Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Stephen Dutfield

  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Stephen Dutfield

  1. ... but does she have eyes of blue?! S
  2. You won't be disappointed Tony. A word of warning though - visiting the OHS site can result in an overly-long Christmas list....! Steve
  3. It sounds as if it might be a motor drive to a crankshaft operating a pair of feeders into the main bellows. I've never come across it on a church organ, but such systems are commonplace on fairground organs. There does, of course, have to be some method of controlling the speed of the motor from the height of the bellows, somewhat similar to those used with hydraulic engines.
  4. There is actually a third book which deals with Hope-Jones in far greater depth and detail than either of the above, which is that written by David H. Fox. I recommended it highly to anyone with an interest in H-J as it includes not only a no-holds-barred biography, but also facsimilies of many of the RH-J designs and drawings. Along with many other interesting books of this type, it's available by mail order from the Organ Historical Society - they operate a very quick delivery service across the Atlantic! Here's a link to the relevant page of their on-line catalogue. http://www.ohscatalog.com/robhop.html
  5. An even better example in which hydraulics are required to drive a motor (or originally a small reversible steam engine) to amplify a mechanical movement - whilst keeping the movement of the final component exactly in ratio to the movement of the control - is the hydraulic steering telemotor used on ships. Even on my beloved old coastal paddle-steamers such equipment was - once properly adjusted - capable of moving the rudder with such accuracy as to track perfectly a degree-plate display on the bridge in front of the wheel, immaterial of the speed at which the wheel was turned. A friend of mine is experimenting with servo-motor operated screw drives in the hope of saving some space and getting rid of two whiffletrees. The first system he came up with, and which he thought would be fine, would go from open to closed in two seconds. He wasn't too impressed when I told him that organists would often need the shutters to open in a quarter of that time. Pneumatics are more than capable of this, and (as he's a techno-nut) I did rather feel that he was trying to re-invent the wheel!
  6. There were quite a number of theatre organs which had duplicate console lift controls. Even today at the Odeon, Leicester Square, whilst it isn't possible to send the organist up through the stalls and out into the square, it is perfectly possible to stand at the side of the stage and send the departing musician not only into the pit, but below it... and even close a trap door above his head. I think my wife longs for such a system at home
  7. No, I'm sure you are quite correct Frank. My mis-understanding of how the set-up worked was based on the urban myths circulating around the organ loft in about 1987 when I briefly became involved in saving the Conacher from being scrapped. An early SSL transmission system had been fitted at some point in the 1970s - installed in the rear of the console - and the old relays were removed from the blower room, although parts of one of them remained sitting on top of a cupboard on the gallery. At the time this was done I'm guessing that the Compton stopkeys were disconnected because when I removed them the wiring wasn't connected to anything in the console. It was a church member who told me that you'd originally been able to play them from the keyboards, and he was obviously mistaken. There was certainly no key cable around in the 1980s. The organ itself nearly came to a sticky end as for some reason a humidifier had been installed (which the thing really didn't need) but without an outlet valve for times when the organ was idle. Further to that, the damn contraption was set to run at full tilt and, with the organ only being switched on for an hour a week, it succeeded in wreaking havoc with all the chest-work which became virtually water-logged. When it really started playing up (I remember getting a desperate phone call at about 8pm one Christmas Eve due to a loud cypher on the No.1 Diapason - their organ tuner not being interested - unsurprisingly) they were all set to dump the instrument in favour of an electronic. It was only through good luck that I happened to be in the same music shop at the same time as members of the church were listening to a demonstration of one of the latest electronics, and found out what was going on. We subsequently got a number of builders to quote, but almost all went for the "sledgehammer to crack a nut" option of recommending additions to the pipework and multi-channel capture pistons etc. etc. so the church were rather shocked at the suggested costs. Ironically the one builder who quoted a sensible price for doing exactly what we wanted (Conachers themselves) was more-or-less discounted on the grounds of "if they're that cheap they can't be much good!" Dr. Rowntree was invited in as arbiter, and promptly suggested the church burn the thing and buy a second-hand tracker job! Eventually having persuaded the powers-that-be that we could do something with it, myself and a friend who was a member of their congregation got permission to do the work ourselves. The leather (and the motors themselves) were rotten, the magnets rusted, the woodwork termite infested etc. so we cleared everything out and converted it to direct electric, also installing a transformer/recifier in place of the antiquated generator which had been causing problems with the SSL panels. Since we did the job at cost and over an 18 month period in our spare time - always leaving part of the job playable - it didn't cost the church as much as the replacement electronic would have, and is still working well now. Sadly a year or two back I had the duty of playing it for the funeral of the wife of the friend who'd done the job with me - but I think she'd have been pleased that I was playing the Conacher and not an electronic! We did investigate the prospect of restoring the Miller chimes too. They fell into disuse following complaints about the noise from an elderly neighbour. At some point after this the interior of the tower had been painted, and the racks containing the chime equipment were taken off the wall and left in a heap on the floor. We didn't know enough about them to tackle the job, and in any case a climb to the top of the tower revealed an empty chamber, so someone must have made off with the speakers years before. There was a clock/timer mechanism in one cabinet, so I assume it either struck the hours or probably sounded the Angelus automatically. As far as I know all the equipment is still there.
