was badly damaged when the Guildhall was twice bombed in 1972, and rebuilt by Hill, Norman and Beard Ltd of London at a cost of £68,000 in 1978.
The large instrument with its 3,132 pipes underwent restoration as part of major refurbishment of the Guildhall in 2013 when it became damaged again and required further work to put it back in pristine condition.
The newly-restored organ pipes feature intricate 23-carat Italian gold leaf and an acorn design.
Commenting on the recitals, Tara Nicholas, Visitor Services Officer at the Guildhall, said Council was delighted to be unveiling the distinctive musical centrepiece as part of the city’s world renowned annual Hallowe’en celebrations.
“On Friday, 30th October we will be opening our doors of the Main Hall for the public to get the first chance to hear the Guildhall organ since its recent refurbishment.
“‘Dracula’ himself will be performing a programme of Gothic works commencing from 7pm and running at 15 minute intervals until 8.30pm.
“This is a unique opportunity to experience the magnificent sounds of the newly refurbished concert organ and we’re anticipating a big influx of visitors for these free recitals which also feature a dramatic Gothic themed backdrop as part of the Hallowe’en festivities.”
The organist, Stewart Smith, will be attired in tune with the occasion, performing a programme of Gothic works which includes J.S. Bach - Toccata & Fugue in D minor – instantly recognisable from the Dracula films - BWV 565, and L Boellmann - Toccata (from Suite Gothique), within a dramatic lighting and visual show.
It will certainly be a gig with a difference for Stewart, who is organist with the Ulster University choir. He says that donning a Dracula costume will certainly be a departure from his usual repertoire - but he’s keen to get his teeth into the event.
“We’ve chosen popular pieces which are very much associated with the Gothic theme and people will recognise one in particular from the Dracula films. It will also be quite interesting to see how the special lighting effects and music interact on the night.”
Winifred the Witch meanwhile is taking up residence in the Guildhall’s Whittaker Suite from this Thursday through to Saturday.
She will be spinning her mysterious tales for people of all ages, and people can then take a walk up the spooky staircase into the Main Hall and witness amazing illusions from Bruce Airhead who will be performing twice daily from Thursday 29th – Saturday 31st.
‘The Witches’ will also return to the Main Hall to perform twice daily.
For those seeking a more frightful experience, then the nearby Tower Museum are staging Family Ghost Tours.
After the tour you can have some fun with Hallowe’en games and mask making workshops.