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Everything posted by MusingMuso

  1. ==================== Thanks Philip. I actually have the original Video tape, so I'm going to have to dig it out again and take a look. All I know, is that Ian Bell once mentioned pipes being bought in, and others have suggested the same. However, it may well be that they only made the basses at the Chase Road premises towards the end of the pipe organ business when Mr Bell was there as an apprentice, or perhaps they just didn't have the capacity to keep pace with demand. I come back to the actual problem of pipe production on what must have been an industrial scale after 1931 at Chase Road. Compton's churned out 261 theatre organs, of which a majority would be made at Chase Road. (Let's play safe and assume 200!) Get your calculator out at this point, (or just believe what I say), and let's look at the maths from 1931 to 1939 200 organs over a maximum of 8 years (wartime 1939-45) = 25 cinema organs per year, or one every fortnight. Add to this an unknown number of church/concert instruments, (a few very large instruments, quite a lot between 10 and 20 ranks and the majority small extension jobs, say 2-5 ranks). I'd hazard a guess that the number of classical jobs was around the same number, judging by the number of entries on NPOR and the fact that an awful lot of small extension organs are not listed, but even if the number of church/concert organs was half that of the cinema organ output, (but usually involved a far grerater number of ranks), I would hazard a guess that the amount of pipes required of both types was probably about equal. So if we take a mean average across the entire organ range of 8 ranks of pipes per instrument, and go no larger than 73 note windchests, the mathematics pans out something like this:- 37 organs per year (50 week working year), that works out at about 0.75 instruments per week minimum, and I have heard 1 per week suggested. However, let's sticjk with the ball-park figure of 0.75 organs per week, and take the average of 8 ranks, we get, (with 73 note chests):- 73 x 8 x 0.75 = 438 pipes per week, which over a 6 day week, (they worked a lot of overtime) = a minimum of 73 completed pipes per day, ranging from big reed, diaphone and wood basses, to the little ones. It also includes a lot of reed pipes, which are much more complicated to make. I haven't allowed for mitres and haskelled basses, nor have I allowed for polyphonic pipes. (From what I know, I think the real figure was probably in the order of 100 pipes per working day) So in man hours, how long does it take to cut the metal up and make a pipe? I haven't a clue to be honest, because I've never done it, but I checked it out on You Tube, and although the process is slower than normal, due to the commentary, it still takes a long time. We're looking at 7 pieces minimum, (without supports, beards and mitres etc) per flue....body, top lip, two ears,bottom lip, languid, toe to be made or coned, tuning slides or stoppers. (Much the same number for reeds, but rather more troublesome, and let's not forget any leathering to the lips of flues as well as harmonic-bridges and stoppers which have to be made). I reckon about 20 minutes per open metal flue pipe, in addition to casting of metal and getting the pipe to speak properly. In fact, the while process from casting to cutting to forming, MUST take about 30 minutes per pipe minimum, and rather longer for the basses. That amounts to at least 36 - 50 man hours per day.....maybe 5 to 7 people working flat out, and not allowing for any wasted time or careful storing or packing in trays etc. If we add voicing time and metal casting time, I don't think you would do all that with less than 10 full-time, well skilled people working 50 hours a week. That's probably over 500 man hours for 438 pipes.....well over an hour per pipe. The only time-saving aspect I can think of, is the fact that Compton's used a lot of zinc-sheet for the basses, and as Ian Bell stated once, the CCC Compton Diaphone resonator tops were exactly the maximum available from a 3ft wide zinc sheet! Was that level of production possible? Maybe, but they would have been hard pushed to say the least, and if there was sudden peak in demand, (perhaps a larger instrument than normal, or one delayed for whatever reason), they would probably have bought things in, as seems to have been the case. Interetsingly, when Compton were at Turnham Green, they had the magnets/coils made at a small sub-contractor's premises next to the works. Then they bought this little firm, and employed the former owner, thus bringing production "in house". As with all things to do with Compton, the devil is in the detail. Best, MM PS: Blowers seemed to be universally 'Discus'. If not, I haven't seen any of the alternatives.