  8. Well they weren't real bells, but the Conacher at St.Josephs RC in Cardiff used to be connected up to the Miller electronic 'bells' installed in the church tower. There was a small one-octave keyboard mounted on a pillar adjoining the organ console (with dummy sharps - there were only 8 chime rods) from which the organist was expected to sound the Sanctus at the appropriate point in the Mass. However, an enterprising young organ builder who was once organist at the church (and who may or may not be known to members of this group) wired this keyboard through to one manual of the organ and added the appropriate stopkeys to allow him to properly mark the Elevation of the Host without ever having to leave the organ bench! The remains of the Miller chimes are now derelict, and I was responsible for removing the extra stops and interconnecting wiring in the late 80s - an act for which I have since apologised to the organ builder in question!
  9. OK, so it's taken me two weeks, but I've finally found a couple of minutes to jot down something about this new organ. Despite having lived in Cardiff for most of my life, and regularly driving past St. Peter's, this was the first time I've been inside. It was a pleasant surprise as, despite it's stern Victorian-Gothic exterior the inside of the church is surprisingly bright and airy. With a timber floor beneath the pews and tiled along all three aisles, and not much by way of soft furnishings (the pews are plain wooden ones with no cushions - take your own for recital comfort!) the acoustic is lively but not too much so, and the organ does sound very good indeed. It's installed in the same position as the previous instrument on a balcony above the entrance vestibule at the West end of the church, access being via the spiral staircase in the tower - itself notable for an R.C. church in that it houses a chime recently expanded to 14 bells, originally paid for by the Bute family of Cardiff Castle, which plays hymn tunes at certain times of the day. Surprisingly the Spaeth doesn't appear to be built into a Werkprinzip case, but looks much more 'English' in design, actually continuing the Gothic theme of the building. The woodwork is all executed to a very high standard, and those who have played it tell me that the action is surprisingly light and responsive for an instrument of this size. Equally surprising is that the Swell division gives a very good impression of an English swell, although the overall scheme is very much Continental classical. To take advantage of this the recitalist (Brian Williams, who normally presides at the beautiful and almost untouched Hill in the neighbouring Anglican parish of St. Germans) prepared an unashamedly romantic programme with the emphasis on the French, although he also included four short pieces by Russian composers for good measure. I don't have a copy of the specification, but I can tell you that the principal chorus work was quite thrilling. Only one of the flutes has a pronounced chiff, but it isn't distracting - unlike a similar stop a mile or so away at a well known concert hall which spits at you even if you're in the back row of the balcony! The reeds are colourful and quite powerful, and could really have done with the tuning being touched up prior to the recital. This was particularly the case with the Krumhorn. Overall the instrument oozes quality, and I look forward to further visits. Dame Gillian Weir is performing the offical inaugural recital early in November, but I expect this organ to be in demand as it provides easily the most interesting instrument in the central Cardiff area, and along with the FWs at St. Johns and Dewi Sant, and the aforementioned Hill at St. Germans which is just undergoing a restoration to the actions, the Spaeth completes a quartet of three-manual recital instruments all within about a mile of each other. This one has the supposed advantage over the other three of having general pistons and a piston stepper, but thus far nobody has managed to work out how to set it
  10. Yes, it'll have to be all six numbers. Five and the bonus might just do the console! Seriously, I think we all (well, those of us interested in that sort of thing) would like to have the chance to see and hear it, but realistically speaking I think we might probably only have the chance to hear parts of it in other instruments at some point in the future. However, as MM has pointed out, there just might be someone out there who is prepared to take it on. Miracles do happen now and again - I certainly never thought I'd be looking forward to seeing and hearing the Granada, Tooting instrument in concert, but I'm planning the coach outing as I write....
