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Not really adding anything to this thread, but I remember Arthur Lord coming down to oversee the installation of my (comparatively modest) Wyvern toaster and testing it out in situ. I noticed him testing the Great flutes with the (flute) Tierce, but without the (principal) Twelfth. To me (pre-conditioned never to use the Tierce without the Twelfth) this seemed odd - surely the Twelfth and Tierce should be of the same tone family? When I mentioned this to those more in the know, I was given to understand that the use of the Tierce without the Twelfth was quite a Compton trait. I occasionally use this combination, even on my pipe organ, but, even though the sound is acceptable enough, I continue to find it slightly odd.

 

I would agree with this, Vox.

 

I rarely use my Positive Tierce without the Quint (this may have a Diapason-type name, but it is a superb wide-scaled flute mutation - and not that mewling synthetic thing one often finds).

 

Presumably on a Compton organ, if the Tierce was not a separate rank, it was derived from the Choir Vox Angelica. I know that some would argue that this 'solves' the problem of the tuning created when derived from a unison-tuned rank. However, it does not address the problem of scaling (and therefore blend). In addition, there would be a further problem with regard to harmonics; those produced from a correctly scaled mutation will be rather different to those produced by the extension of a flat-tuned mild string, of necessarily small scale.

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I would agree with this, Vox.

 

I rarely use my Positive Tierce without the Quint (this may have a Diapason-type name, but it is a superb wide-scaled flute mutation - and not that mewling synthetic thing one often finds).

 

Presumably on a Compton organ, if the Tierce was not a separate rank, it was derived from the Choir Vox Angelica. I know that some would argue that this 'solves' the problem of the tuning created when derived from a unison-tuned rank. However, it does not address the problem of scaling (and therefore blend). In addition, there would be a further problem with regard to harmonics; those produced from a correctly scaled mutation will be rather different to those produced by the extension of a flat-tuned mild string, of necessarily small scale.

 

 

==================================

 

 

On every Compton organ I've ever come across, the Tierce has nothing to do with wide scale anything. The mutations on a typical Compton Choir Organ were wonderful for producing all sorts of colour and synthetic effects, such as synthetic Orchestral Oboes using a Viole and Nazard in combination. They were absolutely wonderful for psalm accompaniment, as the late Dr Leslie Paul showed me at Bangor Cathedral.

 

With anything Compton, one has to think tonal synthesis before all other considerations.

 

Best,

 

 

MM

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Did anyone provide wide-scale tierces before Downes and the RFH? Even Willis III mutations tended to be very much on the small side, although a pair at St. Patrick's, Dundalk (known as the Cathedral, although it isn't one) stand out in my memory as being particularly bold and jolly, as well as blending very well with the Father Willis foundations to which they were added.

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==================================

 

 

On every Compton organ I've ever come across, the Tierce has nothing to do with wide scale anything. The mutations on a typical Compton Choir Organ were wonderful for producing all sorts of colour and synthetic effects, such as synthetic Orchestral Oboes using a Viole and Nazard in combination. ...

 

 

MM

 

I know - this was precisely my point.

 

Whilst they were able to give passable imitations of some orchestral reeds - and I would only say 'passable' , they were quite useless for other jobs which mutations were intended to perform.

 

When one plays on a HWII Corno di Bassetto or an Orchestral Oboe (for example, as at Exeter Cathedral), one realises immediately how poor in comparison were the Compton synthetic reeds - which tended to fall apart in the tenor register (which is often a useful place). Such genuine ranks as HWII provided are, I would suggest, of infinitely greater value in psalm accompaniment - and a host of other uses.

 

I have also played at Bangor Cathedral. Whilst I quite liked it, I thought that the Choir Organ was dis-proportionately large, and that the mutations were of little use in French classical repertoire. Or, for that matter, in German chorale preludes. Too small-scaled and with the wrong type of harmonic development. Since this organ also possessed (on the Solo Organ) four genuine orchestral reeds (including one at 16ft. pitch), I should have preferred correctly-scaled mutations on the Choir Organ.

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Did anyone provide wide-scale tierces before Downes and the RFH? Even Willis III mutations tended to be very much on the small side, although a pair at St. Patrick's, Dundalk (known as the Cathedral, although it isn't one) stand out in my memory as being particularly bold and jolly, as well as blending very well with the Father Willis foundations to which they were added.

