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#1 MusingMuso

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Posted 08 July 2006 - 02:24 PM

Having admired the work of John Compton for many years, the mention of him on another thread brought forth the suggestion that this may be a good time to collect and collate information about the man, his work and the influence he had on organ-builders.

Although much of his work survives, in concert-halls, cathedrals, churches and theatres, the time is fast approaching when no-one will have first-hand knowledge and memories of the great man and the company he founded.

In only a few hours, a quick search through the internet has revealed things which I did not know; such as the fact that he DIDN'T serve an apprenticeship with Brindley & Foster, as I had previously thought, but with another company. He did, as a time-served organ-builder, eventually work for Brindley & Foster, but it is this sort of detail which is easily distorted by the passage of time.

Piecing together a life-work is difficult enough, but in the case of the John Compton Organ Co., all the records before and up to the time of an air-raid during WW2, means that nothing much survived the fire which ensued.

What, for instance, do we know of his colleague and right-hand man, Taylor?

The natural successor to Hope-Jones, I was amused to discover that Hope-Jones was banished from the Compton premises, and yet, without Hope-Jone's pioneering work, the Compton extension organ would possibly never have happened.

In the field of electronics and electrostatic sound production, Compton Organs were at the forefront of development, but again, as someone who can barely wire up a 13 amp plug (they're the ones with the square-pins....right?), it is all something of a mystery to me, and I must rely on the knowledge of others better qualified or knowledgeable.

It also fascinates me that Compton should have been such an enquiring perfectionist, and one who was ever keen to experiment with synthetic tone-production; demonstrating a keen and lively mind with a distinctly scientific edge.

The discovery that the Compton factory at North Acton used works-clocks which were slaves of a master-clock designed by Hope-Jones, is a delightful anecdote, since there was apparent paranoia about the clocks being kept in perfect time with the BBC time-pips.

Was John Compton something of a stickler when it came to time-keeping and efficiency?

Only fifty years on, and here we are in a very different world of a non-military generation, who simply do not understand how factory-production used to operate, or the sometimes savage discipline which was often applied to those who
were young apprentices.

Of course, behind every great man is a great woman, so they say, but whether that is true of John Compton I somehow doubt. Nevertheless, he was not a one-man band, but only the figurehead to a remarkable and innovative team, which raises the further question of those who went on the achieve much after working at the Compton company.

Of course, like so many organ-building companies, John Compton was propped up financialy by outside interests; that too, something of a social statement concerning an era. In this, Compton were not alone.

Perhaps most fascinating of all, is that the company began just a few years before the outbreak of WW1, and survived only until a few years after WW2, but during that period they established themselves as the most productive organ-building company the UK has ever witnessed, with a unique (now unfashionable) style of organ-building.

Perhaps now IS the time to try and piece together what is known of this remarkable phenomenon in UK organ-building, before it is too late.

MM

#2 John Sayer

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Posted 08 July 2006 - 05:41 PM

Perhaps now IS the time to try and piece together what is known of this remarkable phenomenon in UK organ-building, before it is too late.

MM

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Ian Bell, who I believe was apprenticed with Comptons just before they went out of business, gave a lecture to BIOS a few years ago, with many fascinating insights into the way the firm operated, albeit in the years of its decline. His article on concervation issues surrounding the organ at Southampton Guildhall in the latest BIOS Journal (No 29) makes very worthwhile reading.

JS

#3 AJJ

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Posted 08 July 2006 - 05:53 PM

Ian Bell, who I believe was apprenticed with Comptons just before they went out of business, gave a lecture to BIOS a few years ago, with many fascinating insights into the way the firm operated, albeit in the years of its decline.  His article on concervation issues surrounding the organ at Southampton Guildhall in the latest BIOS Journal (No 29) makes very worthwhile reading.

JS

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There are also Ian Bell articles on Compton in back issues of the BIOS journal though mine are packed away at present so I can't check exact references. He also spoke about Compton when BIOS visited Downside some years ago. Roger Taylor - the organ builder based at Burrington in Somerset looks after Downside and has a good knowlege of Compton's methods etc. I know he was ex R & D - 'could have been ex Compton too though not sure of this last info.