  11. As an avid fan of Fred and owner of just about every book, video, DVD about him or introduced my him, I absolutely agree. He embodied everything that I think is great about this country, and it would yet be a finer country if we had a few more people like him. However your original post was slightly contradictory in that you mentioned Fred in the same sentence as some nutter who would spend his life cherishing the Christie. Fred wasn't a nutter! Perhaps it is a little unkind of me to think of our late Cornish friend in these terms too - perhaps he was just a little misguided. I'm sure that he originally had the best of intentions to set up his museum BUT, when it became apparent that this was not going to happen, he should have had the good grace to admit defeat and place the organ on the market, as there were others who could have rescued it long before it got into the state in which it is now. He also had a Wurlitzer there (Granada, Greenwich) similarly stored in another lorry or two, and the former EMI Abbey Road studio Compton installed and playing in the house. I know that an offer has been made for this from someone who I know will love and cherish it and restore it to it's former glory (which was better than the rather undeserved reputation is gained at EMI) and I am extremely hopeful that he will be successful in acquiring it. Also - if my six numbers come up on Saturday I'd be quite interested in the Christie
  12. Sadly, it is for this very reason that the Regal organ has ended up in the state that it is now!
  13. As far as I can think, there is only one multi-millionaire investing in theatre organs in the UK at the moment, and as he's already in the process of having a large 4 manual Wurlitzer import built into his new golf club in Sussex, I guess he won't be interested in the Christie! As a point of interest the carillon bells (of which there were 32) are dated 1930, not 1928. Whether it's urban myth or not, the story goes that the whole carillon was replaced in 1930. This might co-incide with the major work which Reginald Foort claimed to have had done over a period of months in 1930 to re-arrange the chambers to make it suitable for broadcasting - a fact contested by Herbert Norman shortly before his death. It would seem to have been a very costly and unnecessary extra expenditure to have the bells replaced. Nontheless, the tenor bell in the clock chime of the memorial tower in Blaenavon, is dated 1928 (the others are dated 1931 - the year the tower was built) and is said to be the number 27 bell (which in bell terms means 27 down from the top, as opposed to 27 up from the bottom) from the first Regal, Marble Arch carillon - so there may be some truth in the rumour. When it comes to pointless additions to organs that one must take the biscuit. A cymbelstern would have been cheaper and taken up much less room
  14. It's a new name to me, but I'm going to a recital there tonight to find out at first hand. I'll report back in due course
  15. Oops - egg on face time... I didn't click the link at the bottom of your message which would have made most of mine superfluous. At least my memory of the instrument was pretty acurate!
  16. Ah - you refer to the Orchardleigh estate! It was on the Geo. Osmond's tuning round - a cone-tuned four stop William Hill with pull-down pedals as I remember it. A nice little instrument, well suited to the building but at that time (1982) somewhat in need of cleaning. I remember that the churchwardens arrived 'en masse' and one of them took up his usual 'pumping' position. Problem was he was rather over-enthusiastic and until we got him to calm down, tuning was a bit hit-and-miss... After I'd left organ-building and joined the world of broadcasting I did return to Orchardleigh when it was the location for one of the BBC's Miss Marple films - '4.50 from Paddington' I think. My abiding memory is of the by then quite elderly Joan Hickson eating her lunch sat in a haystack!
  17. Changing the points, but without wishing to take this thread too far off 'track' I have to speak up for Comptons here. Certainly Compton installed some fairly bland and ineffective 6 rank jobs for ABC cinemas. They were built very cheaply and very quickly and were installed equally quickly. Fundementally they were good organs, just not properly finished. When you hear one that's been properly set up, it's chalk and cheese, like the ex Regal Putney job now in Germany. Wurlitzer built hundreds of tedious thin-toned 4, 5 and 6 rank jobs to accompany silent films, and even the 8 ranks of the New Gallery/Habitat in Regent Street won't set the world alight, with the chorus reed being a very smooth toned Tuba. To see what Compton could do with six units go to St. John Vianny church in Ilford to hear the former Ritz, Nuneaton job. An absolute cracker, and certainly Compton's answer to what Wurlitzer were doing at the Granadas like Clapham and North Cheam. Incidentally, if you do go to the states to hear some of the really big jobs the two that really show outstanding quality are the Kimball at Dickinson High School, Wilmington, Delaware (which Richard Hills has recorded) and my personal favourite, the 42 rank Moller at the Fox, Atlanta. Both outstanding organs, neither of which came from North Tonawanda!
  18. I believe you're absolutely right, but my wife would have it that the percentage is much closer to 90%... and apparently I'm NOT in the remaining 10%! You're not wrong. I would find it difficult to have too much sympathy with the Cathedral organist having to head off the anorak, having regularly to deal with old men in old raincoats, frequently with what appears to be their breakfast spread down the front, and a runny nose to boot. They mostly want to know things about what makes the console go up and down, how does the glass surround change colour, and possibly if you've got a particularly knowledgable example there might be a query related to the position of the chambers or whether or not the Tibia is wooden. Most will go away still thinking that Wurlitzer built the best organs (note - not just cinema organs) in the world, and I have yet to have any of these people ask any serious question about the music performed or the repertoire of any forthcoming guest organist!
