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David Thornton

King George's Hall Blackburn

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Following the Manchester Town Hall thread got be thinking about this instrument, King George's Hall Blackburn. Possibly northern organists of a certain age may remember it.

 

I used to go and make a big noise on it very early in my organ-playing career, for a couple of shillings you could play for as long as you wanted.

The 3 big solo reeds were an extension and incredibly loud, placed just above the console. Internally, the layout was very wide and spacious - built like the proverbial battleship. Everything worked perfectly well and there were certainly some interesting sounds.

 

I suppose it was very similar to the N&B at Edinburgh's Usher Hall, and if it were still in place today might be lucky enough to get a likewise restoration.

During the late 60s/early 70s it wasn't much in favour locally, the complete opposite end of the spectrum to the newly arrive Walker at the Cathedral 'round the corner.

 

It certainly wasn't totally destroyed in a fire, I think the case remained and the internals were removed, the case may still be in situ, does anybody know?

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Following the Manchester Town Hall thread got be thinking about this instrument, King George's Hall Blackburn. Possibly northern organists of a certain age may remember it.

 

I used to go and make a big noise on it very early in my organ-playing career, for a couple of shillings you could play for as long as you wanted.

The 3 big solo reeds were an extension and incredibly loud, placed just above the console. Internally, the layout was very wide and spacious - built like the proverbial battleship. Everything worked perfectly well and there were certainly some interesting sounds.

 

I suppose it was very similar to the N&B at Edinburgh's Usher Hall, and if it were still in place today might be lucky enough to get a likewise restoration.

During the late 60s/early 70s it wasn't much in favour locally, the complete opposite end of the spectrum to the newly arrive Walker at the Cathedral 'round the corner.

 

It certainly wasn't totally destroyed in a fire, I think the case remained and the internals were removed, the case may still be in situ, does anybody know?

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Following the Manchester Town Hall thread got be thinking about this instrument, King George's Hall Blackburn. Possibly northern organists of a certain age may remember it.

 

I used to go and make a big noise on it very early in my organ-playing career, for a couple of shillings you could play for as long as you wanted.

The 3 big solo reeds were an extension and incredibly loud, placed just above the console. Internally, the layout was very wide and spacious - built like the proverbial battleship. Everything worked perfectly well and there were certainly some interesting sounds.

 

I suppose it was very similar to the N&B at Edinburgh's Usher Hall, and if it were still in place today might be lucky enough to get a likewise restoration.

During the late 60s/early 70s it wasn't much in favour locally, the complete opposite end of the spectrum to the newly arrive Walker at the Cathedral 'round the corner.

 

It certainly wasn't totally destroyed in a fire, I think the case remained and the internals were removed, the case may still be in situ, does anybody know?

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I remember playing the St Goerge's organ in the mid 1960's and was appalled at its unloved state! Someone had stubbed out a cigarette on on of the keys. Sadly there was no civic organist to keep an eye on it. You are absolutely right to say it was a splendid instrument, but it was not maintained and I have a feeling that it was left to perish. If the case remains, I think it is occupied by the 2 manual 1930's Compton from St Oswald's Preston. That was an amazing instrument (possibly 5 ranks) in a wonderfully generous acoustic. If it is in St George's Hall, it would be interesting to hear if it still sounds well in the drier acousti of the hall.

 

In the mid 1960's Blackburn was full of interesting organs at a time when the Cathedral organ (in its last incarnation by Cowin of Liverpool) was in a dire state. I was fortunate enough to play the 4 manual Willis in St Peter's complete with full length 32' Double Diapason, and Solo Ophicleide. The fine little 2 manual Willis in St Michael's went to Holland when the church closed. The 3 manual Binns in St John's (long since pulled down) had a beautiful wooden pedal Trombone; a similar, but later Binns at St James had a fine metal Trombone; and there was the 3 manual Willis in St Philip's with everything you could possibly need in a warm acoustic. Happily, when the church closed, this instrument was saved, but sadly it was rebuilt by the Lancaster Organ Building Company (a group of school teachers) who moved it to St Stephen's Blackpool, electrified the action, added a Larigot on the swell, detached the console and clothed the pipes in the most hideous case imaginable!

 

It seems to me that like so many industrial towns, Blackburn has suffered more than its share of organ vandalism - the St George's R and D being typical.

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..but sadly it was rebuilt by the Lancaster Organ Building Company (a group of school teachers...

Hang on a sec! JS Bach was a school teacher - it didn't stop him being knowledgeable about organ building. :blink:

Cheers,

Paul (ex. school teacher.....hooray!)

 

The version of the various urban myths that surround the old KJH organ that was passed on to me is as follows:

 

The fire caused only slight and superficial damage to the organ, but the council seized upon the fact that some damage had been sustained as an excuse to have it removed.

 

What I do know to be fact is that the late Russell Harty made a very public fuss (on a BBC R4 broadcast no less) about the organ's destuction, as he considered it to be a most significamt part of the city's cultural heritage.

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I remember playing the St Goerge's organ in the mid 1960's and was appalled at its unloved state! Someone had stubbed out a cigarette on on of the keys. Sadly there was no civic organist to keep an eye on it. You are absolutely right to say it was a splendid instrument, but it was not maintained and I have a feeling that it was left to perish. If the case remains, I think it is occupied by the 2 manual 1930's Compton from St Oswald's Preston. That was an amazing instrument (possibly 5 ranks) in a wonderfully generous acoustic. If it is in St George's Hall, it would be interesting to hear if it still sounds well in the drier acousti of the hall.