A
"…We can’t criticize the organ for being boring. In such cases it is the organist that is boring. There is no such thing as a boring organ."

#4 Tony Newnham

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 07:34 AM

The natural successor to Hope-Jones, I was amused to discover that Hope-Jones was banished from the Compton premises, and yet, without Hope-Jone's pioneering work, the Compton extension organ would possibly never have happened.

MM

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Hi

Hope-Jones, yes, but not Robert but his brother who was an eminant horologist. See the fascinating article on Colin Pykett's web site http://www.pykett.org.uk/ - at present there's a link on the first page to the article.

I concur with MM that a biography is well overdue - the problem being finding someone with the becessary skills and time to write it!

Every Blessing

Tony

#5 Guest_paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk_*

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 02:05 PM

I concur with MM that a biography is well overdue - the problem being finding someone with the becessary skills and time to write it!

Every Blessing

Tony

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



From the various comments above, one person who might be able to set this down well is Ian Bell. The critical thing is persuading someone to publish the results. Maybe BIOS could give over a complete journal to it (and some university then to give Ian a PhD in recognition of the effort involved!)?

What is needed is clearly a gathering together of people that know valuable bits and pieces. For instance, to draw out just one example:
Michael Whitehall [who might be known to some readers - a native of Derby, one-time organist of Christ Church, Northampton and now resident in Wisbech] is an admirer of the Derby Cathedral Compton organ and carried out a thorough analysis of the mixture-work before this was replaced/reordered by R&Ds when they rebuilt it. The intriguing thing is the proof this gives of Compton house policy regarding Mixtures which I gather went as follows:

Enough potential tappings were allowed for in the wiring rigs to enable a large number of ranks to be drawn upon at the time of installation and site-voicing and the facility was designed so that ranks and pitches could be called upon in whatever place gave the actual (rather than theoretical) best results. At Downside, for example, a Mixture given as 'ten ranks' in the specification and upon the luminous stop disc may well not have ten pipes sounding, but the design allowed for a maximum of ten notes to be actuated.

The point of this sort of analysis is that even Comptons themselves might not have recorded afterwards exactly what tappings they made! The work was gloriously empirical - a similar idea to that of giving each rank its own little reservoir so that high pressure can be given to those stops that benefit and not to those that don't. Michael's analysis shows that in an apparently conventional (but borrowed) mixture there were places where say Diapason II might come in for as few as six notes in the whole compass, but it was because this gave the exact result required.

I own some Compton-made chests, pipes and switching and am currently nursing one of their largest jobs. I would summarise the Compton approach in all things as follows:
1. Established organ-building methods do not have to be employed - this (of course) outraged the trade. Research and development were ongoing at all times, not so much to make money, but with the overriding aim to make what is sometimes a very inflexible sounding instrument sound anything but!
2. Specifications were to be as developed as possible - JC firmly believed in upperwork, plenty of it, at a time when other builders were noticeably less keen. Ranks of pipes were always extended into the pedal compass if at all possible - giving superb varied basses - in terms of the romantic ideal this was an policy (following Thomas Casson's ideas) which has not been bettered by any other firm before or since.
3. Despite 1. above, only high-class workmanship was to come out of the works.
4. The finest voicing was applied to the completed job, even if this meant bringing additional specialists in. Our Compton/Forster and Andrews reeds at HTH (for example) were fined over by famous free-lancer Billy Jones.

I can promise whoever may take on this important task that I would make HTH freely available for inspection. It is a stunning concept, excellently executed. Nobody with an open mind can come away anything but impressed with what was achieved in 1938. Incidentally, if anyone reading this should be 'passing by' any time, they are most welcome to make contact with me in order to see for themselves.

