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Stephen Dutfield

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  1. 1) Broadly speaking, this is the case. the design of the chest was standard (although, of course they were perfectly able to construct 'non-standard' chests when required) being a single stage Roosevelt. From the mid-1930s onwards, with the introduction of the compound magnet, it was usual to use these on the bottom two octaves effectively making these notes two-stage pneumatic. These chests were produced in three widths, known in the factory as String (6 1/2" wide at the top board), Diapason (9") and Tuba (11"). It might also be of interest to know that, as standard, Compton pipework was mitred to fit a 9' 6" ceiling height. Somewhere else in this thread someone mentioned them having built Kegelade chests. The 40 stop concert organ at Wolverhampton Civic Hall is largely on straight, sliderless chests, with a single set of 61 magnets at the front. There were only a couple of ranks on extension chests in the original scheme. I don't know the mechanism involved and assumed they had some sort of ventil stop action, but they may well be Kegelade chests. 2) Ranks were occasionally independently winded as required (eg Tubas, Trumpets, or Tibias in cinema installations) but more often than not, ranks were grouped together with usually between 2 and 5 winded from one regulator. These regulators are, roughly speaking, 2' 6" x 2" (exactly speaking they're 31" x 24" - I measured some this morning!) and are internally sprung with strong leaf springs. They are neat, and very efficient at maintianing steady wind. Again, not all jobs had the standard regulators - the BBC Broadcasting House organ, which has around 33 ranks fitted into a chamber about 6' deep, has, I understand, integral regulation within the assortment of odd-shaped chests required to fit such an instrument into such a confined space. I'm guess these are something like Schwimmers. 3) As far as I am aware NO unit chests had ventils. The ventil was always fitted to the regulator, which is why the ventil stopkeys or switches often showed a group of ranks affected. This is a less useful applictaion than the Hill, Norman & Beard method as displayed in their 'Christie' cinema organs, where there is a ventil in the end of each main chest, so individual ranks can be silenced in the event of a cipher. On Compton cinema organs you will generally see one ventil marked 'Basses and Percussions' which is for the regulator supplying un-tremulated wind to these. It often also supplies the swell shutters, so use of this ventil can make the instrument even more quiet than expected! 4) I believe so, especially in small compact instruments, and residence organs. I'm not sure if they were also used in the Minitura organs, but suspect they were in at least some models, as the early versions of these used a cube bass for the 16' octave, and the chests were also made to a very space-saving design, so it perhaps follows that any other space-saving techniques available would have found favour with Compton and Taylor provided the musical result was satisfactory.
  2. Now this is one area where you'll find examination of the theatre organ output very useful. From, I should think, the late 1920s until the outbreak of WWII, just about every Compton theatre organ included this latter type of Polyphone (known in the factory as the Biphonic bass) using just six pipes for the 16' Tibia octave. The earliest version had a pneumatic on the outside of the pipe, which opened a valve over a hole giving the higher of the two notes. Towards the end of 1933 a newer type came into production with the pneumatic inside the pipe, and an extension tube, complete with tuning slide, on the outside. This made fine tuning of the subsidiary note possible. The action was (as one would expect) quite ingenious. For the 'root' note to sound, a perfectly straightforward primary/secondary chest action was used to exhaust the 'cup' motor carrying the pallet. For the subsidiary note there was a second magnet and primary. On the top of the primary valve wire was attached a contact wiper which was pulled onto a contact connected back to the magnet for the 'root' note, so as to open the pallet. From this second action a feed was taken, via a short length of lead tubing, into the bottom corner of the pipe. These pipes have a wooden channel attached to one corner, inside which another tube goes up to the internal pneumatic. The second primary exhausts this tube, thus opening the internal valve into the extension tube. ..... at least that's how I think it works. It's a while since I took one apart, so it just might be the other way around! Anyway, you get the drift of it, and there are plenty still around for you to inspect S
  3. Firstly, the 'nature of their relationship' was purely professional, being kindred spirits for many years in terms of the development and building of their organs. Jimmy Taylor was a family man, and his son was certainly still alive a few years ago when the late Ivor Buckingham was in touch with him over his researches. I seem to remember that JT's brother-in-law also worked in the electrical department. Jimmy Taylor died exactly a year after John Compton, at Easter time 1958. Incidentally, in an obituary to John Compton reprinted in the Elvin book, JC's age is given as 83. After Taylor's death the company seemed to lose direction - and certainly lose a lot of experienced staff - and under new management, trading as Compton Organs Ltd, got involved in all sorts of ancilliary manufacturing, some successful (the Strand Lighting consoles), some not so successful (caravan components) which paved the way for the demise of the firm. In 1964 the business and goodwill of the pipe organ department was sold to R & D. They had what records