For 111 years, church organ rings in Christmas in Shimla

"The pipe organ was installed in the church on Sep 23, 1899. It's believed to be one of the oldest working instruments in the world," organist Bazel Dean told IANS. The 'Queen of Hills', as Shimla was known during British colonial rule, perhaps deserves nothing less.

Christ Church is located on the historic Ridge road. As per the church archives, the pipe organ's first notes were heard Sep 28, 1899, five days after it was installed at a cost of Rs.23,000. It was repaired extensively in 1932, and routine repairs were carried out time and again.

These days, Dean's 15-year-old daughter Angelica is trying her nimble fingers on the instrument, practising for special service on the big day, Christmas.
Dean, who has acquired mastery in playing the instrument, has also learnt to take care of it.

"Now, its spares are not available in the market. We are repairing it by using local techniques," he said.

The pipe organ comprises the great organ, harmonica flute, swell organ, violin diapason, pedal organ and base flute. The wind instrument produces sound using around 1,000 pipes arranged in sets. The air, which is supplied through bellows, is controlled from a large musical keyboard.

On Christmas, the church choir will sing carols in English, Hindi and Punjabi, accompanied by the pipe organ.

After the British left India, the main organists in the church were M. Roberts (1948-1967), M. Thorpe (1967-1974), Henry Das (1974-78) and James David (1972-82).

The organ's home too has an equally impressive pedigree. Built in neo-Gothic style, the Anglican Christ Church opened in 1857. It's said to be northern India's second oldest church.

Shimla, in fact, has 91 British-era heritage buildings.
These include Ellerslie, housing the state secretariat, Vidhan Sabha, Peterhoff (which was renovated after being devastated in a fire nearly two decades ago and now serves as the state guest house), United Services Club, Town Hall, Barnes Court housing Raj Bhavan, Viceregal Lodge housing the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies and Gordon Castle.

More than 60 years after the British left, this Himalayan town still attracts thousands of domestic and overseas tourists. Many of the foreign tourists, in fact, are descendants of Englishmen who lived here during the Raj.

Last year, Himachal Pradesh attracted 11,437,155 tourists, including 400,583 foreigners. Kullu and Manali are the prominent tourist hotspots, followed by Shimla and Dharamsala.

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