  2. ======================= That's a brilliant run down, and I can now see where I got confused.....people calling the Polyphonics pipes "cubes". I'm slightly disappointed, because I thought we may have a couple of proper cubes near to me, but apparently not, it would seem. However, I'm intrigued by John Compton use a bi-phonic bass as early as c.1908, which were described as "Diapason" basses producing two notes, due to a lack of space. It was probably a one-off, and I have never seen any other reference to it or anything similar in Compton's work. I think, insofar as the polyphones go, all the drawings will be on the patents, so I should be able to work out how they operate. Best, MM
  3. =========================== Thanks for drawing attention to that Peter, and actually, coming to think about it, I have this in my files but had forgotten about it. I think Clifford Hawtin was the man who dabbled with the design of this stuff, and there may be drawings among the patents; all of which I've donwloaded when I get around to looking at them in detail.....which is soon. I'm intrigued by the comments of the late Stephen Bicknell, but I wonder if those egg-cup valves weren't from the very early unit-extension chests which operated pneumatically? I'm not sure that any of them survive, because they seem to date from the early Measham days just after the turn of the last century....probably around 1904-10...I would need to check. If they do, I think it highly unlikely that there will be any patents or drawings anywhere, but I'll double check to make sure. It all sounds suspiciously Brindley & Foster to me, and they certainly used their own version of the old Kegellade chests in the "metechotic" system, but as one combined windchest rather than in separate units. The plumbing must have been quite something! Diverting slightly, I know that when things went wrong in the Brindley windchests, the poor organ-builder had to remove all the pipes to get inside, and if there was a persistent fault, it had to be repeated as many times as necessary. That might explain why most were thrown in a skip rather than rebuilt. Best, MM
  4. ======================== As an afterthought, I remembered something written by the late Stephen Bicknell about Compton wind-chests during the 1920's, which may make some sense of the Keggelade statement by Ian Bell. As I do not know the facts or the source, I will just quote what SB ahd to say, and we can ponder the implications over a glass of something or other. John Compton used sliderless chests for his organs (most of which were unified to some degree). I have heard it said (but cannot confirm) that there examples from the late 20s of a type which causes particular distress to repair men. The pipe valves are in the form of bakelite egg-cups seating in a leathered cup-shaped hole in the chest, and moving against a spring. When trying to trace a fault one naturally takes a screwdriver and removes the faceboard. As you undo the last screw, the force of 61 coil springs pushes the faceboard out of your grasp and it falls into the organ, followed by 61 egg-cups and 61 coil springs which trace 122 different trajectories as they make a determined bid for freedom. When, some hours later, you have found all the parts (including the ones that rolled under the bellows, the ones that fell through gaps in the floor-boards, and the ones that have mysteriously wedged themselves inside the shallots of the pedal reeds), and have offered them up into the holes, have used 61 rubber bands, 122 drawing pins and assorted other tricks to hold them temporarily in position, and have at last got the faceboard back on, it is then time to stand back and apply the electric current to the wind system - you then find that all 61 have bedded, over the years, into slightly different distorted shapes. Where there was originally one cipher there are now about forty, and you have to start all over again. Mmmmm!! Time for a glass of wine. Best MM
  5. ============================ Hugely significant information, thank you. There were quite a few comings and goings with American/English ideas.....see previous post in reply to Barry. I'm trying to get my head around the Kegellade thing. I'd always associated the Roosevelt, (single stage pneumatic) with Compton, but with unit chests, the idea of the ventil controlled Keggelade makes perfect sense, and of course, is a throw back to what Brindley & Foster were working with when the young Mr Compton was completing his apprenticeship in Sheffield. (I think I have some homework to do on this). I know that Haskelled basses were quite common in some of the really tricky theatre installations with limited height and space, and of course, most of those were built in the 1930's. You present me with a bit of a puzzle re: Cube basses. Am I wrong, but is your information incorrectly transcribed and/or understood? I say this, because I am aware of two very late 32ft Cube basses.....always known as Polyphonic Cubes.....two types....one down to EEEE and another down to CCCC. I wonder if Ian Bell was referring to the Bi-Phonic pipes, which played two notes each, which are not Polyphones. They certainly feature in many if not all of the theatre jobs,(and one of the church jobs from about 1908) and as that era came to an end around 1945 at the latest, and as I know of two mid 1950's polyphonic cubes, (one very close to me at Ilkley, and another at Wakefield), I think the polyphonic cube outlived the bi-phonic basses. Another thing, the only polyphonic anything is the cube. It's a simple error which is easily made, and earlier in the discussion, someone had to put me right on this matter! Best, MM
