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MusingMuso

John Compton

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Thank you for those details about the elctricity supply, much of which I knew, but by no means all. I would hasten to add that some organ-builders used gas engines and low voltage dynamos to secure a steady (presumably) DC supply.

I've mentioned this previously, many moons ago, but an horrific memory was entering the blower plant.....yes plant is the right word.....at a Methodist church in Rochdale. This consisted of a huge crank mechanism and feeders; all of which needed to be lubricated periodically. Driving all this was a large DC motor, and in the corner of the room was a mercury arc rectifier, which flashed and spat as the needle bounced over the surface of the conductive mercury bath enclosed in a flask. It was like something out of the movie Frakenstein, and to a 15 year old, quite intimidating.

I'm not sure when this contraption was installed, because the organ was a 19th century Binns, but it was proof enough that the lecky supply had changed after the installation of the blower mecahnism; possibly converted from a previous water-engine or something.

Now if you want to know something rather amusing and, at the same time, definitive, you need to know something about Compton's right hand man, Jimmy Taylor (the inventor of the electric combination capture system). "Jimmy" Taylor enjoyed a very close working relationship with A H Midgley of C A Vanderwell; presumably after he had resigned his directorship with CAV when it became CAV-Lucas.

In a recorded interview, ex-Compton employee, Roy Skinner, mentioned that "they got on very well together" and refers to "a meeting of minds".

Well, if you pour through all the patents relating to A H Midgley as inventor, you will discover an awful lot; most concerned with auto-electrical parts and control systems, quite a few to do with pipe organs, and some concerned with electronic instruments. He probably pre-dated Hammond in the quest for sine-wave synthesis, using tone-wheel generators inspired by Cahill in America. He even had the tone-generators spinning at different speeds through a similar gear-train to that formulated by Hammond. For whatever reason, Hammond managed to get his patent accepted first, but there may well have been some skulduggery involved, because Midgley was ahead of him.

However, he was clearly an auto-electrical man, and probably fascinated by automobiles. So too was Jimmy Taylor,(your local Nottinghamshire genius) judging by an interesting patent in his name, which reveals a design for an automatic gearbox. I just get the impression that the Compton people just delighted in ideas, inventions and whatever crazy thing they could dream up next.

It's amazing to think that one was the son of a draper (as was John Compton), and the other was the son of a humble church caretaker.

Whatever happened to PROPER education?

MM

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some organ-builders used gas engines and low voltage dynamos to secure a steady (presumably) DC supply.

 

Indeed, and Hope-Jones did in his first prototype instrument at St John's, Birkenhead. It's possible if not probable that the dynamo was made by Henry Royce. But town gas was little different to mains electricity in those days in the sense that both were seldom available outside large towns. It's still much the same today with gas.

 

 

Well, if you pour through all the patents relating to A H Midgley as inventor, you will discover an awful lot; most concerned with auto-electrical parts and control systems, quite a few to do with pipe organs, and some concerned with electronic instruments. He probably pre-dated Hammond in the quest for sine-wave synthesis, using tone-wheel generators inspired by Cahill in America.

 

Hope-Jones pre-dated the lot of them though, because he described the principle of additive synthesis in a lecture to the College of Organists in 1891 (they were not 'Royal' then). Unusually for him though, he never seemed to have patented it.

 

 

It's amazing to think that one was the son of a draper (as was John Compton), and the other was the son of a humble church caretaker.

 

 

I don't know about church caretakers necessarily being humble - I've come across some pretty aggressive ones in my time who almost frog-marched me out of the building having previously switched off the organ blower. Mind you, the way I play sometimes could have given them the excuse ...

 

CEP

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I hope he will not mind me saying so, but forum member Lucien Nunes is the world's greatest living expert on this aspect, having recently restored the 80 year old systems at Southampton Guildhall on both the classical and theatre consoles. And when I say 'restored' I actually mean restored in the sense of getting it all to work again at the level of individual magnets and contacts - not just by chucking it all out and fitting a solid state capture system.

CEP

 

Actually, you may find that there are one or two 'others' who know at least as much and that this statement may be just a little sweeping!

 

I am not aware of how old Mr. Nunes might be but I am fairly confident that he is considerably younger than I and while he has an impressive interest in all things electrical (and indeed organ-wise) I and another employee of Moss Empires Ltd. in 1975 completely 'restored' the Compton relay and capture system in the Strand Light Console at The Palace Theatre in Manchester. This system - which I know that Lucien Nunes is also well aware of - was installed there in 1949 and had not had any major work carried out up to 1975 so, during the summer when the theatre was 'dark' we set to the task. I had worked at The Palace Theatre first during school and college holidays but then decided that it would be fun to do it for a while on a more professional basis - that experience was invaluable in all sorts of ways.

 

Instead of controlling the mechanism of an organ, the Light Console, through a huge Compton Relay controlled several banks of dimmers (at The Palace, 108 in 3 banks of 36) operated by electromagnetic 'Moss Mansell' clutches and several sets of rather heavy-duty, mains contactors - all of this equipment was also thoroughly overhauled at the time. I left The Palace in 1978 or 79 and I believe that the Light console continued in regular use for a while after - though I was also informed that after I left they were unable to find anyone else who could actually operate the system - being an Organist it all seemed quite logical to me.

 

A fascinating insight for those who were otherwise unaware of this strand of organ-related technology put to other uses can be seen at http://www.magmouse.co.uk/research/light-console/palace-theatre-manchester/

 

So Colin, perhaps not the only (or even World's Greatest) living authority - I do so dislike the term 'expert'.

 

By the way, Fred Royce didn't make magnets and other items only for Hope-Jones!

 

David Wyld

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"Properly understood" - So you say.

 

Experts 'soi-disant' abound in the organ world - in fact careers have been founded on "experts" declaring themselves to be so.

 

For what it's worth I do like the decryption of the word given me by a (much respected) colleague: "'X' is an unknown quantity and a Spurt is a drip under pressure" - it has fitted the case in so many instances!

 

Those of us with any experience at all and who know what we don't know, prefer to be thought of as being knowledgeable. I've only ever met one expert, in the person of Professor Peter Plesch, now gone, unfortunately.

 

DW

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I should perhaps also have mentioned - sticking to the Compton thread here - that we have the machines that are seen in the Compton Works film which many will no doubt have seen. These machines had passed to Rushworth & Dreaper when they took over the remains of Compton in (I think) 1963 and were included in the contents of the sale when we (Henry Willis & Sons) acquired the buildings and contents here in Liverpool some years ago.

 

There is nothing particularly clever or innovative about any of the items but they do allow the rewinding of coils etc. and the jigs for the setting up of some of the rather fiddly components make it all incredibly easy.

 

DW

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