Up, up and away at Liverpool Cathedral!

Image by Gareth Jones

LIVERPOOL Cathedral has inflated a hot air balloon inside its Main Space during an Evensong Service to celebrate and give thanks for securing major investment enabling the Cathedral to complete the refurbishment of its prized Grand Organ – the UK’s largest pipe organ.

The inflation and take-off of the hot air balloon inside Britain’s largest cathedral are believed to be a world first event.  And the Cathedral is no stranger to reimagining how a building can be utilised. After all where else could you attend over 1,000 worship services per year, come to a gala banquet dinner for 800 people, dance to Cream Classics, attend a world-renowned organ recital, abseil 30 metres down the external façade and, last but not least, fly a hot air balloon up inside the Main Space?

The donation of £384,000 comes from Hamish Ogston CBE, a leading British entrepreneur and philanthropist. This evening’s service (November 15, 2017) featured specially-commissioned music – including a trumpet fanfare written by BAFTA and Emmy

Award-winning composer George Fenton and the inflation of Hamish Ogston’s hot air balloon inside the Cathedral’s 174ft (53m) Main Space. The balloon is 74ft (23m) in height and 62ft (19m) wide and rose 49ft (15m) into the air – 105,000 cubic feet of air was needed to inflate the balloon

Robin Batchelor, one of the UK’s most experienced professional balloon pilots who taught Sir Richard Branson how to fly, was responsible for inflating and taking off with four choristers in the basket of the balloon inside the Cathedral.

Canon Myles Davies, Acting Dean of Liverpool, said: “We are absolutely delighted and humbled by the progress we have made with the restoration of our magnificent Cathedral. As we celebrate this national treasure with its great traditions of choral and organ music, we give thanks for the support of all our benefactors, and especially today for the most generous gift of Hamish Ogston CBE as we look forward to completing the restoration of the Grand Organ.”

Professor Dr Ian Tracey, DL., Mus. Doc., Organist Titulaire, Liverpool Cathedral, said: “The Grand Organ of Liverpool Cathedral is internationally renowned as one of the greatest church organs in the world; when it was built in 1926, it was the largest musical instrument ever conceived, and is still the largest organ in the UK today.  With its 8 manual divisions and pedals, 200 drawstops, and its staggering total of 10,268 pipes it is one of the wonders of the musical world. Having been in continuous service for over 90 years, a major Appeal was launched in 2009 to which Hamish Ogston has been our most generous benefactor. We will give hearty thanks for that great munificence at a special service of Evensong, on Wednesday 15th November,  as fanfares of trumpets, full-voiced organ & choir perform the anthem specially commissioned by him, ‘ God is Gone up’,  as his hot air balloon fills the Main Space and rises heavenward.”

Hamish Ogston, a former chorister and music exhibitioner, said: “I am delighted to be involved in this truly community-based project to save Liverpool Cathedral’s culturally significant pipe organ. The restoration and preservation of this magnificent instrument and its history will ensure that the rich musical traditions of Liverpool Cathedral will continue to thrive for many years to come. I also hope today’s entertaining service with the hot air balloon helps to inspire other places of worship around the world to think about how they can use their majestic, but underutilised, spaces to raise substantial income each year and attract the next generation of visitors.”