 

In the mid 1960's Blackburn was full of interesting organs at a time when the Cathedral organ (in its last incarnation by Cowin of Liverpool) was in a dire state. I was fortunate enough to play the 4 manual Willis in St Peter's complete with full length 32' Double Diapason, and Solo Ophicleide. The fine little 2 manual Willis in St Michael's went to Holland when the church closed. The 3 manual Binns in St John's (long since pulled down) had a beautiful wooden pedal Trombone; a similar, but later Binns at St James had a fine metal Trombone; and there was the 3 manual Willis in St Philip's with everything you could possibly need in a warm acoustic. Happily, when the church closed, this instrument was saved, but sadly it was rebuilt by the Lancaster Organ Building Company (a group of school teachers) who moved it to St Stephen's Blackpool, electrified the action, added a Larigot on the swell, detached the console and clothed the pipes in the most hideous case imaginable!

 

It seems to me that like so many industrial towns, Blackburn has suffered more than its share of organ vandalism - the St George's R and D being typical.

 

Hi

 

NPOR says the R&D was "almost completely destroyed" but that the remains were salvaged by the builders (make of that what you will!). The Compton apparently went in sometime between 1989 & 1991 (there's conflicting dates in the surveys - yet another muddle to try and sort out sometime!0

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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The specification of KGH looks remarkably similar to R&D's 1957 organ at St Andrew's, Plymouth. (I assume the Bombarde and Horn on the Pedal at KGH were actually borrowed from the Solo, not the Swell as stated). At Plymouth the upperwork is markedly restrained - this is primarily an 8ft organ. Can anyone remember: was this also the case at KGH?

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In the mid 1960's Blackburn was full of interesting organs at a time when the Cathedral organ (in its last incarnation by Cowin of Liverpool) was in a dire state. I was fortunate enough to play the 4 manual Willis in St Peter's complete with full length 32' Double Diapason, and Solo Ophicleide. The fine little 2 manual Willis in St Michael's went to Holland when the church closed. The 3 manual Binns in St John's (long since pulled down) had a beautiful wooden pedal Trombone; a similar, but later Binns at St James had a fine metal Trombone; and there was the 3 manual Willis in St Philip's with everything you could possibly need in a warm acoustic. Happily, when the church closed, this instrument was saved, but sadly it was rebuilt by the Lancaster Organ Building Company (a group of school teachers) who moved it to St Stephen's Blackpool, electrified the action, added a Larigot on the swell, detached the console and clothed the pipes in the most hideous case imaginable!

 

It seems to me that like so many industrial towns, Blackburn has suffered more than its share of organ vandalism - the St George's R and D being typical.

 

Greetings Hohlflute,

 

It's nice to hear from a fellow Lancashire lad, I agree with you that the borough of Blackburn had quite a few first rate organs. The 60's seems to be the decade when many large town-centre churches closed and many large organs, mostly in original condition, were broken up or moved elsewhere and extensively modified in the process.

 

I was never able to see St Peter's Blackburn the church having closed, but knew of it's reputation (anyone interested in Willis do look this one up), it's certainly a great loss. I did hear St Philip's though and remember being very impressed, but I didn't hear good reports of how it fared in Blackpool. I think Jack Longstaff was the organist at St Philip's, I remember a rather good recital and being shown the adjustable combination mechanism afterwards. A fine organ still extant is the Harrison at St Silas which now has mixtures by John Corkhill and electric action. This was Charles Edmonson's family church (I expect a few forum members will know Charles), and I remember going to hear it a few times when Charles was probably in 6th form and I a couple of years younger.

 

Regards,

DT

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Do you mean Colin Edmondson? I used to compete against him in local Music Festivals in the 1960's. I agree, the St Silas organ is one of the few remaining good instruments in the area. Many years ago I heard Eric Chadwick (who died recently after many years of teaching at the RMCM and a superb player) give a most memorable recital there, introducing me to Bonnet's "Elves" which he played as an encore.

 

Mr Morley, I too am a schoolteacher (responsible for rebuilding a pipe organ in the school hall where I first taught) but I would not have dared to build organs commercially! The Lancaster Organ Building Company were responsible for all manner of acts of organ vandalism in Lancashire by undercutting the established builders - the electrification of the now defunct Binns in St Paul's North Shore Blackpool being a prime example. The keys felt worse than the cheapest Yamaha keyboard and the Great gained a horrible 26-29 mixture to cap the 15th. Incidentally after the closure of the church in the 1990's that organ went to St Augustine Tonge Moor, Bolton before parts of it found their way to Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church - where I bet the 26-29 Mixture has not reappeared!

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Do you mean Colin Edmondson? I used to compete against him in local Music Festivals in the 1960's.

Yes, sorry, I did mean Colin Edmondson.

It was a long time ago.

 

An organ I used to enjoy playing a lot during my student days, just outside Blackburn, was the 4 manual Willis at St James, Haslingden. John Bertalot once told me that he thought this was the finest church organ in the diocese.

I don't know what condition it's in at present, but NPOR seems to indicate that David Wells has an on-going programme of running repairs.

 

DT

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!The Lancaster Organ Building Company were responsible for all manner of acts of organ vandalism in Lancashire by undercutting the established builders

Fair enough...mind you, I imagine that on our various travels, most of us have encountered good work undertaken by enthusiasts and acts of catastrophic incompetence/bare-faced dishonesty perpetrated by so-called professionals.

 

I'm very sad to learn of the death of Prof(?) Chadwick. I heard him play many times, and deputised for him at St Luke's, Weaste on a few occasions. An utterly charming man, and as you say, a superb musician.

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An organ I used to enjoy playing a lot during my student days, just outside Blackburn, was the 4 manual Willis at St James, Haslingden.

DT

 

Fernando Germani used to enjoy playing it as well. I remember hearing him improvise his way out of a memory lapse in Mozart K608 there once back in the 60s.

 

Ian

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