#6 MusingMuso

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 05:01 PM

What is needed is clearly a gathering together of people that know valuable bits and pieces. For instance, to draw out just one example:
Michael Whitehall [who might be known to some readers - a native of Derby, one-time organist of Christ Church, Northampton and now resident in Wisbech] is an admirer of the Derby Cathedral Compton organ and carried out a thorough analysis of the mixture-work before this was replaced/reordered by R&Ds when they rebuilt it.  The intriguing thing is the proof this gives of Compton house policy regarding Mixtures which I gather went as follows:

Enough potential tappings were allowed for in the wiring rigs to enable a large number of ranks to be drawn upon at the time of installation and site-voicing and the facility was designed so that ranks and pitches could be called upon in whatever place gave the actual (rather than theoretical) best results.  At Downside, for example, a Mixture given as 'ten ranks' in the specification and upon the luminous stop disc may well not have ten pipes sounding, but the design allowed for a maximum of ten notes to be actuated.

The point of this sort of analysis is that even Comptons themselves might not have recorded afterwards exactly what tappings they made! The work was gloriously empirical - a similar idea to that of giving each rank its own little reservoir so that high pressure can be given to those stops that benefit and not to those that don't. Michael's analysis shows that in an apparently conventional (but borrowed) mixture there were places where say Diapason II might come in for as few as six notes in the whole compass, but it was because this gave the exact result required.

I own some Compton-made chests, pipes and switching and am currently nursing one of their largest jobs. I would summarise the Compton approach in all things as follows:
1. Established organ-building methods do not have to be employed - this (of course) outraged the trade. Research and development were ongoing at all times, not so much to make money, but with the overriding aim to make what is sometimes a very inflexible sounding instrument sound anything but!
2. Specifications were to be as developed as possible - JC firmly believed in upperwork, plenty of it, at a time when other builders were noticeably less keen.  Ranks of pipes were always extended into the pedal compass if at all possible - giving superb varied basses - in terms of the romantic ideal this was an policy (following Thomas Casson's ideas) which has not bettered by any other firm before or since.
3. Despite 1. above, only high-class workmanship was to come out of the works.
4. The finest voicing was applied to the completed job, even if this meant bringing additional specialists in. Our Compton/Forster and Andrews reeds at HTH (for example) were fined over by famous free-lancer Billy Jones.


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====================

Well, the learning-curve takes a new twist!

It's quite difficult to get one's head around the concept of extended units being used as a "pool-bank" for derived Mixtures; possibly because we are used to seeing ranks of mixtures set out in straight lines on a slider-chest.

Of course, I think I am right in suggesting that in some of the Compton instruments, the Mixtures were actually independent of the extended units. I would have to investigate this point further, but it is certainly the case in at least some of those instruments having a seperate Swell organ such as Wakefield. In fact, I think Wakefield had just the one 2 rank Mixture on the Swell, which presumably came with the original Abbot & Smith. The remaining upperwork was to be found on the other four manual departments, but to what extent these may or may not be independent, I have no idea without crawling around the instrument with pencils holding down notes.

The thought occurs to me, from what Paul has said, that a Compton organ is really an admixture of pipe and electronic thinking, in which real organ-pipes are the basic tone-generators.

It's as high-tech and crazy as the idea that one oculd fly people across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound........but it worked!

MM

#7 AJJ

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 09:22 PM

====================

Well, the learning-curve takes a new twist!

It's quite difficult to get one's head around the concept of extended units being used as a "pool-bank" for derived Mixtures; possibly because we are used to seeing ranks of mixtures set out in straight lines on a slider-chest.

Of course, I think I am right in suggesting that in some of the Compton instruments, the Mixtures were actually independent of the extended units. I would have to investigate this point further, but it is certainly the case in at least some of those instruments having a seperate Swell organ such as Wakefield.  In fact, I think Wakefield had just the one 2 rank Mixture on the Swell, which presumably came with the original Abbot & Smith. The remaining upperwork was to be found on the other four manual departments, but to what extent these may or may not be independent, I have no idea without crawling around the instrument with pencils holding down notes.

