Meet Colin Hele: the man who keeps Maritzburg’s pipe organ in tune

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Colin Hele, pictured here with his wife, Rose, has been taking care of the pipe organ in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall since 1976. The couple recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.

TheLuvvie.com’s Estelle Sinkins chats to Colin Hele, the man who keeps the pipe organ in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall in tune.

The majestic pipe organ in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall ‘embodies all that is best in the late Victorian, romantic style of organ building’.

That’s the view of Colin Hele, the man who has been taking care of this beautiful musical instrument since 1976.

Hele was originally part of the famous British organ building firm of Hele & Co. Plymouth – founded by his great grandfather in 1860. When the firm was absorbed into the J W Walker organisation, he continued to work for Walkers in various parts of the world.

In 1971 Hele came to South Africa to join Cooper, Gill & Tomkins and after starting his own business in Pietermaritzburg, in 1974, he was asked to undertake the work of rebuilding the city hall organ as a sub-contractor. He has maintained the organ since the rebuilding work was finished.

Asked what he loved most about the organ, Hele, who maintains organs throughout KwaZulu-Natal, says it is ‘magnificent both visually and aurally’, adding: “It is a cathedral organ in a concert hall.”

In the course of his work, he has been able to play the organ to enjoy everything is working and in tune.  “It’s loud and some of the stops vibrate through the building,” he says.

Hele and his wife, Rose, will be among those in audience when David Orr accompanies the Drakensberg Boys Choir School on the organ in Music Revival’s Christmas concert in the city hall at 7pm on Tuesday, November 29.

“There is nothing more thrilling than hearing the full organ played by a professional organist with people singing their hearts out. This organ always comes through loud and dominant,” he says.

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The Drakensberg Boys Choir, pictured in front of the pipe organ in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Photo: Jonathan Burton

NEED TO KNOW

The Drakensberg Boys Choir will be performing in Music Revival’s Christmas concert in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 7pm on Tuesday, November 29. The programme includes Ave Maria and carols like O Come All Ye Faithful.

General tickets are R150, with discounts for pensioners and scholars R135. Tickets should be purchased online at http://www.ticketpro.co.za but can also be bought at CNA at The Quarry Centre in Hilton and Edgars Connect in the Liberty Midlands Mall.

There will be secure, patrolled parking in the City Hall, Tatham Art Gallery and Bessie Head Library precincts on the evening.

The concert is sponsored by Parklane SuperSpar, in association with the City of Pietermaritzburg, CPW Printers, The Witness and Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa.

 

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