remained, although when Ivor contacted Alastair Rushworth, he (AW) was quite dissmissive over the amount of paperwork they actually had. He is said to have destroyed what was left when the firm closed. However, Rushworths didn't have the tooling, and all of the moulds for bakelite components, some jigs for metalwork, and the pantograph engraving machine with all its plates, ended up with David Pawlyn in Aylesbury. Since his death they have been purchased by the Compton Lodge Trust, and are now in safe keeping at Paul Kirner's workshop in Sapcote, Leicestershire. Compton Organs Ltd. continued producing high-quality electronic organs using the electrostatic disc system until 1970, when that side of the business was sold to Makins. Other breakaways were formed by former staff members, including the Compton Organ Maintenance Company run by Fred Allen and a Mr. Wheeler. There was also a short-lived firm building solid-state electronic church organs under the name of Compton-Edwards. The factory building - or at least the front office block - still exists at the junction of Chase Road and Minerva Road, North Acton. Former Compton voicer Doug Litchfield is still alive and relatively well, living in Gloucester. He speaks very highly of the company and its family atmosphere. Even in Doug's time (he began his apprenticeship in 1944) John Compton used to come into the factory to experiment with things. Doug very kindly has let me have his indenture papers which bear not only the signatures of John Compton and J.I. Taylor, but also the company's magnificent wax seal! S S
  4. Yes, they did a lot of the 'specials' - particularly the larger ones like the two at Southampton Guildhall and, I believe, the original BBC theatre organ which had beautiful quarter-sawn panelling on the sides. The console workshop at Chase Road did build the vast majority though, as most Compton consoles were made in one of their house-styles. I think the specials cost a lot more. The one other fundamental component which Compton's DIDN'T make themselves were keyboards, which were bought in and fitted into Compton-built frames. S
  5. I should have mentioned before that there is a very comprehensive run-down of the Compton company in Laurance Elvin's book 'Pipes & Actions'. Also of interest is an audio transcription I have of an interview which the late Clifford Manning conducted for research purposes, I think in the 1980s, with Roy Skinner who was a mainstay of Compton's electrical department from the late 20s. Thinking back on it, I have a feeling that he was married to Jimmy Taylor's sister. Also still believed to be in the land of the living is Susie Perkins - the adopted daughter of John Compton - who was last known to be in the Somerset area. However, despite appeals in the local press, I was unable to trace her to invite her to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations at the Odeon, Weston-super-Mare. Ivor also told me that he'd been in touch with Jimmy Taylor's son, but hadn't broadcast the fact as he didn't want all and sundry bothering him. I have yet to find the correspondance among Ivor's papers. S
  6. This is indeed true. There are many Compton theatre organs still in good working order, and a good many of them still operate on their original direct-electric relay system which is as efficient and long-lasting as it is ingeniously designed. Although probably not as plentiful as theatre organs in this state, there are also a good many pre-war Compton church organs still ticking along quite happily in their original condition. One was brought to my attention only recently in Sussex which retains a horseshoe stopkey console on a west gallery, so that it's rarely seen by members of the congregation! The build quality was good, but also what I would call "substantial", and it is this that gives you a good degree of confidence in their work. It would be Ivor Norridge who was mentioned earlier in this thread as being in Edinburgh. He was, I think, a just post-war apprentice and I believe is still about. Another of that period is Doug Litchfield who trained in flue voicing under Johnny Degens. He went to Nicholsons and Ian Bell filled his shoes at Chase Road. Doug is still with us and living in Gloucester. I see him from time to time and, although he suffered a mild stroke last year, is keeping reasonably well and still getting out. In fact, as I am now the holder of Ivor Buckingham's archive, Doug very kindly gave me his 1944 indenture document, which contains the signatures of J.C. and J.I.T. as well as the company's wax seal. MM - I will make a note of the Finsbury Park stopkey! I assisted in the removal of the remains of that organ from Aylesbury Civic Hall a couple of years ago. It was all very high quality stuff, and obviously not a cheap job. I too have one of their ashtrays. Mine is a theatre organ version with a depiction of the Playhouse, Windsor console, but I believe they made other versions. These were given out to visitors touring the factory - a very early corporate "freebie" I suppose.... SD
