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Mander Organs


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About MusingMuso

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  • Birthday 25/08/1949

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    Keighley, W.Yorks
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    Far too many, but including music (naturally), occasional recitalist when the muse takes me, organ history, motor-sport, photography, writing, politics, finance, engineering, collecting funny stories, driving very large trucks, travel, Eastern European music, steam trains, cinema organs and psychology. Love my cats "Twinkle" and "Freckle"

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  1. My distinct impression of John Compton is that of a quiet, rather reclusive workaholic. There is evidence....lots of it. It was Compton himself who wrote about tonal experiments going back to 1896. Somewhere, I came across a reference to the voicing shop, and a rank of pipes being out of tune, because JC had been in there experimenting with different temperaments late into the night. There is a patent for an enharmonic organ Compton wrote about a Tibia rank he created......"I made and remade the pipes many times" Then there are the 32ft cubes, based on the Ocarina and Helmholtz resonators, the bi-phonic pipes, the Harmonics of 32ft, the synthetic registers....it's quite a list, and they couldn't have happened overnight. I think it was at Northill in Bedfordshire, where Compton used a sliding mouth arrangement to get the speech of bi-phonic pipes right. He experimented with Diaphones, and wrote a quite lengthy article about them. I suspect that a lot of this was done late at night, when everyone had gone home, but I can't prove that. What I do know, is that Compton was a tonal genius, and that's where his real interest lay. As for 'venture capital', I don't think Martin White needed the money. I suspect that he was a passionate amateur with a bee in his bonnet about orchestral organs. I would also add, that alongside the partnership of Compton and Harry Smith Mills during the period spent at Measham, there was another coompany known as "The extension organ company" operating from the same address. I think there was one organ bearing the name, but nothing much else. I suspect, but cannot know for certain, that this was the "experimental division" operating separately from the partnership with Mills, possibly as a way of distancing the partnership from the work of Hope-Jones, which was highly controversial at the time. MM
  2. Barry, the relays would almost certainly have been designed by A H Midgley initially, even though he left the Compton company in 1937. The man was a complete genius with all things electrical, and had done design work in telephone systems at GEC. By the time he became a director of the Compton firm (and poured a lot of cash into the company) he was probably worth (in to-day's money) many millions of pounds, having helped found CAV, which became CAV-Lucas Industries.
  3. The evidence is quite compelling Colin. For a start, John Compton's work attracted a lot of interest, even while he was very young. Stephen Bicknell suggested that Compton was experimenting with extreme harmonics even in the 1890's, and while at Brindley's, he was already a voicer and finisher, which covers the period 1898 to 1902 or so. At that time, Brindley's were startiing to introduce more "orchestral" sounds, while retaining good, solid chorus-work. It is very likely, that Compton had a hand in the big 4-manual replacement organ for the one dstroyed by fire at Pietermaritzburg Town Hall in South Africa, which was completed in 1901. Not the best quality, but there are a couple of YouTube videos played on this magnificent instrument......well worth hearing in spite of the recording limitations. Still in his 20's, Compton seems to have had his admirers, and when J Martin White, the wealthy industrialist, had the house organ at Balruddery House re-built by Hope-Jones (whom he supported financially in his many failed ventures), his next choice of beneficiary (when Hope-Jones eloped to America) was John Compton, whom he regarded as being closest to the Hope-Jones style. Martin White continued to support Compton when Compton went solo around 1904, after Fred Musson wandered off to Conacher's. I think it was 1911, when Martin White became a director of the John Compton Ltd., so he was involved, one way or another, over a considerable period. After that, it gets a bit obscure, but A H Midgley seems to have been the dominant influence in London after 1925 and the tie-up with the J W Walker & Sons firm. Compton also had the approval of James I Wedgwood (of the pottery family), who spoke in glowing terms about the beauty of the pipe voicing.