The thought occurs to me, from what Paul has said, that a Compton organ is really an admixture of pipe and electronic thinking, in which real organ-pipes are the basic tone-generators.

It's as high-tech and crazy as the idea that one oculd fly people across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound........but it worked!

MM

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Isn't Derby Cathedral another Compton with a mainly independent Swell - largely retained from the previous manifestation of the instrument?

A
"…We can’t criticize the organ for being boring. In such cases it is the organist that is boring. There is no such thing as a boring organ."

#8 PF Baron

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 09:43 PM

A quite comprehensive account abour John Compton and his most significant instruments can be found in Lawrence Elvin / Pipes and actions.

I had the pleasure to approach two of thes organs, bith really splendid

St Luke Chelsea, 1930 : a little bit dark, but not heavy at all. There are even some 16ft diaphones (disc valves, I think). In this one, the mixtures are not idependant, or at least not all of them, but are derived from 2ft ranks. When tuning, if you want pure quit in the mixture, you have to sacrify the coreponding 2ft (that had been the choice of the organist) which cannot be played for itself. This organ (with its original action) was a passionating witness of its time

St Bride / Fleet Street / London, 1987, I think : extremely clear, and nice, a really wonderful organ ....!!!

I would be pleased to visit some others, and specifically Downside Abbey....!

In these organs the derivations are made in a quite sensible and interesting way, and they, by no ways, sound cheap !!!!

#9 GrossGeigen

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 10:52 PM

Isn't Derby Cathedral another Compton with a mainly independent Swell - largely retained from the previous manifestation of the instrument?

AJJ

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Wakefield's Choir division (12 ranks) also remains on a slider chest, happily returned in 1985 to its own Pearson case where it had resided from 1905 until the Compton rebuild. As an (exiled) West Yorkshireman, I should own up to a soft spot for this instrument, but I wonder if anyone has tried St. Mary Magdalene, Paddington? I tried, and enjoyed it, about 15 years ago. It was certainly not in the greatest condition mechanically, but it was good to try a console with the "light-touches". MM has mentioned mixtures elsewhere (David Wood may enlighten on Wakefield) but I recall a six-rank Plein-Jeu on the Paddington Great, and superb Posaune rank(as also at Wakefield). I recall the church itself at Paddington as magnificent also.
I wonder if the Compton console has survived at Derby?? Wakefield (drawstop) is extremely comfortable and in no way daunting.

#10 MusingMuso

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 09:42 AM

I'm quite excited to have made the discovery of a Compton instrument built in 1940 for Church House, Westminster; later destroyed in an air-raid.

There was provided a Solo Organ, played from the Choir manual, which was entirely electronic; the rest of the organ (save for a few electronic pedal sounds) being normal pipework.

SOLO (Electronic; played on Choir manual)
Contra Tibia 16'
Tibia 8'
Diapason 8'
Wald Flote 8'
Unda Maris 8'
Dolce 8'
Tibia 4'
Flute 4'
Nazard 2.2/3'
Flautino 2'
Cor Anglais 8'
Clarinet 8'
Kalophone 8'
French Horn 8'

Vibrato

I wonder if this wasn't the first commercially produced "combination organ" in the world?

On the subject of air-raids in London, I recall that the last person to play the very large Compton organ of St.George's Hall, London, was the late Ena Baga. She once told me that she had vacated the console only a little time before the hall and organ received a direct hit.

That could open up a whole new thread about lady organists who sat on the organ-benches when their male counterparts went off to fight, during WW2. Ena Baga certainly played the Wurlitzer organ at the Tower Ballroom for quite a while during those dark-days; entertaining weary troops who went there for a short break with their wives/girlfriends whilst on leave from the forces.

However, back to the combination organs.

Was the combination organ at Church House a world first, or were there others before it?