 

Well, there was Susi Jeans' house organ, I suppose.

 

With regard to HWIII, as you no doubt know, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Farm Street, Mayfair, was (I believe) the first instrument in this country in which HWIII introduced a Nazard and Tierce as separate mutations. This was, in any case, at the instigation of the organist at that time, Guy Weitz. I believe that I am also correct in stating that Willis normally made the Nazard of (largely) stopped Lieblich-type pipes. The Tierce was (often) conical. However, as you observe, the scale was almost invariably too small really to be effective.

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I know - this was precisely my point.

 

Whilst they were able to give passable imitations of some orchestral reeds - and I would only say 'passable' , they were quite useless for other jobs which mutations were intended to perform.

 

When one plays on a HWII Corno di Bassetto or an Orchestral Oboe (for example, as at Exeter Cathedral), one realises immediately how poor in comparison were the Compton synthetic reeds - which tended to fall apart in the tenor register (which is often a useful place). Such genuine ranks as HWII provided are, I would suggest, of infinitely greater value in psalm accompaniment - and a host of other uses.

 

I have also played at Bangor Cathedral. Whilst I quite liked it, I thought that the Choir Organ was dis-proportionately large, and that the mutations were of little use in French classical repertoire. Or, for that matter, in German chorale preludes. Too small-scaled and with the wrong type of harmonic development. Since this organ also possessed (on the Solo Organ) four genuine orchestral reeds (including one at 16ft. pitch), I should have preferred correctly-scaled mutations on the Choir Organ.

 

 

==============================

 

 

 

Quite right, because at Bangor, I believe the Compton mutations were all derived from a single, extended Dulciana rank, which has since been altered.

 

The mutations wree there beause it was possible for them to BE there at little extra cost, save for the stop-heads and a bit of extra switching/wiring. I don't think that reflects badly on Compton, but does point to the fact that an understanding of classical voicing/scaling/pipe structure was for the next generation to re-discover.

 

It's fascinating to think that apart from the Hill, N & B organ for Susi Jeans, (pipework supplied be Eule I believe), one of the earliest companies to re-discover true baroque mutations was Grant, Degens & Rippin; largely comprising of ex-Compton men!

 

The era of John Compton was really a development of Casson's concepts, and quite removed from the classical origins of the instrument, but my words, no other builder ever saw fit to pursue the concept of proper chorus-work topped by plenty of upperwork between 1910 and 1950. The fact that he could do this while using the extension principle was, to put it mildly, nothing short of tonal genius.

 

Best,

 

MM

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One of the forum members very recently and kindly sent me a copy of an informal interview with a retired member of the Compton company. It was quite fascinating listening to it, yet with some satisfaction, I found that I didn't actually learn anything new, other than specific mention of people, places and the factory methods employed at the Compton works.

 

It is over six years ago that I mentioned the prospect of writing about the life and work of John Compton and the Compton company, and even on this forum, it has accounted for 260 replies to date and may well be the longest running thread of all.

 

In reality, I have been collecting information for about a decade, and with a few reservations, I feel that the time has come to make a start on the first draft of the Compton story, which I feel sure will be quite unlike anything ever written previously about an organ-building company.

 

There are still holes in my knowledge and some gaps in the information which, I hope, will be filled as time goes on. If not, in addition to being a fascinating story of technology AND organ building, I will be able to add mystery to the list of things I associate with John Compton. Apart from being a conventional story, there are moments of real comedy, tragedy, genius, innovation and, in the final years, a real sense of sadness at what the company became. It also has elements of a typical old-style "Boy's Own" story, where lots of crazy boffins did lots of apparently crazy things, and even helped to change the world in the process!

 

So I have made a start, and I am on page two, because if I don't get on with it, there's the real possibility that I could be dead before it ever gets completed. I don't want to be like Schumann, where people say, "Well, the last symphony is good, so far as it goes!"

 

 

Best,

 

MM

 

PS: For Schumann read Schubert....I knew the name began with 'S'

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So I have made a start, and I am on page two, because if I don't get on with it, there's the real possibility that I could be dead before it ever gets completed.

 

 

Excellent news. i may be able to help if needed, and of course there are several others who could have very good input. I'd particularly like to document all the technical innovations - such as bi-phone pipes, polyphones, 32ft cubes, Melotones, solo cello, matrix relays (both the usual fully electro magnetic ones AND the rare ones with pneumatic note pull-downs), compound magnets, reversers, metal tibias, wiffle-tree swell motors, etc etc, plus a full account of his stops, voicing, use of extension, and such like.