  4. I couldn't agree more. F & A were wonderfully made instruments, but not exactly thrilling tonally, even if they never sound at all bad. I've always regarded the idea of F & A being "disciples of Schulze" as a bit of a joke. Charles Brindley was infinitely better at it! It is known, that both the Minster organ and the City Hall organ in Hull, were revoiced substantially when re-built by Compton, and W C Jones was certainly involved in some of the reeds, if not all of them. I forget who the voicer was at Compton's when they did Hull City Hall, but he did say to an organ enthusiast, that every pipe in the organ "passed through his hands". I know that when I used to play the beast in my Uni Organ Scholar days at Hull, the Swell organ at the City Hall was quite a pathetic affair as compared with the rest of the organ. That was remedied to a large extent by the fitting of additional swell shutters by R & D when they re-built it. Now, after a century or so, the organ sounds absolutely superb, but it took a while to get there. 322222222222222222222222222222222222222222229
  5. The cognitive thing is interesting, and I've long maintained that the human brain is particularly sensitive to frequencies in the mid frequencies: possibly something to do the wider animal kingdom as a hunter gatherer. I don't think I described what I did very well, so I'll try and clarify. I used two separate computers and went into two on-line sound generator sources, using sine waves; aware of various possible harmonic distortions etc. I then fed one input to the left ear and the other to the right....in effect binaural, through headphones. I then pitched one source at middle 4ft C, and the other I set at G as 2.2/3 pitch and adjusted it until it was in perfect tune. Then, adjusting just the pitch of the G, I brought it out of tune, until there was a distinct beat. By adjusting the amplitude only of the G, I discovered that the out of tune beat began to fade and then disappear as the volume reduced, yet killing the unison note, the G was still clearly audible, though obviously much quieter than it had been set previously. The thought occurred to me, that Compton (and others) often nicked quite heavily; reducing the upper partials, and I wonder whether that, and the difference in amplitude between a strong unison and a weaker quint, don't combine in such a way as to eliminate the out of tune beats. After all, adding an Unda Maris to full swell would go unnoticed!
  6. Continuing on the Compton research theme, and aimed at Colin Pykett especially, I wonder if a recent experiment I performed has any relevance to Compton's use of derived mutations? When Compton was starting to use nothing but extension, there was quite a lively discourse in the musical press about Quint mutations derived from tempered scale ranks. As we know, when it comes to tuning, they will always sound out of tune compared with dedicated Quint ranks....or do they? In a complicated and convulated path, involving a discussion about radio telescopes, the organist/physicist Sir Bernard Lovell and interferometry, (which Lovell introduced me to personally during a school visit to Jodrell Bank when I was all of 14) I demonstrated how out of tune beats, suitablly triangulated at ground level, can be used as a means of positioning things in space. Now this experiment had all the sophistication of medieval plumbing, but it resulted in something quite unexpected. The technique: Take two different sine-wave generators, switch them on (in this case two computers) and wind up the volume a bit. Then slowly adjust the pitch so that you get a strong out of tune beat....let's call this Le Grande Celeste effect. Quite by accident, while turning down the volume of one source, the beat disappeared completely, yet when I switched off the other sound source, the other, out of tune one, was still quite audible, and certainly not as quiet as, say, a Vox Angelica. Could it be, I wonder, that this is how Compton was able to use derived Quint mutations successfully, using "hearing thresholds" to mask the out of tune pitch? Perhaps it is no co-incidence that many of his derived Mixtures and mutations came from Salicionals, Dulciana ranks and even flute ranks. Even the chorus quints were almost always drawn from third Diapasons or Geigen ranks.