  6. =========================== I'm not sure that I've identified where Compton obtained pipework, but various sources have come to my attention one way and another. It looks as if Compton made their own basses in wood and zinc, possibly due to the transport costs and difficulties...I'm not sure. It was when I looked at a plan of the workshop area, that I realised just how many organs they were working on at any one time......possibly as many as a dozen consoles alone. taking up about half the factory and with an assembly area at one end. The other side of the (Chase Road) premises seems to have been given over to windchests, regulators and electrical work, which doesn't leave a lot of room for anything else when you're working on so many jobs at the same time. I was thinking about how many pipes they must have used each week, if they were churning out just one 8 rank unit organ. That would be something like a minimum of 600 pipes, or about 120 per day, (assuming 73 note chests) making it almost impossible from a manufacturing point of view, if one considers cutting, casting, forming, soldering and voicing. Each flue pipe has about 8 different pieces, all soldered together, and wooden ones are rather troublesome to make at best. It would amount to something like a thousand bits and pieces per day if it were done in house, and that's just one modest size instrument per week. So the answer has to be....they bought pipes in ready made. Something I didn't realise until three days ago, was the fact that when Compton's came to a working relationship with Walker's, (then based just down the road at Acton), they not only had some of the Walker Directors on the Compton Board, Walker's actually supplied skilled people to work at the Compton premises. So perhaps part of the answer may lie in the fact that with two works close to each other, there was some division of labour and manufacture, which would tie in with the fact that "Compton's had the work and Walker's had the money"....presumably they also had an empty workshop available too! I don't think it really matters where the pipes came from, because it's one of those things which is almost impossible to trace. On the other hand, I can prove that Compton's supplied certain things to Holtkamp in America. Then I wonder about that stupendous Orchestral Trumpet at Hull City Hall.....so un-English as to be positively American....but will we ever know? I'd love to pull one of the reed-pipes apart to see if the shallots had solder inside them! Speculation apart, thanks for the name of the ex-Andrews man, who will be duly added to the list of known employees at Compton. Best, MM
  7. The writing is going nicely....currently at about p.38 (12,000 words approx) and in time, up to about 1925 and the early years in London, which is where it starts to get challenging, not to say interesting. My next port of call are the very clever mechanical devices which Compton developed or invented, rather than the electrical expertise, which will have to wait a little longer, when I hope to know the difference between negative and positive. (Positive red, yes?) Joking apart, I don't want to miss anything out, and I would appreciate a bit of advice and perhaps an answer to one or two questions. First the questions:- 1) Did Compton have just three standard (Roosevelt) unit chest designs, as I am led to understand, for which only the top-boards differed? 2) Were the unit chests all independently winded, using small regulators? 3) Did all the unit chests have ventils, and were they always switchable at the console? 4) Did Compton ever use Haskelled basses? Now for the bits I know something about:- 1) Bi-phionc basses (both pneumatic (early) and electro-pneumatic) 2) The Compton "cube" 3) The iris valves for pipe regulation 4) The wind-trunking modular construction 5) The "off-centre" valves to reduce the percussive effect of wind at the pipe foot 6) The diaphones No's 1 - 6 I am all right with, but have I missed anything important off the list? Best, MM
  8. ========================== It's interesting to compare the Battersea organ with one of the first, purpose built cinema organs, by Hill, Norman & Beard Ltd., in 1921. (The Regal Cinema, Brighton). This was a straight organ, with a curious, divided divisional arrangement, ie: Two Swells, Two Greats and Two Orchestral divisions, all enclosed in various swell boxes and with every possible coupler at 16 ,8,(8 off) and 4. That too has a Tuba on Great coupler and an early use of the General Cresendo Pedal. Although it was obviously very expressive and had percussions, it didn't have any of the registers especially associated with the cinema organ: namely the Diaphone, Tibias and Diapason Phonons of Hope Jones. Other quirks included the following: PP piston 1 thumb piston in each keyslip giving Octave and Sub Octave Accessory tablets: Orchestral No.1 and 2 to Great Swell No. 1 and 2 to Great Pedal to Great pistons Pedal to Swell pistons Pedal to Orchestral pistons Great and Pedal pistons Cpl'd It's a pity it as burned out in 1928 or so. It must have been a curious thing to play. The full NPOR entry is here:- http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N15535 Best, MM
  9. ----------------------------- I didn't know that Harrison's ever did things like that. Somewhere, if I can find it amomg my files, there is a very amusing comment made by a eminent organist of the Victorian days, which apparanetly had a number of soberly dressed organists in stitches at a gathering. Of course, we musn't forget the General Cancel, made famous by the agitated lady, who on losing her temper, howled at a certain well known organist, "Oh! Press off piston!" Best, MM
