Lancaster has a rich musical, dance and artistic history. Each year the local primary schools hold a Music Festival and this operates in the Ashton Hall which is itself part of the magnificent ‘Town Hall’. Additionally, the Music Departments and selected (music) pupils attend our Wednesday Lunchtime Concerts, hosted every week between 1st February and ending in the 2nd week in December. These Schools are Lancaster Royal Grammar LRGS (Boys School) founded by Henry VIII, Lancaster Girls Grammar School LGGS, and the and winning (2017) UK Music Department, Ripley C of E Aided Academy.
All three senior schools also use the hall the organ and the Steinway Grande (Model ‘C’ Pianoforte for musical concerts, speech days and other event. (Please put a link to the SoS Link here)
Other users also use the Ashton Hall such as numerous Schools of Dance, Choral Societies, Lancaster & District Male Voice Choir and the Haffner Concert Orchestra. The Ashton Hall is also used for Conferences and is popular with the BBC for holding the Antiques Road Show and also Question Time.
The Town Hall and its many Gillow pieces as well as the Ashton Hall Concert Pipe Organ all feature in the Heritage Tours of the City of Lancaster in September of each year.
AHORP (Ashton Hall Organ Restoration), S.o.S (Save our Steinway) and LAOF (Lancaster Annual Organ Festival) each host a range of musical concerts in the Ashton Hall. Players come free of charge to perform on our ‘world class’ 1909 Norman and Beard Concert Pipe Organ which is currently valued at 1.5 million pounds, The casework is by the former company of Gillows. AHORP benefit from Mr & Mrs Gillow-Reynolds Patronage as well as some leading figures in the world of music such as Sir Karl Jenkins (Patrons Page). The ‘Gillow’ casework has been adjudged ‘Priceless’ by experts (BBC) and was fully restored to its former glory in 2010. The work was undertaken by the late Bert Bleesdale and his apprentice. He was 83 years of age when he undertook the work. The reason we ‘employed’ Bert, a consummate craftsman, was that he was the last remaining French Polisher still alive and at the time working for himself but had been trained and worked all his ‘employed life’ by Gillows of Lancaster, later Waring and Gillows. For the opening of the Town Hall, including the now Ashton Hall in 1909 (Initially the Concert/Dance Hall was not named after Lord Ashton). Bert other claim to fame was that he French Polished all the wood interiors of the Orient Express when it was restored at Carnforth which is just 6 miles north of Lancaster. Lancaster & District Male Voice Choir was founded in 1899 and are one of the earliest Male Voice Choirs in the UK. They also sang at the official opening of the Town Hall when they performed in the ‘Ashton’ Concert Hall.
To celebrate the Organ’s Centenary in 2009, AHORP invited the highly respected UK Cathedral Organist, Composer and Choral Director, Malcolm Archer to compose an original work specifically for the Town Hall Concert Organ. Malcolm has worked as Director of Music at Bristol, Wells and St Pauls Cathedral, London. He is now Director of the Chapel Music at the celebrated Winchester College, Winchester. The new composition is now known as the Lancaster Suite (for Organ). (Lancaster Suit) In 2017 a set if 61 (Seventeenth 1 3/5) pipes were sourced and a new electric action wind chest and action were provided by Principal Pipe Organs of York under the Directorship of Geoffrey Coffin MA(Cantb) and also a former Assistant to Dr Francis Jackson (now CBE) at York Minster. This ‘new’ rank of pipes was supposed to be fitted to the organ in 1909 but for reasons of physical space had to be omitted. AHORP again turned to Malcolm Archer who has a close connection with Lancaster to compose a piece for a composite Solo Stop called the Cornet. The missing element for over 100 years was the Seventeenth. Due to the same ‘space’ problem, the new chest and pipes had to be mounted high up and just behind the façade pipes where it speaks with a definite clarity.