  7. One of the great problems about piecing together all things Compton, is that (a) all the records went up in flames (b) no-one thought it very interesting except Lawrence Elvin and (c) there was quite a lot of misinformation floating around. To give you an example, the time that Compton spent at Lloyds was quite brief, yet one "historian" claims that he completed his apprenticeship there AFTER working at Brindley's, which would have meant a 9 year apprenticeship! Elvin doesn't actually give dates, but at least he got the batting order right.....Halmshaw's, Lloyd's and THEN Brindley's (at a quite critical time it would seem). He certainly completed his apprenticeship at Lloyd's, and quickly moved on. Then comes the problem of when he entered into partnership with Musson, because the official date comes out as 1902, but they had already contracted to build a new organ in 1901, the year before. (This is given as the reason why Compton didn't work for Hope-Jones). Elvin suggests that Hope-Jones "went to see" Compton, and that is perfectly possible, because the rail network made that quite easy. (He worked out of Harry Mills' workshop after the fire of 1907, which was situated in the station yard at Measham). Interestingly, I've been researching what happened after that, and it seems that prior to his move to London, there was yet another fire at the Compton premises, situated in an old "tin tabernacle" on Castle Boulevard, Lenton. By this time, he not only had Mr J Martin White (major industrialist and Liberal politician) on board, but had also befriended A H Midgley from 1914 onwards. I'm no expert in electronic things, but I have a very forensic mind, and if I were wanting to know anything about a company, I would go right back to any patents filed. In the case of the Midgley-Walker organ, which became The Electrophonic Organ Co., and/or Midgley-Leighton (etc), I think you will find that many of the relevant patents also include the name of A H Midgley's son, Albert Morrel Midgley. That's therefore another possible line of pursuit for anyone interested in the history of electronic organs. There was also the Compton/Arthur Lord/Walter Burge connection, not to mention the Compton electrostatic system used by Makin in the early days. Anyway, here is a rather poor quality picture of the organ-works on Castle Boulevard, Lenton, Nottingham, which after being roasted, was taken over by a piano manufacturer.
  8. I find it very sad to think that the free reed Calrinet may have goe at Bridlington, and I'll tell you why. At St Joseph's RC church in Bradford, they had an Anneesens organ in a fairly poor state, but I did at least play what still worked when I was about 15 or 16. I said then, and still maintain now, that the 8ft Clarinet (a free reed) was one of the most beautiful organ sounds I've ever heard. Sadly, that was destroyed when the organ was replaced, just as happened at St Mary's RC, East Parade, in the same city.
  9. I knew they should have banned lead in organ pipes!
  10. I'm still digging at the coal face ie: the John Compton story. I thought I'd just let people know. A few interesting facts and thoughts; some of which have emerged very recently. The first new fact concerns fires. Lawrence Elvin wrote about the Selby Abbey fire which destroyed the newly re-built and enlarged Binns organ, which Compton completed. He also mentioned the stray rocket which set fire to the woodyard and organ works in 1907; resulting in the move the work premises of Harry Smith Mills at Measham. What no-one seems to know, is that there was yet another fire, after Compton had set up on his own, in a converted "tin tabernacle", on the Castle Boulevard at Lenton, Nottingham. This was around 1919; after which he packed his bags and set off to London. For years (quite literally) I've had on file the Grace's Guide reference to John Compton, and it states that there was a partnership between Midgley, Compton and the Walker family, with a view to building his (Midgley's) design of organ. I've always dismissed this as being the time when Compton refused to pursue Midgley's electronic organ design, which resulted in a bit of a spat, and Midgley walking away from the Compton company. Not so, it would seem! I was reading a resume of Midgley's life and work, which is lodged with the Institute of Electrical Engineers (Midgley had the MIEE qualification) and was archived there by his great grandson, a barrister in Bristol. Here is the relevant extract:- Midgley had installed in his home an organ, which he designed and had built by the firm of John Compton Ltd. Now he turned his attention to designing an organ for the firm suitable for use in cinemas and theatres, establishing a new company called John Compton Organ Company in partnership with John Compton and Reginald and Pickering Walker, directors of J W Walker and Sons Ltd another organ building firm. Sales of the new organ boomed and the company prospered. Midgley was associated with this company as technical director until 1937. He also developed an electric organ which was patented in June 1931, and manufactured by Midgley Leighton Ltd until taken over by a new company formed by the Walker brothers and Albert called the Electrophonic Organ Company Ltd. This in turn was taken over by Midgley Electrical Instruments in 1939 when the Walker brothers pulled out of the company. However, the company closed at the onset of the Second World War. My obvious mistake was to assume anything! From what I've read over the years, Midgley was the dominant partner; not surprising, since he would be, in this day and age, a multi-millionaire, having been a founding partner in CAV, which became CAV-Lucas. His list of invetions and achievements is absolutely staggering, and not just in organ-building. My considered view is, that with Compton tonal genius and voicing skills, "Jimmy" Taylor's electrical and mechanical genius (as well as musical ability) and Midgley's record as a manufacturing industrialist and designer, it was the "dream team" in organ-building at the time....well funded, innovative and commerically very savvy.