  10. Didn't Robert Hope-Jones have an "Octaves" stop-key, which wasn't an octave coupler? I think it was much the same as drawing an octave coupler AND a unison-off at the same time, which makes sense of the 73 note wind-chests. It was probably an attempt to create a more orchestral effect from strings and flutes. Then there are the "suitable bass" tabs, which sort of follow the manual registration and add an appropriate number of pedal registers. Theatre organs often have a sustainer pedal, which hold a note on until the pedal is released, This allows all sort of things to go on around the held note, giving the impression of an organist with three hands. Musn't forget the sforzando controls popular in orchestral organs, cinema organs and those big Victorian concert hall organs. Best, MM
  11. ============================= IMHO, tuning is vastly overrated. All you need is tremulants.and a toy-counter even with a baroque organ. Best, MM
  12. ==================================== John Compton was rather more than the builder of extension organs. He, (and his team of course), bridged the gap between pipes and electronic synthesis from the tonal point of view. Downside had only 30 ranks of pipes, yet sounded remarkably close to an organ with three or four times more pipework. That takes a special tonal genius to achieve...that is part of the fascination Then consider a largely "straight" organ such as Hull City Hall, or its close relative at Holy Trinity, Hull........two quite magnificent instruments, vastly improved by the Compton touch. Then consider Southampton Guildhall, where two diamterically opposed concepts co-exist and combine....that of the theatre organ and the classical organ. It is a stunning success and a brilliant concept. The technology was quite literally cutting-edge, to use a well worn description....and it really was. What other organ-builder could anticipate the computer EPROMS of to-day, using purely electro-mechanical means? The story of Compton is as much a story of British technology as it is a story about an organ-builder, and that's the part which totally fascinates me, possibly because I come from engineering origins and a family of very technical people. In absolute terms, there are certainly better orchestral reeds, but I'd like to suggest that the Compton ones are still better than 95% of the rest. I'm still trying to discover the sources of many Compton things, including pipework.....possibly Norman & Beard (as in Wm Hill, Norman & Beard) for reeds, a suggestion of Rushworth's for the strings and possibly Walkers' for other things. I haven't yet got to grips with the source of pipework, but as I look at the old photographs and a map of the factory layout, I see little evidence of actual pipemaking which doesn't involve wood. (One half of the factory, which largely consisted of two very large, purpose built sheds, seemed to have been dedicated to erection and console work, and the other side appears to have been woodwork and actual manufacture of windchests and components). I know that if I were John Compton, I'd have established my system of organ-building using standardised components, (just as he did), and then I would have bought in what I needed from elsewhere. Actually finding evidence for this is very difficult, but my instinct leads me in this direction, because the sheer turnover at the peak of the Compton years would have been impossible any other way......something like a whole organ PER WEEK when they were going flat-out. They were nothing if not ORGAN-ised. (We musn't ignore the electronic side!) Consider the figures....something over 500 pipe organs of various shapes, sizes and types, not to mention the electronic organs. All built between 1920 and 1940, and between 1945 and 1960....just 35 years of industrial scale production, but with an incredible peak in the 1930's, when they built over 250 cinema organs alone. So forget comparisons, because there are none. It was a method of organ-building which was unprecedented, and which has never been equalled since. Perhaps the most important question to ask, is whether there was ever such a thing as a poor sounding organ from a particular builder? If the answer is no time and time again, then he was a master organ-builder....and THAT analysis came from the mouth of Henry Willis IV during a conversation I had with him. Personally, I can't think of a single Compton organ I would want to run away from kicking and screaming. Another comment which I like, is the one uttered by Arthur Harrison, when asked if he could detect extension when listening to one of Compton's bigger jobs. ""Of course, with considerable imagination." Best, MM
  13. ================================ I'm sorry if I offended David with my comments, but he will be the first to know that I do NOT generally admire the work of Willis I - III beyond the reeds, which are usually quite extraordinary by any standard. (The Skinner and Aeolian-Skinner organs I've played in America would give them a good run for their money). If it's any consolation, neither do I particularly admire the organs of Arthur Harrison, Rushworth & Dreaper, Norman & Beard and those who sought to imitate them, whatever the build quality and attention to detail with such as Arthur Harrison.. The fact is, I just don't like the "Imperial" style at all, and I tend to think that anything between Thos.Hill/Lewis and J W Walker in the 1960-70's was, for the most part, unfortunate. Compton is infinitely fascinating to me due to his scientific and advanced engineering approach to the problem of building organs, as well as the fact that it is an extremely difficult story to tease out from what remains of the evidence. As for Westminster Cathedral, the specification appears to have a lot of John Courage/Lewis influence, but if the detail is entirely Willis 3, this may explain why I feel the way I do about it. A good sound in many ways, but so reed dominated and bombastic, which in the absence of bold chorus-work it needs to be to have any effect in such an immense space. This video demonstrates what I mean:- Now if you add some bold chorus-work to the Willis recipe, as our kind hosts did with the following, the effect is altogether marvellous IMHO:- Is it co-incidental that, (notwithstanding the slightly unfortunate terraced dynamics), the English reeds which sit on top of the Schulze chorus-work at Doncaster, produce a fairly electrifying sound? Which brings me back to.....Lewis. Best, MM