  19. Stephen Dutfield, from Cardiff, South Wales. I developed a passion for organ music, and a fascination for the workings of the instrument in church as a child, never allowing my mother to leave until we'd heard the very last notes! To my great life-long regret I missed out on a classical training, the family piano having gone before I arrived, but from the age of 12 had lessons in 'popular' organ from the organist at the local social club, although I did manage music 'O' level. Worked for Geo. Osmond's at Taunton for a while after leaving school - loved the job (particularly the visits to Bath abbey) but hated being marooned in a distant part of the country being too young to drive or go into pubs! Spent subsequent seven years playing in lots of the aforementioned social clubs, got involved with several theatre organ preservation schemes, and did a fair bit of theatre organ playing too. Packed it all up in the late 80s and got a proper job, and didn't go back to playing until the mid 90s. Gave up again in late 90s (house move - no room for the organ) but started again last year. Bit of a lost cause on the musical front really, but a member of the local association and thoroughly enjoy any opportunity to listen to, visit or talk about organs.
  20. I believe it is still maintained and played. It was a re-build by Compton of their 1934 instrument for the Forum cinema, Ealing, where it was recorded by G.T. Pattman. Interestingly - although they were probably replaced when it went behind bars - it originally had one of only four known sets of electro-pneumatic relays that Compton built. The others were for the Gaumont, Wood Green (now at Gosport and in a very poor state) the B.B.C.'s St. George's Hall instrument (blitzed) and the A.V.R.O. broadcasting studios in Hilversum (unplayable). If anyone's come across any others I'd be really interested to find out. It seems almost impossible that Compton only built them for a handful of theatre organs, but didn't include them in any of the big concert organs. The B.B.C. and A.V.R.O. jobs were both sizable, but the other two were relatively small, so I'm sure the relay pull-downs would have been just as fast with magnets powering them as usual. Conachers made very similar relays with electro-pneumatic action, but later seem to have gone over to direct electrics, resulting in a virtual clone of the Compton units.
  21. I'd like to see him nailed up inside one - permanently! Preferably one in a disused and bricked-up church...
  22. You're quite correct. The 32' reed from the original 1936 scheme wouldn't fit into the new and smaller chambers, so the bottom octave is now digitally generated. Strangely enough the Pedal Double Open was always electronically generated, although I imagine it was a very primitive system in 1936. Even the Compton electrostatics didn't (as far as I'm aware) go down to a true 32' in those days. This (and now the bottom octave of the Pedal Open Wood 16') is also digitally generated in the new installation, but for some bizarre reason - presumably lack of space anywhere else - the speakers are in the percussion chamber! Incidentally, one of the nice features which H,N & B originally built in was a set of four sliding switches which would couple the shutters of any of the four chambers to any of the three swell pedals. The slider for the Great had an extra notch which set the shutters to fully open - the nearest to unenclosed that they could get. A simple-to-use system, but the mere thought of the electro-pneumatics and the number of simultaneous relay connections/disconnections to be made/broken in the days before solid-state brings me out in a cold sweat!
  23. Well of course there's no ruling that everything on these dual-purpose jobs has to be dual-purpose. As I remember the original Dome layout there was the (almost) straight Great chorus which was un-tremmed, and a 'Collective Great' playable from the same manual which drew on the unified ranks which were on tremulants. Bournemouth has the theatre ranks predominantly playable only from the Solo manual, and Southampton (with the luxury of two consoles) uses around 49 ranks to make up the concert specification, with only 24 of them playable from the theatre console - the Tibia only being available at the latter. The Dome did always seem a bit of an enigma though. I believe it was a Quentin Maclean design, and it's interesting that, unlike all the other dual-purpose jobs, the bottom manual is designated Accompaniment rather than Choir, and also that the stopkeys appear to be set out in theatre style of volume within pitch, whereas the Compton dual-purpose jobs that I've seen (Bournemouth, Wimbledon and Lewisham) have flues followed by reeds, which must make them easier for the conventional organist to play. This must surely be compounded at Brighton with the unique colour coding of the stopkeys - white for the concert side and yellow for the theatre bits! In terms of stops having alternate uses, Douglas Reeve - on one of his visits to Barry Memorial Hall and whilst discussing the hugely over-scaled No.1 Tibia on that ex. Regal, Edmonton instrument - told me that he often used the Swell/Solo Harmonic Claribel at the Dome as a small Tibia for occasions when the Tibia itself was too loud.
  24. Well the iris leaves themselves were of thin brass, but the rim of the unit was indeed bakelite. The foot of the pipe was sized so as to rest in this bakelite 'cup' without exerting any pressure on the iris valve itself, so that you didn't have to remove the pipe to make any adjustment. Compton's engineering workshop included bakelite presses, so they manufactured all these items, including electric stop actions, magnet caps and bases, compound magnet units, ashtrays etc. themselves on site. The ash trays (assuming yours is the same as the ones I've seen) were a promotional give-away to organists, cinema owners, company directors and such like during the 1930s. The picture in the bottom is, I think, the console of the Windsor Playhouse Compton.
  • Create New...