  11. Thank you for those details about the elctricity supply, much of which I knew, but by no means all. I would hasten to add that some organ-builders used gas engines and low voltage dynamos to secure a steady (presumably) DC supply. I've mentioned this previously, many moons ago, but an horrific memory was entering the blower plant.....yes plant is the right word.....at a Methodist church in Rochdale. This consisted of a huge crank mechanism and feeders; all of which needed to be lubricated periodically. Driving all this was a large DC motor, and in the corner of the room was a mercury arc rectifier, which flashed and spat as the needle bounced over the surface of the conductive mercury bath enclosed in a flask. It was like something out of the movie Frakenstein, and to a 15 year old, quite intimidating. I'm not sure when this contraption was installed, because the organ was a 19th century Binns, but it was proof enough that the lecky supply had changed after the installation of the blower mecahnism; possibly converted from a previous water-engine or something. Now if you want to know something rather amusing and, at the same time, definitive, you need to know something about Compton's right hand man, Jimmy Taylor (the inventor of the electric combination capture system). "Jimmy" Taylor enjoyed a very close working relationship with A H Midgley of C A Vanderwell; presumably after he had resigned his directorship with CAV when it became CAV-Lucas. In a recorded interview, ex-Compton employee, Roy Skinner, mentioned that "they got on very well together" and refers to "a meeting of minds". Well, if you pour through all the patents relating to A H Midgley as inventor, you will discover an awful lot; most concerned with auto-electrical parts and control systems, quite a few to do with pipe organs, and some concerned with electronic instruments. He probably pre-dated Hammond in the quest for sine-wave synthesis, using tone-wheel generators inspired by Cahill in America. He even had the tone-generators spinning at different speeds through a similar gear-train to that formulated by Hammond. For whatever reason, Hammond managed to get his patent accepted first, but there may well have been some skulduggery involved, because Midgley was ahead of him. However, he was clearly an auto-electrical man, and probably fascinated by automobiles. So too was Jimmy Taylor,(your local Nottinghamshire genius) judging by an interesting patent in his name, which reveals a design for an automatic gearbox. I just get the impression that the Compton people just delighted in ideas, inventions and whatever crazy thing they could dream up next. It's amazing to think that one was the son of a draper (as was John Compton), and the other was the son of a humble church caretaker. Whatever happened to PROPER education? MM