  14. =========================== Except that he didn't! The organ was made at the old Lewis works by former Lewis staff, as I understand it. Courage, (of Courage Breweries), who paid for the organ, was a Lewis enthusiast, but eventually lost patience and stopped backing the bottomless pit of inept financial control. I think Courage actually owned the company outright towards the end. Best, MM
  15. ============================= Interesting! I bet Brindley & Foster were pleased with THAT. I don't want to get diverted too much, but I'll see if I can find the JSTOR document and take a quick look at those early days of cinema organs. Best, MM
  16. ======================== I seem to recall reading that somewhere, but of course, it wasn't the sort of cinema organ we think about to-day, and definitely not of the "unit orchestra" type. Somewhere, on JSTOR, there is a huge file of organ specifications for all the early cinema organs, and Jardine are included in that, along with Conacher, Willis, Spurden-Rutt, Holt, Fitton and numerous others. For anyone who's really into the history of the motion picture, Bradford was important, because St George's Hall was one of the very earliest venues where motion pictures were shown to the public in Britain, and of course, that had the large Holt concert organ available for accompanment. I think this was just prior to 1900 or so. I vaguely recall very old people mentioning it when I was quite young. Of course, the divisions of the cinema/theatre organs owe a lot to the fair-organs which fronted the bi-scope shows....percussions, solo, counter-melody (sort of automatic double touch) and accompaniment sections, with sliderless ventil chests and incredibly fast pneumatic actions operating from rolls. It's a history all its own; far removed from the classical one, but overlapping nonetheless. Actually, as I mentioned previously, the first bespoke organ-pipes designed for specific cinema use, were probably the ones dating from 1908, which were stitched electrically to a player-piano and installed in a cinema at Tamworth by John Compton, following a dispute between the resident cinema trio and the management. Best, MM
  17. ===================== Thank you for this, I have never seen the advertising details previously. I know that there is an obvious link between Compton & Walkers, and between Midgeley & Compton; the former investing in Compton and riding the 1930's slump by supplying things for the cinema organs. The latter was, of course, a director at Compton, but resigned from the board at some stage. The schism was entirely concerned with the electronic-organ patents associated with Compton, which include that of his own and the ones filed by Leslie Bourn/Compton Organs, which apparently trod on toes. I know that after Midgeley resigned from Compton's and filed another patent for something or other, Leslie Bourn was very critical of it by way of a letter to a respected journal. (I have the details buried somewhere) Best, MM
  18. It may not be by Ingram, but the Melbourne organ as is, makes a terrific sound. This is such fun....and those reeds! Of course, everyone was up in arms about the re-build, but it has to be said that it sounds superb. Best, MM
  19. ============================= I usually go to sleep very quickly when people talk about academic robes, but I do tend to perk up when people talk about money. £1,000 seems an awful lot of money to me, especially since the ONLY use for an academic robe is to have somewhere to hide the ham sandwiches and the flask of brandy. My old aunt, bless her memory, could have cobbled one of those robes together for less than the cost of the train-fare, and moreover, could probably have included a tracking device to help find those who wandered off unexpectedly, as elderly academics tend to do......well....all of them actually. Best, MM
  20. ============================ I'm sure you're right about the Harmonics, and indeed the alteration to the Schullze "breaks" at Ely. The Schulze "brilliance" derives as much from the overall voicing as it does that big V ranks Mixture. It's an organ which actually NEEDS a brighter Mixture in the chorus, but I think the antiquarians would have something to say about THAT idea. In a smaller space and a vastly different acoustic, as it was originally designed for, it probably sounded exactly right. Liverpool IS interesting, and if I recall correctly, there was going to be a "Flute Mixture" of some sort, which fortunately died a death. Of course, the Septieme, (as a separate rank) had made an appearance in a Liverpool organ....I forget where....some time before the Harrison/Casson Harmonics. amd Cavaille-Coll certainly used the 7th pitches in certain pedal organs; again I forget where and I can't be bothered to look because I'm busy and I'm eating cheese and biscuits. Your observation about Liverpool Catehdral is probably spot-on, because a very old recording of Goss-Custard doesn't seem to sound as if there was anything different about the Mixtures, but there are plenty of mutations apparently evident, even allowing for the age of the recording. (Try searching under [Goss-Custard Liverpool Storm] on You Tube....fabulous playing!) Best, MM
  21. ===================== Well, I had a 50:50 chance of getting it right. Thank God it wasn't William Hill & Son; Norman & Beard Ltd. Best, MM PS: I should have recalled that Rolls was a bit of Hoorah Henry sort of character...a racing driver and early pilot. Didn't he die in a plane crash or something?