MM

#11 vamathou

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 12:25 PM

Laurence Elvin (in 'Pipes and Actions') mentions Compton's 1938 combination organ at the Great Yarmouth Methodist Mission (now apparently known as Christ Church Central Methodist Hall). It thus pre-dates by one or two years that at Church House, Westminster. The NOPR reference is at: http://npor.emma.cam...ec_index=N06322

Incidentally, although Elvin's book has already been cited on this thread, it is worth noting that the section on John Compton and his company amounts to a substantial 105 pages. No doubt there is more that could usefully be recorded about Compton, but much is already available.

#12 MusingMuso

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 12:08 AM

Laurence Elvin (in 'Pipes and Actions') mentions Compton's 1938 combination organ at the Great Yarmouth Methodist Mission (now apparently known as Christ Church Central Methodist Hall).  It thus pre-dates by one or two years that at Church House, Westminster.  The NOPR reference is at: http://npor.emma.cam...ec_index=N06322

Incidentally, although Elvin's book has already been cited on this thread, it is worth noting that the section on John Compton and his company amounts to a substantial 105 pages.  No doubt there is more that could usefully be recorded about Compton, but much is already available.

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====================


Laurence Elvin was a fine writer, but I haven't read the particular book in question.

Something strikes me very forcibly about Compton and those who were his contemporaries in America and elsewhere, and it concerns the pre-occupation with "electricity" as a miracle answer to all things. (The days of ECT treatment were just around the corner!)

I've been delving into the history of synthetic tone production, which actually dates back to around 1600, but predominantly, it is the history of electro-acoustic devices, Helmholtz and the growth of electro-acoustic technology as well as communications.

How easily the life-work and interests of A.Graham-Bell, Robert Hope-Jones, Laurens Hammond, Mark Twain, John Compton, Wurlitzer and others too numerous to mention, seem to overlap and even interchange.

The actual "Pipes and Actions" approach is certainly relevant and interesting, but as I am discovering, the prime motivation is infinitely fascinating and deeply theoretical. I suspect that Elvin didn't look at this too deeply, though I musn't pre-judge before I manage to get hold of a copy.

Oh, and in case anyone is trying to find the first ever combination organ, it was in America, when a man called Ranger sold a "Rangertone" device, which produced a pedal 32ft tone (of sorts) for a normal organ. That was about 1929 or 1930; some years before the Compton "Melotone" installations.

However, it MAY be that Compton was the first to include a whole electronic department in a normal pipe-organ, but the jury is still out.



MM

#13 vamathou

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 08:42 PM

====================
Laurence Elvin was a fine writer, but I haven't read the particular book in question.

Something strikes me very forcibly about Compton and those who were his contemporaries in America and elsewhere, and it concerns the pre-occupation with "electricity" as a miracle answer to all things. (The days of ECT treatment were just around the corner!)

I've been delving into the history of synthetic tone production, which actually dates back to around 1600, but predominantly, it is the history of electro-acoustic devices, Helmholtz and the growth of electro-acoustic technology as well as communications.

How easily the life-work and interests of A.Graham-Bell, Robert Hope-Jones, Laurens Hammond, Mark Twain, John Compton, Wurlitzer and others too numerous to mention, seem to overlap and even interchange.

The actual "Pipes and Actions" approach is certainly relevant and interesting, but as I am discovering, the prime motivation is infinitely fascinating and deeply theoretical. I suspect that Elvin didn't look at this too deeply, though I musn't pre-judge before I manage to get hold of a copy.

Oh, and in case anyone is trying to find the first ever combination organ, it was in America, when a man called Ranger sold a "Rangertone" device, which produced a pedal 32ft tone (of sorts) for a normal organ. That was about 1929 or 1930; some years before the Compton "Melotone" installations.

However, it MAY be that Compton was the first to include a whole electronic department in a normal pipe-organ, but the jury is still out.
MM

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



You are correct in assuming that Elvin did not pursue to any marked degree the sort of approach you have in mind. Elvin acknowledges that there is a thread of autobiography in 'Pipes & Actions' and that is nowhere more obvious than in the section on Compton. So, in a sense, his treatment should be regarded as a primary source - an eye-witness account - rather than as a historical study. He also acknowledges that there is more to be said about Compton and notes that Dr James Berrow has (had at the time of writing - 1994) that matter in hand.