  7. It was indeed St. George's Hall, which had previously been the Maskelyne and Devant theatre (dedicated to the owners' illusionist shows) but had been taken over by the BBC as a light entertainment studio. The auditorium adjoined that of the Queen's Hall. In 1936 a four manual twenty-three unit Compton theatre organ was installed there as the first BBC Theatre Organ, making broadcasts easier when the vast majority were live and couldn't quite so easily take place in the afternoon or evening without disrupting cinema programmes if done on location. Reginald Foort FRCO was the first staff BBC theatre organist, followed in 1938 by Roderick Hallowell (Sandy) MacPherson. In 1940 the BBC Variety Department was evacutaed to Bristol, and later to Llandudno, but Sandy was initially transferred to the BBC's wartime control centre at Wood Norton near Evesham. Here an early Hammond organ was installed with an echo chamber, and it was extensively broadcast by Sandy and Fredric Curzon among others during the early part of the war. Guest organists were still appearing at the Compton, and Ena Baga was scheduled to broadcast on it the morning following the air raid. She had been rehearsing in the hall in the evening, and - when the sirens went off - made her way to the air raid shelter in the basement of Broadcasting House where she remained all night during one of the worst raids. During the raid St. George's Hall received a direct from a huge oil bomb. The only parts of the organ supposedly recogniseable in the wreckage were the tubular chrome frame of the bench and the iron frame of the Marshall & Rose grand piano playable from the console. The supreme irony was that Ena Baga's signature tune was the Jerome Kern melody "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"..... S
  8. I am very pleased to see that Michael Hoeg - assistant organist at Llandaff for more years than I (or probably he) care to remember - has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours. At the other end of the spectrum, as he embarks on his 34th season at Blackpool's Tower Ballroom, Phil Kelsall can also now add the letters MBE to his billing, as did his predecessor Reginald Dixon! S
  9. I'm fairly sure that Coychurch crematorium, near Bridgend, South Wales, has TWO pipe organs - one in each chapel! S
  10. I would have given it at least 4 out of 5... but then I like transcriptions when they're performed with the accuracy and panache of Thomas Trotter! He addressed the audience from the front of the nave at the beginning of the recital, but also introduced each item individually using a radio mic at the console, including his customary gems of information on the music and the composers. Everyone I know who was there was suitably impressed with the new organ, and afterwards I managed a quick chat with both Guy Russell and Andrew Moyes, as well as David Thomas (second assistant organist) and all were delighted with the result. S
  11. I had meant to catch up with this thread before. Acting on the information provided by list members I was able to contact William Dore at Ampleforth, and he sent me the following about his father, which may well be of interest here: Born: Portsmouth 25 September 1903 Educated: Prebendal School, Chichester (chorister) and articled organ pupil of Dr FJ Read. FRCO awarded (c.1921) Queens College, Cambridge (organ scholar, originally to read History, but changed to Music. Double First Class Degree). N.U.I. Dublin (MusB) Borough Organist of Portsmouth (1926) followed by a stint as Organist at the Bournemouth Pavilion (succeeded by Whitlock in 1932) Settled in Eire in 1930s, freelance organist and examiner/teacher, and Organist at Savoy Theatre, Dublin (1930s) War Service: Office of Censorship having returned to UK. Organist at Christ's Hospital Horsham (1948-53?) Director of Music at Brighton College (1953-58) Director of Music and Abbey Organist, Ampleforth Abbey and College (1958-70) Numerous recordings made at Ampleforth and elsewhere for Radio 3, and 2 LPs released under RCA Victrola of Mendelssohn's Complete Organ Works in 1971, recorded by Michael Smythe at Ampleforth. Appears also on 'Six Famous British Organs' (released in 1974) (Smythe recording) Continued to examine and teach after retirement, and started work in a doctorate at York University on Tournemere's L'Orgue Mystique. (unfinished at the time of his death and manuscript lost). Died: 25 March 1974 after a short illness. I am indebted to everyone here for their help and suggestions, and of course to William Dore. S
  12. Thank you very much Malcolm. This is all very interesting information, and I'd like to take you up on your offer of a photocopy of the Barnard article if I may. I'll message you privately about that. I also had no idea that there had been any solo recordings made of the Pavilion organ as long ago as that. I'm glad I asked now! I have also had a reply from one of the brothers at Ampleforth who has forwarded my enquiry to William Dore. S
  13. Thanks David - I had no idea about this. I shall write to him this weekend. S
  14. I'm in the process of writing an article on the Pavilion, Bournemouth Compton for an enthusiasts' newsletter, but I'm finding it very difficult to find information about Philip Dore anywhere on the web. I know the details of his time at Bournemouth thanks to Malcolm Riley's excellent book on Whitlock, but can't seem to find any details of other appointments apart from Ampleforth, and no dates for anything - including his birth and death. If anyone could give me a quick run-down of his career, I'd be very grateful. Thanks in advance! Steve
  15. The residence organs built by Wurlitzer in the early part of the 20th Century also included some multiplexing to save holes on the paper roll. I believe the shared holes were principally to do with the operation of the swell shutters. An 'electro-pneumatic computer' sounds very much like a standard coupling/extension relay to me. They are, after all, in effect a huge collection of 'and' logic gates (ie. When stop X is operated AND note Y is pressed, then pipe Z speaks.) The Welte would probably use something like this, as indeed do the Aeolian player organs. S
  16. I assume the Trinity Methodist which the BDOA were visiting was, in fact, the one in Penarth, as they were also visiting St. Augustine's there. I agree about St. Germans. I only went up into the organ loft once some 30 years ago during a break in rehearsals for a performance of Vivaldi's Gloria when I was in the school choir. I don't generally mind heights, but that one is decidedly unnerving! S