  22. ================================ What a lot of compicated questions in one post!! I've clipped the "quote" for the sake of clarity. Did EP and TP actions develop in parallel? Yes and no.......pneumatic being way ahead in the game. Pneumatic, sort of related to steam and presures vessels, was well understood from an engineering point of view, let alone organ actions. Organ building materials....leather, felt, wood....were all ideal for this type of action. Why pneumatic actions in the first place? Mechancial and Barker Lever arrangements are fine when you have either depth or height, but for the most part, the action has to work in one plane, either horizontally or vertically. Enter the Oxford Movement.....chancel choirs, organs stuffed under chancel arches or divided, with the pedal pipes scattered along the rear walls. Simple as that really. Electric actions may have existed, but let's not forget that until about 1850, electro-magnetism was still a sensation among academics and inventors, and even a toy for the rich, The only available power were Leclanche Cells for low voltage actions, and this explains the claims of unreliability.....voltage drop. They got around this by eventually using more cells in parallel and even having two lots of cells, which could be switched from one to the other by the organist. So almost anything prior to maybe 1880 or so, was bound to be unreliable. Before his departure to America, not even the genius (electrical that is) of Robert Hope-Jones could guarantee a steady, reliable power source, but make no mistake, he was a brilliant engineer and his designs are considered exceptionally good even to-day; notwithstanding the limitations of the materials available at the time. His later use of gas engines and dynamos was a bit of a turning point Another alternative were re-chargeable accumulators, but how many people realised the importance of re-charging them from whatever local source could be found? So in effect, the reliability factor was heavily weighted in favour of water engines and compressed air actions, which almost any local engineer could understand. Take the example of the Binns action at St Bart's, Armley. I forget the date....1870's? It has been restored as is, which I think is wonderful, considering that it was still soldiering on 70 years later, and was still functioning after a fashion until a few years ago. No wonder people wanted pneumatic-actions of that quality, even if they only rarely got anything so good as what Binns had to offer. As I have been reseraching the earlier years of John Compton, which I am just about concluding, it impresses me that he appears to have worked independently at a time when EP actions were not trusted generally. With some quite sound engineering, he developed a good working system, though not perhaps up to the totally professional standards of Hope-Jones in the early years. By a process of forensic speculation, (in the absence of anything better), it is probably true to say that John Compton's work on EP was very much a British thing, whereas Willis had imported American developments . This is probably....in fact very likely....to have been the result of professional input from a certain Mr A H Midgeley, who became a Director at Compton's, and was also a Director at the Vanderwell automotive plant, which eventually became VAG Lucas. Later on, (I assume), after having a row about patents, he walked out of Compton's and set up his own firm, titled Midgley-Hamer Ltd., who did a lot of electrical-engineering work for the military. Were I a betting man, I would almost wager that Midgley was the man who introduced a lot of the mass production methods associated with Compton, because he came from a mass-production, engineering works background. Still.....musn't over speculate must we? As for the dangers of cotton wound cables and perishable natural rubber....yes. However, the danger only arises if negative and positive are in close proximity. I know that when my brother and myself used to fiddle around as kids with ex-wartime electrical things, the terminals were usually kept well away from each other, and organ-builders also mounted electrical things on wood, which was an added bit of safety insulation. Most short-circuits in organ consoles and such, probably caused rather more ciphers than they did fires, but I just know that someone will tell me that they used to work for the fire-brigade before they got their FRCO!!! Best, MM
  23. I reply to pcnd's post; the specific quotes being in red:- Your point about the Harrison 'influence' on Willis' tonal schemes is an interesting one - particularly the G.O. Harmonics (17-19-flat 21-22), which was an apparent copy of Harrisons' recipe Well, this MAY be true, but surely, the first example of a Harmonics (V ranks) mixture, using the tierce and septieme ranks, was that built in 1899 by Thomas Casson at Omagh, Co.Tyrone, Eire? GREAT 1. Geigen Principal 16 2. Lieblich Bordun 16 3. Contra Dulciana 16 4. Open Diapason 8 5. Open Diapason 8 6. Viola da Gamba 8 7. Suabe Flute 8 8. Principal 4 9. Flauto Traverso 4 10. Twelfth 2 2/3 11. Fifteenth 2 12. Harmonics ( V Casson knew Carlton Michell.....Carlton Michell accompanied Arthur Harrison and Lt Col George Dixon on their visit to hear the Schulze at Armley....they are all linked by organ-enthusiast/financier