'Aotea Ali' organ for Christchurch

24 August 2011

University of Canterbury Organist Associate Professor Martin Setchell has helped bring New Zealand's largest pipeless organ to Christchurch.

University of Canterbury Organist Associate Professor Martin Setchell has helped bring New Zealand’s largest pipeless organ to Christchurch.

Professor Setchell (Music), this city’s organ curator, helped orchestrate the organ’s move thanks to negotiations initiated between the Allen Organ Company New Zealand, Vbase, Christchurch City Council and The Edge (the company which manages Auckland’s Aotea Centre). 

Courtesy of the outstanding generosity of The Edge and Mainfreight the Allen electronic organ, previously housed in Auckland's ASB Theatre, has been transported to the CBS arena in Christchurch.

The 22 February earthquake caused significant damage to the Christchurch Town Hall building complex, meaning it will be inaccessible for an unknown period. Larger music events scheduled for the Town Hall auditorium (seating capacity 2500) have been forced to relocate to the only currently available city venue capable of seating similar numbers – the CBS Arena in Addington. Many of these events were counting on using the Town Hall’s iconic Rieger pipe organ as usual and still need an adequate substitute organ.

“Aotea Ali, as it is affectionately called, will be there to fill the gap for as long as needed,” said Professor Setchell.

“Most recently, from March 2008-2010, it was used in the Auckland Town Hall while their city's pipe organ was being rebuilt in Germany, so it is accustomed to serving the needs of a large concert hall.”

The Allen electric organ has four manuals and full pedalboard, and boasts 84 speaking stops with traditional draw-stop action. It is completely portable, with 28 x 100 watt amplifiers and speaker cabinets mounted on three wheeled rafts.

The organ will be heard publicly for the first time on Sunday 4 September when Professor Setchell will play the organ solos in Fauré's Requiem with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. The Requiem is the main work in “Christchurch Sings”, a Christchurch Arts Festival concert uniting choristers of all ages, to be held appropriately on the first anniversary of the September 2010 earthquake.

Other events that plan to use the Allen this year include UC’s graduation ceremonies, the traditional ‘Last Night of the Proms” and the Primary Schools Music Festival.

For further information please contact:
Associate Professor Martin Setchell
Ph: +64 3 351 6450
Cell: 021 1834 136

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