Musical instruments don’t come much bigger than the one Marion Bettsworth has earned the privilege to play.
Towering nearly 100 foot tall and with a console comprising five keyboards and a bewildering array of pipes and tonal stops, the talented musician is dwarfed by the magnifcient giant grand old Willis concert organ in the Great Hall at Alexandra Palace.
She recently became Ally Pally’s organ scholar being awarded a £500 a year bursary and the opportunity to regularly practise on it after beating three other applicants to secure the Bert Allwood scholarship.
“I’m so excited,” said Marion, who lives in Highgate and studied music at Oxford University where she previously held an organ scholarship at Lincoln College.
“Raising awareness of the organ and making it more accessible to the public is important to me,” she said.
“Due to their size and complexity they are fascinating instruments and impressive feats of human construction, and I know that they have a huge appeal to people for both entertainment and learning."
The organ has been partially reconstructed as part of an ongoing £1 million appeal to restore it to its former 1929 glory.
Once described by organ virtuoso Marcel Dupre as “the finest concert organ in Europe” it is steeped in history.
The original organ was installed in 1875 when Ally Pally was rebuilt after a destructive fire.
During Wold War One it was vandalised before being restored and rebuilt in 1929.
It survived a World War Two V1 rocket attack which blew out the windows of Alexandra Palace, but the organ later suffered damage from exposure to the elements.
Parts of it were dismantled and put in storage, which was fortunate as the Palace was again burned down in 1980.
The Alexandra Palace Organ Trust was formed in 1962 and with some grant funding and generous private donations the organ has since been partially reconstructed.
Marion added: “When I moved to London almost two years ago I lived just 10 minutes away from Ally Pally and would regularly walk up the hill to admire the stunning view of the city.
“It’s a very special place and it’s fantastic that the restoration of the Victorian Theatre and the East Court is now underway.
“I’m delighted to be helping to secure the future of Ally Pally’s world-class organ so that it can play a part in the Palace’s reputation as a leading destination for heritage and culture."