Mr J Martin White, who knew Hope-Jones and John Compton. I suspect that this was certainly the case with H&H. In addition, I think that it is likely that Arthur Harrison would be unwilling to risk the reputation of the firm on anything that was either untested or not thoroughly safe. Stephen Bicknell claimed that Harry Harrison designed Harrison's electro-penuamtic action, but I wonder if that included the very early example at Christ Church, Skipton (1906 or 1911?) It may be that there was a re-design of the Hope-Jones patent, carefully avoiding certain details of the patent so as to avoid licence fees, but I doubt that it was in any way "original" in design. Any risk involved would almost certainly have come from what I described earlier....cotton/silk covered wire, battery shorts, gas engine fires, possible dynamo fires....the fact is, we don't really know, and the poor reputation of early Hope-Jones actions was one which was often, it would seem, the result of sabotage by rival builders. In actual fact, so good was the bulk of the Hope-Jones design, it would be fair to suggest that it was a wondeerful piece of electrical-engineering, and most of the problems seemed to centre around actually producing the current required. Ask any theatre organ enthusiast just how good Wurlitzer actions are, even after the passage of 80 years. Electric action made a slow start, and as Stephen Bicknell also said, "it was only after the Great War that English builders returned to the idea of electric action" I'm not sure that this is entirely true, because John Compton was earlier than most and by the 1920's, he had gained a significant lead in electro-pneumatic actions. I'll quote Stephen Bicknell again, who said:- Henry Willis III, who I doubt ever had an original idea of his own,imported the Skinner Pitman chest, console design, key action, and the French Horn and the Erzahler (renaming the latter Sylvestrina and claiming sole credit). Depsite Aubrey Thompson-Allen's claims that he redisgned the action for Willis's use, I think it remained in essence similar to Skinner's original, just adapted for local materials and conditions. This all took place in 1924-5. I think the console for the Jesuit Church, Farm Street, Mayfair was made in America and fitted out in London. So it appears to me, that what started out as a French/Belgian/British idea (Hope-Jones, Bryceson, Moeles & Schmol, Hope-Jones etc etc), was carted off the America where it developed very quickly and effectively. In fact, with perhaps a few isolated uses here and there, and presumably some experiments by others, it was Compton who was the only rival this side of the pond. Although it is interesting to note that the authorities at Selby Abbey elected not to re-quote with Compton after the disastrous fire of 1906 Indeed, which is sad considering that the fire is believed to have started in the gas-engine responsible for raising the wind. The other possibility may be that Compton never got paid in full, or there may have been a considerable delay in any insurance payout.....we will never know. Compton may have been very hard up at this time as a result, and may have found himself unable to meet another contract of such magnitude so soon afterwards. It amazes me that Compton's reputation wasn't ruined at this point, because of all buildings NOT to set alight, I would have thought that Selby Abbey would be in the top few dozen. It was headline news right around the English speaking world. I have photographs of the aftermath....not a prettty sight. Best, MM
  24. ================================ More or less right Tony, and people often forget that the lecky supply only became a grid around 1930 or thereabouts, (I forget the exact date), but the task of the grid was to make the supply available generally, which probably took over thirty-years. Certainly, in the 1960's, the Yorkshire Dales were largely powered by diesel generators at farmhouses, with oil lamps, tilley lamps, open fires, coal/wood cooking ranges and a few handheld torches bought on a trip to the city. There was no gas to speak of, and at night, the villages were totally dark. I know that one Compton installation used accumulators charged by a dynamo from an unspecified type of blower....probably a gas or oil engine, and they were only removed in the late 1930's.. With regard to "outside suppliers" of electrical parts, I suspect, (but cannot prove) that this existed on a bespoke basis. I don't know whether you've read the Lancaster Theatre Organ Trust article about Hope-Jones, but apparently, his magnets were almost certainly made and wound by a certain Mr Rolls, (of Rolls-Royce fame), in Manchester. When Hope-Jones, with the backing of the brewer Threlfall, set up the HJ Electric Organ Company, the intention was to permit other organ-builders to use the system "under licence".....that translated I think into "supplying clients." That company went pop, as did almost any company associated with H-J, but G W Wells-Beard, (of Norman & Beard), was a director of the ill-fated H-J enterprise, which is how Norman & Beard ended up with the rights to the patents. My guess....and it is a guess...is that Norman & Beard may have supplied things to other builders, but using outside manufacturers operating on a franchise basis. That would make perfect sense, because not