I came across a new copy of 'Pipes & Actions recently', but I note that the book was published by Elvin himself in an edition of 900 copies. He would now be 93 or 94 and I suspect is no longer with us; I know his papers and so on are in the possession of the Lincoln Library. I wonder what arrangements have been made for distributing copies of his book.

Regards.

#14 AJJ

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 05:53 AM

Laurence Elvin is indeed no longer with us but as far as I know his wife still is - living in Lincoln.

A
"…We can’t criticize the organ for being boring. In such cases it is the organist that is boring. There is no such thing as a boring organ."

#15 Tony Newnham

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 07:29 AM

You are correct in assuming that Elvin did not pursue to any marked degree the sort of approach you have in mind.  Elvin acknowledges that there is a thread of autobiography in 'Pipes & Actions' and that is nowhere more obvious than in the section on Compton.  So, in a sense, his treatment should be regarded as a primary source - an eye-witness account - rather than as a historical study.  He also acknowledges that there is more to be said about Compton and notes that Dr James Berrow has (had at the time of writing - 1994) that matter in hand.

I came across a new copy of 'Pipes & Actions recently', but I note that the book was published by Elvin himself in an edition of 900 copies.  He would now be 93 or 94 and I suspect is no longer with us; I know his papers and so on are in the possession of the Lincoln Library.  I wonder what arrangements have been made for distributing copies of his book.

Regards.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hi

I bought my copy from Mrs Elvin - I assume she was trying to clear stock and had advertised in one of the organ magazines. I think Roger Molyneux had the remaining stock - try www.organmusic.org.uk or e-mail rogermolyneux@organmusic.org.uk

Every Blessing

Tony

#16 MusingMuso

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 08:44 AM

You are correct in assuming that Elvin did not pursue to any marked degree the sort of approach you have in mind.  Elvin acknowledges that there is a thread of autobiography in 'Pipes & Actions' and that is nowhere more obvious than in the section on Compton.  So, in a sense, his treatment should be regarded as a primary source - an eye-witness account - rather than as a historical study.  He also acknowledges that there is more to be said about Compton and notes that Dr James Berrow has (had at the time of writing - 1994) that matter in hand.

I came across a new copy of 'Pipes & Actions recently', but I note that the book was published by Elvin himself in an edition of 900 copies.  He would now be 93 or 94 and I suspect is no longer with us; I know his papers and so on are in the possession of the Lincoln Library.  I wonder what arrangements have been made for distributing copies of his book.

Regards.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



========================


Thanks for that, which is exactly what I suspected.

The real problem is that of primary sources, since the Compton records up to the air-raid are no longer, and it is onoly a short time after that, reraltively speaking, that John Compton bowed out and the company began to fall from favour as the neo-classical wave became the accepted way of doing things.

Therefore, apart from the organs built or re-built by Compton after the war, there is not much to go on other than by word of mouth.

From a theatre organ source, I have discovered that one man did see records "as far as was possible," but I have a hunch that every attenpt to trace the history and development of the firm will return to the same pile of ashes.

By 1964, the pipe-organ side of the business was more or less dead in the water, and that was the point at which Rushworth & Dreaper absorbed the Compton pipe-organ interests; leaving the electronic production as the continuance of the firm.

I do know that Compton-Makin, as they were to become known, were backed by considerable outside investment, and the Bibby plc., empire (paper mills etc) were the parent company. However, this is really outside the scope of the pipe-organ subject, interesting though it may be.

In many ways, it's a great pity that, in the absence of company records, no-one saw fit to fill in the gaps by talking to those who knew the Compton company from within.

Logically, I think it would be fair to suggest that even the youngest possible apprentice in the final years of the firm, would now be at least 57 years of age. That further implies that all the mature workmen are, for the most part, unlikely to be with us anymore. Therein lies the problem, because almost everything I've seen written about John Compton and his life-work seems to miss the point completely.