  12. Why did I think of this?
  13. =========================== Go to the back of the class and face the wall. That was far too clever! MM
  14. Here we are, a decade and more down the line, and believe it or not, the work on the Compton Co., still continues unabated. How time flies! I think it might be fair to suggest that I now have all the information at my fingertips, and writing has not only started, but has now reached in excess of 100 pages. I'm not sure I could call myself an historian; more a forensic scientist! The great difficulty has been to verify everything in an unusual way, which for the most part, involves secondary rather than primary sources; sifting through evidence, anecdotes, known facts, specific instruments, exisiting instruments and a mass of minor details. The research and forensic thread has now been running for over twelve years, but it's now coming together. A few random points of interest, which may be of considerable interest to such as Dr Colin Pykett. Having ploughed through a whole virtual encyclopedia of material, I learned something very interesting about the development of the Compton organ style. It was only partially the work of John Compton, who was really the experimental, tonal genius behind it all. Obviously, he knew about organ-building, and so too did Jimmy Taylor, but the REAL mastermind was Albery Henry Midgley, whom I've mentioned before. The discovery of his papers sheds a fascinating light on a fascinating age, when technologists learned their craft the hard way, in the world of work. That is as much a statement of the age as anything, and in the case of A H Midgley, it turns out that he was born in Huddersfield, where his father was a draper and importer of drapery products.A H Midgley showed an early interest in all things electrical and engineering, and went to what was the Bradford Technical school, having won a scholarship to study there. He was an outstanding pupil apparently; winning many awards on the way. After leaving school, probably around the age of 15 (I would have to check), he started working for an electrical contractor in Bradford, and then moved to London, where he worked in air-conditioning and air-extraction for a well established firm in the Southwark area. From the start, he was inventive and seriously ambitious; so much so, that he was soon establishing his own business and importing tings from Germany. Within perhaps a decade (I haven't the exact dates to hand) he was a founding director of the C A Vanderwell company, serving the needs of the growing automobile industry, and for anyone who knows about vehicles from that age (Cecil Clutton would have known!) the Vanderwell family were the main suppliers of a vast range of automobile equipment. C A Vanderwell became a huge concern in the Acton area; employing thousands of people in due course. It was eventually taken over, to form the nucleus of Lucas Industries, with manufacturing facilities spread across the UK. An organist and organ enthusiast, as well as a seriously gifted engineer and electrical engineer, it seems that there was some sort of row during the Lucas takeover, and by then Technical Director at C A Vanderville, he resigned the board and went his own way. Clearly a man to seek out, it wasn't long before Midgley joined the Compton board and acted as Technical Director, and at this point, it was he who put his mind to developing the control systems of the extension organ, which included both cinema theatre-organs and their more classical counterparts, even though they shared a great deal between them. Not only that, he brought the expertise of modern industry to bear, and caused outrage among organ-builders, by adopting mass production techniques and introducing more modern materials such as Bakelite. In his spare time, Midgley was designing bomb fuses, which he later specialised in after resigning from the Compton firm. The new venture was called Midgley-Harmer Ltd., and whilst the jury is still out as to whether he invented the delay fuses for the bouncing bomb, he certainly was responsible for the fuses of other epic pieces of military fireworks, such as the Tallboy bomb. To add to the intrigue, Midgley went, in a very limited period of time, from humble servant to highly respected inventor, and in material terms, from a terraced house in Huddersfield, to large, detached properties in London. It was in one of these that his first 100 stop house organ was installed; built by the Compton company of course. That first instrument was superceded by a second instrument, and the first one was to become the still extant organ of St Luke's, Chelsea. Add to all this the tonal genius of Compton, the electronics genius Leslie Bourn, the genius of Jimmy Taylor and the financial genius of the industrialist J Martin-White (one time president of the Organ Club) and what Compton's had was a dream team of incredibly multi-talented and highly capable people. What a hot-house of ideas that must have been. So, we plough onwards and upwards, still gathering information, but more importantly, making sense of what I have got, in such a way that the information is verified as true and reliable. MM
  15. If you do not already know, a certain Johann Sebastian Bach stayed in this hotel while accompanying his employer, Prince Leopold. and wile he was there, his first wife died in 1720. I do a talk about Eastern Europe, and the influence of Bach on Bohemian music is considerable; so much so, that while the classical style (typified by Moazrt) was in full swing, the organist/composer Josef Ferdinan Seger (who was 6 when Bach died), was still writing in baroque style until around 1790. (So much for the accuracy of history books). I'm not sure if it wasn't Karlovy Vary where Bach arrived with a clever fold-up harpsichord.
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