Having witnessed Bonobo (Simon Green) shaking the foundations of the Royal Albert Hall on the first night of his recent residency, we can confirm that it was a thunderous triumph, but the British producer had something extra special up his sleeve for his final performance at the grand old London rotunda.
Towards the end of Bonobo and his band’s Friday night set, the already enormous Otomo - a highlight from recent album Fragments - got some serious pomp and circumstance when acclaimed organist, conductor and broadcaster Anna Lapwood (currently Director of Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge) accompanied him on the Albert Hall’s celebrated pipe organ.
Originally built in 1871 by Henry “Father” Willis - the foremost organ builder of the Victorian era - and at the time the largest organ in the world, this currently has a whopping 147 stops and 9,999 pipes. It was previously used by both Wendy Carlos, who featured it in the closing title sequence for Disney’s 1982 sci-fi film Tron, and Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright, who played it back in 1969 (a recording of this was featured on 2014 Pink Floyd album The Endless River).
The Bonobo moment came about quite by chance. Lapwood was practising on the organ at 1am last Friday morning - Bonobo had performed a show the previous evening, and some of his team were still in the building. Two of them - trumpet player Ryan Jacob and sound engineer Tommy Williams - cheekily asked her to play Bach’s iconic Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and she kindly obliged.
With the ice broken, Lapwood invited the pair to come and have a look at the organ, and it was at this point that a plan began to be hatched. “12 hours later, they had written me an organ part,” says Lapwood, “18 hours later I was helping them close their show to an audience of 5,000”.
Fortunately for those who weren’t present, Lapwood documented the moment that the audience first heard the organ in a TikTok video, and it’s since been viewed more than 2.8 million times. It’s a genuinely heartwarming clip, with Lapwood moved to say that “This was honestly one of the greatest nights of my life.”
In a further TikTok, a clearly ecstatic Lapwood added: “Every now and then you play for a concert that feels genuinely life-changing. This was that concert for me. Playing for Bonobo with a couple of hours notice after they heard me practising the night before.
“I genuinely never expected to experience anything like this - 5,000 people cheering for the organ. This feeling cannot be put into words. I feel like this one concert has blown my musical world wide open. Good music is good music, whatever the genre.”