  17. I can confirm that it IS the Compton of the Odeon, Leicester Square. The organ has 17 ranks (arranged in 16 units - there is one combined unison and celeste string unit) plus an example of the patent 'Melotone' unit playable from the Orchestral (fourth) manual. The fifth manual is a coupler only. The chambers are beneath the theatre's stage speaking up and out of the orchestra pit. The Compton was installed for the opening of the Odeon in November 1937 and remains in good playing condition. S
  18. Yes, the West Great is a separate chorus placed across the West face of the North case speaking into the North aisle. In the South case the Swell is on a chromatic chest, bass end to the East and treble end to the West. The box has its main set of shutters facing across the quire, and a further set (which can be switched in or out at will) in the West end of the box speaking into the South aisle. Both these facilities can be used when there is a large congregation in the nave, and will undoubtedly make the new organ far more audible in the main body of the cathedral than was the old one. The cases of the new organ are also placed one bay further West than the former instrument and appear to be far better designed to actually allow sound out. The George Pace designed case, in which the old organ was totally emasculated, had very little open area for the organ sound to go anywhere except straight across the quire. S
  19. From what I was told when I visited Nicholsons workshop with the local association back in March, the plan is to have the Great, Swell, Choir and Pedal in for dedication next Easter. The current financial position at the cathedral means that the solo organ will likely be installed for the following Easter. I believe the Tuba is that from the old organ - a relatively new stop and the only part of the old instrument to be retained, so this pipework is, of course, already to hand. I was told - although I don't know how true or otherwise this is - that the cathedral had a couple of properties which they were going to sell and put the funds towards the organ. However, with the financial squeeze and the collapse of the property market in the area, they decided not to sell now, but to wait until the market picks up. This seems eminently sensible to me, so hopefully things will pick up in the next year and allow the planned solo division to go ahead. Nonetheless, with the main three divisions in place, the new organ will be a great improvement on anything that the cathedral has had in the last fifty years. S
  20. No - but I do know of an eminently suitable instrument which is currently available. Send me a PM if you're interested. S
  21. As it happens, although this was one of the earliest pipe organs in a British cinema - being installed I think around 1914 (it probably wasn't the first, but documentation doesn't exist to prove one way or the other) it isn't a 'cinema organ' in any sense other than it was installed in a cinema. When it was removed from the Colisseum, Harringay aound 1980 I seem to remember someone suggesting it might have been by Thomas Jones. It is a 2 manual tracker job with trigger swell, and a not-unattractive pipe front. It has a standard 'church' specification, and in all probability was originally built for a church before being transferred to the cinema. It would be a very suitable instrument for transfer to a church in need. S
  22. Actually it's a lot simpler than that! The fire protection is just a happy by-product of the fact that theatre organ shutters are sprung shut and, as the organs are totally enclosed, there's no requirement for leaving them open, they simply close when there's no longer any wind to keep them open. In any case it is far easier to keep the tuning of a theatre organ stable by having thermostaically controlled chamber heating. With shutters closed most of the time in a 24-hour period, the varying temeraptures in the auditorium can be kept at bay. Even so, most theatre organs in major theatres in the 1930s were tuned once a month, and additionally if there were broadcasts. There was an interesting varient of the fire protection which I saw in many London-area theatres (so it may well have been a requirement of the old LCC) which used a thermal coupling in a wire running through each chamber. One end was anchored, the other end was attached to a heavy metal shutter in the outside wall which, when dropped would open a smoke outlet to the outside. Also in the system was a contact block through which the -15v return from the shutters passed. The circuit was made by a knife-edge contact on a peg which was also attached to the fire shutter system. Should a fire have broken out in the chamber while the organ was playing, the heat would melt the thermal coupling, allowing the weight of the fire shutter to drop. As the shutter opened it also pulled on the cable attached to the peg, which flew out of the contact block, breaking the return from the shutter action and closing the swell shutters. Although an ingenious system, I have never heard of it actually working 'in anger' and, as far as I know, the few theatre organs in this country lost in fires were destroyed as a result of a fire breaking out in the theatre itself, not the organ chamber. S
  23. Thanks for that. I recorded the programmes onto VHS when they were originally shown on Channel 4 over a decade ago, but unfortunately loaned the tapes to someone who died before he gave them back! S
  24. I certainly remember it being useful for the tuner to communicate with his assistant - and equally remember that it was a good idea not to swear within the range of the mic! There was a speaker in the case somwhere near the Great above the organists head, and to the right. It was quite a layout in that instrument with the choir shutters throwing the sound up out of the top of the box. S
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