I wonder if anyone has the Whitworth book?

It's a very long time since I read it, and I cannot recall whether Compton organs were included.

The Rev. Noel Bonavia-Hunt has nothing to offer, other than a few cute observations about "tradition" and the broad concept of the extension principle, which I believe to be very misleading, if one is concerned with a deeper understanding of what John Compton set out to achieve, and the theoretical approach which possibly drove it.

When it comes to extant examples of his action and mechanisms, there are enough about still, which would reward further investigation. Fortunately, in the cinema-organ world, there are many complete "organ nuts" who would tell you not only the type of threads used, but the supplier who made the screws, and in essence, a Compton cinema organ is very similar to a Compton church-organ, but with added percussions and effects. I suspect that what will be found in the one, will also be duplicated in the other.

I really do believe that the Compton "story" has yet to be addressed in a suitable manner, because it is the complete mastery of electrical-engineering and synthetic tone-production which seems to me, at any rate, to be MMthe most fascinating and important element. Of course, it is also the thing which completely divorced the Compton concept from that of Robert Hope-Jones, in spite of he obvious similarities.

MM

#17 AJJ

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 09:47 AM

========================
Thanks for that, which is exactly what I suspected.

The real problem is that of primary sources, since the Compton records up to the air-raid are no longer, and it is onoly a short time after that, reraltively speaking, that John Compton bowed out and the company began to fall from favour as the neo-classical wave became the accepted way of doing things.

Therefore, apart from the organs built or re-built by Compton after the war, there is not much to go on other than by word of mouth.

From a theatre organ source, I have discovered that one man did see records "as far as was possible," but I have a hunch that every attenpt to trace the history and development of the firm will return to the same pile of ashes.

By 1964, the pipe-organ side of the business was more or less dead in the water, and that was the point at which Rushworth & Dreaper absorbed the Compton pipe-organ interests; leaving the electronic production as the continuance of the firm.

I do know that Compton-Makin, as they were to become known, were backed by considerable outside investment, and the Bibby plc., empire (paper mills etc) were the parent company. However, this is really outside the scope of the pipe-organ subject, interesting though it may be.

In many ways, it's a great pity that, in the absence of company records, no-one saw fit to fill in the gaps by talking to those who knew the Compton company from within.

Logically, I think it would be fair to suggest that even the youngest possible apprentice in the final years of the firm, would now be at least 57 years of age. That further implies that all the mature workmen are, for the most part, unlikely to be with us anymore. Therein lies the problem, because almost everything I've seen written about John Compton and his life-work seems to miss the point completely.

I wonder if anyone has the Whitworth book?

It's a very long time since I read it, and I cannot recall whether Compton organs were included.

The Rev. Noel Bonavia-Hunt has nothing to offer, other than a few cute observations about "tradition" and the broad concept of the extension principle, which I believe to be very misleading, if one is concerned with a deeper understanding of what John Compton set out to achieve, and the theoretical approach which possibly drove it.

When it comes to extant examples of his action and mechanisms, there are enough about still, which would reward further investigation. Fortunately, in the cinema-organ world, there are many complete "organ nuts" who would tell you not only the type of threads used, but the supplier who made the screws, and in essence, a Compton cinema organ is very similar to a Compton church-organ, but with added percussions and effects. I suspect that what will be found in the one, will also be duplicated in the other.

I really do believe that the Compton "story" has yet to be addressed in a suitable manner,  because it is the complete mastery of electrical-engineering and synthetic tone-production which seems to me, at any rate, to be MMthe most fascinating and important element.  Of course, it is also the thing which completely divorced the Compton concept from that of Robert Hope-Jones, in spite of he obvious similarities.

MM

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Back editions of 'The Organ' may be of some use - OK, not primary sources but if one also includes some of the letters to the editor there is a wealth of info. there if one has time to look.

AJJ
"…We can’t criticize the organ for being boring. In such cases it is the organist that is boring. There is no such thing as a boring organ."

