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The eminent London firm of J W Walker and Sons duly obliged and Hobart Town Hall’s new organ, paid for by public subscription, was first heard in March 1870. For about £950, the city had procured “an organ superior to any in the possession of neighbouring colonies, except New South Wales”. The Mercury confidently predicted that the instrument would lift the colony out of its “state of positive roughness” into a new era of cultural sophistication. However, organ music did not prove to be quite as popular as anticipated and the organ deteriorated. It was rebuilt by the Australian firm, George Fincham and Sons, in 1929, with a new Tasmanian blackwood case, and again in 1966-67 by the original makers. Sadly, the Town Hall organ remains under-utilized.
But 140 years ago, in October 1879, Hobart audiences were entertained by the first local performances of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta – HMS Pinafore. The operetta was not the first of the famous partnership, but it was the first to achieve popular and lasting success. The Hobart performances, conducted by a small amateur group with piano accompaniment, took place less than eighteen months after the premiere at London’s Opéra Comique in May 1878.
The lead role of Captain Corcoran was sung by the Hobart tenor and choirmaster, Henry Hunter. Twelve years earlier, at the opening festivities of the New Town Hall in 1866, Hunter had been the soloist in Haydn’s Creation, singing in his own ‘creation’ – the beautiful building that he had designed. Not only was Hunter an outstanding architect, but he was also an accomplished musician who contributed so much to Hobart’s cultural life. To Henry Hunter,
Notes: Brendan Lennard