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Photograph: Jess Hand

A Victorian pipe organ has been installed at London Bridge to serenade commuters

The 250-pipe instrument was saved from a north London church

Written by
Ellie Muir

Ah, there’s nothing quite like a communal musical instrument in a London train station. At St Pancras International, you can usually find a lone commuter dusting off their old ‘Chopsticks’ chords on the station’s battered piano, or a couple spontaneously playing a duet of ‘Heart and Soul’ in a horrible Richard Curtis-style meet-cute moment. 

Well, St Pancras’s notorious joanna has got a new contender for London’s commuter-carolling crown. A 250-pipe organ has been installed at London Bridge station to serenade travellers with its majestically sonorous notes as they speedwalk to the Jubilee line. The organ will officially open to the public this Saturday, July 30. It was installed on July 17, and unveiled by the UK’s most celebrated young organist, Anna Lapwood, 27, who played for five minutes and wooed the crowd. 

Martin Renshaw, organ restorer and founder of the charity Pipe Up for Pipe Organs, said: ‘She rocked up and I thought: Oh, not another one. I hadn’t recognised her but it soon became apparent who she was. She played absolutely brilliantly, it was lovely.’

Lapwood, director of music at Pembroke College, Cambridge said: ‘I had been told about it and just went to see if I could find it and saw it behind a barrier and they let me have a play.’

As parish churches close across the country, many historic organs are left abandoned and in need of a new home. Pipe Up for Pipe Organs works to rescue threatened pipe organs by restoring them in situ or rehoming them. This lucky example was saved from United Reformed Church in Whetstone, north London. It was made around 1880 and has a swell box and a full range of pedal pipes (technical organ-type chat), powered by a 30-note-and-pedal keyboard. 

As the organ continues its life in the slightly less sacred home of London Bridge station, it will be kept company by the soft waft of commuter sweat as squiffy Londoners make their way home from Thursday drinkies with the girlies.

TfL has proposed a tourism tax to help raise funds.

Oh, and here are some sickeningly cute pictures of London Zoo’s newborn tiger cubs.

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