Many large railway stations have pianos to play, but London Bridge has upped the game, with a church pipe organ to play instead.
It’s been placed here by Pipe Up, a charity that rescues church organs that might be lost as churches close or musical tastes change. The charity aims to stem this tide of losses by getting them cared for, played and heard. Their first pipe organ to be placed inside a railway station arrived a few weeks ago, originally came from the United Reformed Church church in Whetstone that closed as a church in 2020, and is now a school building.
It was made by the prolific organ maker, Henry Jones who was active from the 1850s and even exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1862.
Just like the free pianos, the pipe organ is free to play, although there are a few instructions for users, as it’s a bit more complicated to use the pedals than a normal piano.
The pipe organ gained a bit of publicity recently when the 27-year old Director of Music at Pembroke College, Anna Lapwood and London Bridge security guard Marcella de Gale posted a recording of themselves playing George Frideric Handel’s sorrowful aria ‘Lascia ch’io Pianga‘ after a chance encounter at the station led to some impromptu duets.
Capturing that moment on video happened on Sunday accidentally – naturally – doing something she does all the time. She dropped by to play a couple of pieces on the organ installed beneath the vaulted ceilings of London Bridge tube and rail station, something she often does when passing the station with a little time to spare.
“I played duets with four people that day,” Lapwood said.
She was only planning to hang around for about 10 minutes, but then Marcella wandered over and asked to sing along.
“We played a couple of pieces together and she clearly had a voice that had been trained in the past – then she requested that Handel and it was one of those goosebump moments.”
Lapwood, who earned her music degree at Oxford before coming to the University of Cambridge, always props her phone up on the organ when she visits London Bridge to capture reactions to the instrument from passing commuters.
“I love capturing people’s responses to this instrument – it’s not often that organs are this accessible in a public space, and I love the fact it makes it an instrument people can literally just stumble across.”
You can find the pipe organ in the side tunnels between London Bridge mainline station and the Underground.