only were Norman & Beard starting to become strapped for cash at this time, due to the general downturn in organ-building after the turn of the century, fledgling electrical companies would have welcomed work which involved job-lots of identical components as a production run.Perhaps the same people supplied telephone companies....who knows? It's a great shame that I wasn't more aware of things back in 1980, because that early electrical mechanism at Christ Church, Skipton, was only ripped out then, after about 70 years of reliable service. I'd almost stick my neck out, that that action was supplied by the same people who made parts for Norman & Beard and Hope-Jones; especially since the cable run was from the steps of the chancel, right to the west gallery position of the windchests under the tower....probably about a 100ft cable run. As I stated previously, there's no way that Harrison & Harrison would have had the skills and capacity to make their own electrical components, and whether we care to admit it or not, "organ supply houses" DID exist, going right back to mid-Victorian times. As for the fire risk, you are quite right.....Selby Abbey being the classic example. If the gas-engine didn't burst into flames or poison everyone, a sudden discharge or short in miriad cotton or silk covered cables would have produced an interesting firework display. (I recall my brother accidentally shorting out a mini-van battery inside the vehicle, with a reel of loose cable....we were running for our lives with blobs of molten metal flying everywhere). Amusingly, as I was writing up the early years of John Compton, I realised that I was also writing about the history of the fire-brigade! So you are quite right about people being wary of electrical anything in the early days, just as I was rather scared of the carbon-arc rectifier of an organ in Rochdale, by Binns. I was 15 and the rectifier was an old-age-pensioner, and nowadays, I suspect one would only be allowed to approach such a device wearing a Faraday suit! (The wires were just bolted to bare terminals, without any attempt at insulation, with a mains switch about 10 ft away). Remember those early blower rheostats? They were fun if you threw the handle too quickly.......sparks everywhere and probable damage to the motor. They wouldn't be rushed as the blower ground up to speed, and it was a bit like driving a tram....if people remember what trams were outside Manchester, Sheffield and Blackpool. Which reminds me, I must get a battery for my watch. It's been in there 3 years! Best, MM PS: Tony....Compton made a whole 4 rank extension organ using pneumatics in the early days. That must have been a throw-back to his Brindley & Foster days, and their use of the modified Keggladen operating on their Metechotic system, which must have been under development when Compton worked for them..
  25. ======================== Thank you for this reply. I had identified Durham as a possible candidate, but I wasn't aware of the details. I shall have to dig my The Harrison Story out and have a look. It tends to suggest that the Skipton organ was their first ALL EP action organ. These early dates intrigue me, because there is absolutely no way that organ-supply houses had the components, and no firm in their right minds would have tooled up to make one-offs. Were they, I wonder, supplied by a licensee of the Hope-Jones system? Perhaps even another organ-builder such as Norman & Beard? Thinking about Bournemouth, I suspect that this would be a town with a decent electric supply in 1914, but direct electric action would require quite a hefty dynamo to work the pallets direct. Could it have been that the Choir Organ didn't have primary pneumatics as an under-action, but had instead, the usual electro-magnetic solenoid operating the main, secondary pneumatic inside the chest? That would tie in with the usual method of the day, I suspect. Of course, rapidly becoming the premier builder of the day after about 1910, Harrisons would work with some particularly large and difficult installations, with pipes scattered here there and everywhere; Durham being a good example. For that reason, they had good cause to pursue EP action early on, and that seems to be the case. It's curious really, for although EP was around after the Hope-Jones organ at Birkenhead, most builders avoided using it for quite some time. Compton was certainly one of the first to have a good working system, but I suspect that the general adoption of EP action wasn't until the era of the theatre organ in the late 1920's and through the 30's. It's that period 1910 to about 1925 which is a bit obscure, and if we eliminate the Norman & Beard/Hope Jones jobs, it's starting to look as if only Compton, Willis and Harrisons were pursuing the EP route as a viable and reliable alternative to TP before the theatre organs came along. (The Patman touring organ must have been EP, coming to think about it). Looking at the Willis/Lewis at Westminster Cathedral, that MUST have been EP, rather the TP action listed on the NPOR, if only because of the far flung east end section. Liverpool must also have been an early candidate, coming to think about it. So the jury is still out for the moment, but I'm sure it will get clearer as time drifts on. Best, MM
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