#18 Guest_paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk_*

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 11:01 AM

Bonavia Hunt cannot have had too low an opinion of Compton instruments. In appendix 1 of The Modern British Organ (1947) he includes a few specifications, entitled 'Four Notable British Organs' amongst which is included Wolverhapton Civic Hall complete with a diagram to demonstrate the derivations.

#19 MusingMuso

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 02:00 PM

Bonavia Hunt cannot have had too low an opinion of Compton instruments.  In appendix 1 of The Modern British Organ (1947) he includes a few specifications, entitled 'Four Notable British Organs' amongst which is included Wolverhapton Civic Hall complete with a diagram to demonstrate the derivations.

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===================

Quite the contrary Paul, Bonavia-Hunt says nice things about Compton organs, but then casts doubt about the concept of the unit extension organ; even going so far as to question whether such organs have a place in church!

He would have filled the churches with nothing but Schulze, were he to have had his way.

With an almost bizzare sense of irony, he then goes on to propose a theoretical scheme for an extension organ!

To his credit, Bonavia-Hunt seems to be aware of the possibiltites of tonal synthesis and some of the problems of tuning associated with extension organs.

Nowhere, it has to be said, does he demostrate that he understands why Compton got such good results, yet he came close to an answer when he wrote about "Flute Mixtures" and synthetic tone building.

It seems to me, that the Compton method was to limit the individual harmonic "brightness" of his pipework, but then to make up for it by adding upward extensions within the harmonic series; hence the relative "flatness" of the chorus effect to be found in many ORIGINAL Compton organs, but less so in many of the rebuilt instruments.

There is a considerable tonal difference between, say, the organ of Hull City Hall and that in the Civic Hall at Wolverhampton, and between an organ like Downside Abbey and the organ which Paul plays at Trinity, Hull.

I don't know if many board members have played a John Compton cinema-organ, but if the traps, effects, tremulants and Tibias are avoided, it is possible to produce very typical Compton "cathedral" sound. This is why an organ such as that at the Southampton Guildhall can possibly be "dual-purpose", even though the metal Tibias fall far short of their rather better Wurlitzer and Christie counterparts.

Of course, the "unit organ" owes as much to the concept of the Fair Organ, and the complex pneumatic-actions employed, as it does to traditionally "straight" organ-building.....all made possible by that most perfect of mechanical inventions, the Jacquard Loom and its' punch-card method of operation.

The Jacquard Loom, as a programming mechanism and memory logic system, is also often quoted within the context of computing history.

I suspect that John Compton would have been delighted by the digital-organs of today, and may well have been right there with the best of them were he still alive and active.

Digressing slightly into the realm of "delicious irony and cynical humour", I often wonder of Charles Babbage (of "difference engine" fame) wouldn't have topped himself if he could have anticipated the musical outcome of his pioneering work in computing.

Apparently, he hated the sound of street-organs and buskers, and was one of the two principal parties (the other being 'Mr Bass' of brewing fame) who got them banished from the streets of London!

The things you learn on this board, eh?

I wonder if "Vox" could tell us how much it would cost to send a cuckoo-clock through the post, so that we could have one mounted on the headstone of Charles Babbage?

Equally, if anyone could make me a "baroque" cuckoo-clock with a pronounced chiff, I would be delighted. "Chuck-ooo" would be fine, but reversing it would be even better.

"Ooooh Chuck"

:lol:

MM

#20 Tony Newnham

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 04:13 PM

========================
I wonder if anyone has the Whitworth book?

It's a very long time since I read it, and I cannot recall whether Compton organs were included.

MM

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Hi

If you mean Whitworth's "Cinema & Theatre Organ" then I have a copy in my library. Or is there another one?

In comment on a later post, I played a couple of Compton Theatre organs earlier in the year, and you can make a pretty respectable Compton church organ sound - and if the trems of their church organs are heavy enough, the reverse is also true.

Every Blessing

Tony




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