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Compton Electrone 1952 Vintage


willy
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Whilst not wishing to sully this discussion board with such impure a subject as electronics...........but..............somebody out there may be interested in the 3 manual compton "Electrone" I have at home. Built in 1952, it was originally installed in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, and was sister to the organ originally put into the Royal Festival Hall before the Harrison instrument was ready.

I bought it off a chap who had rescued it in the early 70's, and who made a wonderful job of restoring it, scaling down its enormous output for domestic use, and rebuilt the console in a more elegant style than the original. It has 100 speaking stops (slightly more than originally, i have converted some of the accessory stops into speaking stops) spread over 3 manuals and pedals. The source of the sound is 2 sets of revolving generators, one running at normal speed, and 1 at double speed. This generates 6 "ranks" of differing tone/colour running from 32 ft to half-foot pitch (some are restricted), with all the appropriate mutations, and to create a particular stop you simply mix the tones together at appropriate pitch lengths to get the right harmonics. Each pitch can be set at 21 different dynamic levels so every single stop is individually voices - no duplication, duplexing, extension - everything completely straight. There are off pitch ranks for celestes, and other to add a bit of freshness (otherwise it would be too dead in tune). The specification is English concert hall - with 5 32-foots on the pedal!

The synoptic specification is:

CH: 16 16 8 8 8 8 8 8 4 4 4 4 22/3 2 11/3 1 IV 16 8 8 8 8 8 8 Trem (all encl)

GT: 16 16 16 8 8 8 8 8 51/3 4 4 4 22/3 2 2 V IV 16 8 8 4

SW: 16 8 8 8 8 8 8 4 4 4 2 13/5 11/3 1 III IV V 16 16 8 8 8 8 4 Trem (all encl)

PD: 32 32 32 16 16 16 16 16 16 8 8 8 8 8 51/3 4 IV IX 32 32 16 16 16 16 16 8 8 4

 

6 pistons to each manual, 6 toe pistons to Ped, 6 toe pistons to Sw (all double touch acting on pedal and adjustable at a setter board inside the console). There is also a general crescendo pedal.

 

It has 3 big (really BIG) banks of speakers which are hidden behind a pipe facade along with the cabinet containing the generators and the hundreds of relays for the top and key action.

 

It is pretty well all in working order (fixes are generally not difficult). the slight problem is that the generators should ideally be in another room (because of the noise), but this just isn't possible.

 

How does it sound? Well, some of the stops - especially the quieter flutes, strings and reeds are really quite beautiful and not bad at all for 1952 technology. The great diapasons are quite virile (2 separate choruses 16 to mixtures), and full swell is really pretty good. The great chorus reeds (a trio of trombas and a posaune) colour rather than overpower, whereas the swell reeds ar more fiery/snarly and come through full great really well. I have made a French Horn for the choir (a bit too loud but not bad), and a Tuba - which is OK.

 

The normal speed generator drives the great and most of the pedal, while the double speed ones drive swell, choir and the secondary pedal . With the 2 sets coupled together - because they are never 100% in tune, the sound is really "lively", and quite convincing. Full organ is thunderous - the 32 flues really coming though without having to have the reeds (dble sackbut 32 and contra trombone 32).

 

I am not a skilled organist (can bash through a service in an emergency - and christmas carols (Wilcocks arrangements of course) with 100 people singing their heads off is quite a thrill).

 

If anyone is near Jcn 3 of the M3 and wants to have a go I would be happy to hear somebody who can play better than me put the old girl through her paces.

 

Also anyone who is familiar with the technology and willing to give some advice now and then would also be very welcome.

Bill

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Whilst not wishing to sully this discussion board with such impure a subject as Hi

 

Your Compton sounds really interesting - and I wouldn't mind having a play if I'm in the area (I live in Bradford, but have relatives on the South Coast, so it might just be possible).

 

There are a number of COmptons around - I played one just last Sunday as part of a sponsored effort for Christian Aid - it's a model 352 of around 1952 vintage, currently in a local church hall.

 

There is a web site and e-mail list for COmpton Electrone enthusiasts - take a look at http://uk.msnusers.com/ComptonMelotonesand...trostaticOrgans

 

Although somewhat lacking compared to modern digital organs - and the real thing - the Comptons have a distinctive "vintage" sound that is quite pleasant.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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T

Thanks Tony - if ever you want a pit stop en route to the coast, I am about a mile from J3 on M3 (dead easy to find). I Compton site you refer to is an excellent one. I did send the guy there all the details some tome ago.

Kind regards

 

Bill

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This brings back memories.

 

The story around Manchester used to be that Barbirolli refused to have a pipe organ in the re-built Free Trade Hall, fearing that it would steal attention from the Halle.

 

I have an abiding memory of a late 60s St Matthew Passion, when a particularly nasty noise from the organ produced a wonderful (involuntary?) grimace on the face of the leader - a young Michael Davis, if memory serves.

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This brings back memories.

 

It is nice to hear from someone who actually remembers the organ in situ. What did it actually sound like then? Can you recall any other "events" in which the organ featured - or better still know of any recordings? I would love to know a bit more about its history. I can imagine in a big hall - wth adequate amplification and speakers it may have been reasonably effective for its time - although I am sure for pipe supporters in the day, it would have seemed like the thin end of the wedge!! Best regards Bill

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You need to contact Ronald Frost, who was at one time the Halle's chorus master and probably played the organ for some of their concerts. (Please don't mention the "particularly nasty noise" in the St Matthew in case he was the perpetrator.)

 

You can find his contact details by Googling him.

 

Good luck.

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