Titus Grenyer ignites the future of the Sydney Town Hall organ

Meet the 25-year-old organist keeping historic traditions alive with a modern outlook

If you haven’t already seen it, Sydney Town Hall’s grand organ is a historic 133-year-old instrument that’s used regularly throughout the year for recitals, concerts, school speech days, dinners and conferences.

The man behind it, is 25-year-old Titus Grenyer.

Titus plays the organ. 126 speaking stops, nearly 9,000 pipes and a unique 64 foot pedal stop. Image: Abril Felman, City of Sydney

Titus is an accomplished organist, conductor, composer and teacher, bringing accessible, deeply musical, and excitingly modern performances to the city as the organ programmer. He’s also currently the director of music at Our Lady of Dolours Church in Chatswood, the acting director of the St Mary’s Cathedral Singers and the creator of Australia’s largest organ Youtube channel, Pep Organ.

“The truth is,” Titus said, “people are very receptive to organ music and they just want to hear something musical and beautiful”.

“Imagine having a light show during an organ performance, or a themed concert based on something like video games or film music. Or perhaps including a dinner package."

Titus’s vision for the Town Hall organ program aims to honour tradition and history, while also encouraging a wider audience to enjoy and appreciate the instrument.

Titus is buzzing with ideas.

Titus sits with the Town Hall organ during a practice session. Image: Abril Felman, City of Sydney

The grand organ was designed by William Hill & Sons and sent to Australia in 94 packages. Image: City of Sydney Archives

The spectacular gold gilded front case was designed by Arthur Hill. Image: Wendell Teodoro, City of Sydney

An innovative career

Titus started his musical journey on the violin and piano before he started to take organ lessons.

“Once I discovered it, that enabled me to see something more than just music. It's such a powerful instrument and so versatile,” he said.

Beyond the musicality, Titus says he was drawn to “the heritage nature of it all, because playing an organ is sort of like playing part of a building. It's something that you have to adapt to and that's so different to violin and even piano. Most pianos are the same. Every organ you play is different.”

He honed his skills on the organ at Wollongong Town Hall, built by one of Australia’s distinguished organ builders, Ronald Sharp, the name behind the organ at the Sydney Opera House. Titus took lessons and gained a scholarship to continue his education. He was awarded a Bachelor of Music with first class Honors in Performance in Organ Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Titus performing at his debut recital at Town Hall. Image: Chris Southwood, City of Sydney

Since then, he’s performed organ recitals at a slew of notable venues and events like TEDxSydney Youth, St Andrews’ Cathedral, St Mary’s Cathedral, The University of Sydney Great Hall, and Waiapu Cathedral in New Zealand.

Composing is something Titus has always enjoyed, having written music for organs, choirs, orchestras, concerts and numerous events. One career highlight was composing an organ symphony, the first ever written in Australia.

“Imagine a symphony orchestra and all the different parts that they would make, but just playing all parts on an organ. [An organ symphony is] a popular genre from the past that a lot of different composers wrote for, but no Australians. So I wrote one and performed that last year,” Titus said.

This knack for innovation is even seen in the iPad Titus uses to read sheet music while playing, as opposed to traditional paper.

“You can program it to turn pages when you wink,” he said.

The Sydney Town Hall organ

The majestic grand organ is still the largest organ ever constructed with tubular pneumatic playing action. Image: Peter Murphy, City of Sydney

With 133 years on its majestic pipes, the Town Hall grand organ was designed and built by leading English organ builders William Hill & Sons in the 1890s. It was the biggest organ in the world and still holds its own as one of the world’s best due to careful restoration.

“In the UK, they had some of the best organs, and they would tinker with them, try and upgrade them and it actually ended up making them worse. Our Town Hall in Sydney is so special because it's still exactly as it was in 1890. The maintenance has helped restore it back to how it originally was”, Titus said.

Titus sees a lot of potential for Sydney Town Hall's organ .

“I think it could become a venue that is valued really highly because of its organ and the significance it has on the world stage,” he said. “I’m so excited to expand it to have more concerts and not just traditional organ concerts.”

Sydney Town hall featuring the organ. Image: Paul Patterson, City of Sydney

Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore AO shares his vision.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Titus and his wife Kim recently, where we spoke about our shared love of classical music and his plans for the role,” she said.

“We look forward to continuing to showcase this culturally and historically significant instrument into the future."

Hear it live

See Titus Grenyer play the grand organ at one of the Sydney Town Hall organ recitals. View the schedule here.

Discover more about the grand organ with a selection of items from the City of Sydney Archives.

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