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Excellent news. i may be able to help if needed, and of course there are several others who could have very good input. I'd particularly like to document all the technical innovations - such as bi-phone pipes, polyphones, 32ft cubes, Melotones, solo cello, matrix relays (both the usual fully electro magnetic ones AND the rare ones with pneumatic note pull-downs), compound magnets, reversers, metal tibias, wiffle-tree swell motors, etc etc, plus a full account of his stops, voicing, use of extension, and such like.

 

 

====================================

 

 

This is a wonderful offer Peter, because this really is like no other "story". It's really a technical toure de force and one where it soooo easy to overlook certain things.

 

There may well be a case of co-authoring this, since the subject covers so many aspects of organ-building and electronic-organ manufacture, all under the same roof. Some of it reads like a "Boy's Own" story, and I wouldn't be in the least surprised to learn that John Compton was visiting Marconi when he got arrested in Italy.....Marconi lived in the area! I chuckle when I think how stupid they were to let him come back to England, since the factory was engaged in top-secret radar work.

 

Best,

 

MM

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====================================

 

 

This is a wonderful offer Peter, because this really is like no other "story". It's really a technical toure de force and one where it soooo easy to overlook certain things.

 

 

You are so right. The really wonderful thing about JC too was that he understood traditional organ building techniques and values, but sought to add his own mark to the industry, enhancing certain aspects, inventing completely new things, streamlining and standardising components, maintaining high quality workmanship and voicing and even forging ahead towards pipeless instruments. A real genius.

 

As a starting point, would you be interested to join me at Southampton Guildhall for a study of Compton's Magnum Opus there some day? I'm sure that on a maintenance day you could come down, have a play and have a good look at this momentous original JC installation. Southampton is especially good to study in terms of the technical innovations of JC, as it contains many of his great inventions or technical triumphs - his largest matrix relay system, reversers, illuminated stops, a Melotone, Bi-phone pipes, 32ft polytone bourdon, haskel basses, traps, tuned percussion, etc, not to mention the 40 units (50 ranks) of superbly crafted pipework.

 

Peter

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You are so right. The really wonderful thing about JC too was that he understood traditional organ building techniques and values, but sought to add his own mark to the industry, enhancing certain aspects, inventing completely new things, streamlining and standardising components, maintaining high quality workmanship and voicing and even forging ahead towards pipeless instruments. A real genius.

 

As a starting point, would you be interested to join me at Southampton Guildhall for a study of Compton's Magnum Opus there some day? I'm sure that on a maintenance day you could come down, have a play and have a good look at this momentous original JC installation. Southampton is especially good to study in terms of the technical innovations of JC, as it contains many of his great inventions or technical triumphs - his largest matrix relay system, reversers, illuminated stops, a Melotone, Bi-phone pipes, 32ft polytone bourdon, haskel basses, traps, tuned percussion, etc, not to mention the 40 units (50 ranks) of superbly crafted pipework.

 

Peter

 

 

============================

 

Peter, thank you very much for your kind offers, which I am very happy about.....we will discuss these in due course, I feel sure.

 

As I've made a start on writing about JC, I have had to bring together the known facts, (not a terrible lot), about his early days. What strikes me are the early influences on his organ-building career. Halmshaw....a Yorkshire builder who moved to Birmingham. They built good, solid organs typical of the day, one of the best being examples being the restored organ of the RC Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand...a fairly substantial 3-manual. Tragically, both the cathedral and the organ were severely damged in the earthquake during February, 2011. The cathedral is a write-off, but I'm not sure about the organ, which seemed to survive rather better than the building.

 

Of all the companies JC could have gone to, he next went to Brindley's, and again, came into contact with important things. Foster was a very talented engineer who went down the path of standardised components to some degree, cleverly using factory production methods to meet demand. Foster was also innovative, and those pneumatic systems were quite extraordinary, if a little over-complex. Foster's big sin of omission was not moving with the times and discovering what electricity was all about. Another important aspect of Brindley's work, is the fact that they NEVER abandoned the idea of classical choruswork and even employed German voicers.

 

The additional influence was obviously Robert Hope-Jones and the use of telephone technology; the first working telephone co-inciding with the birth year of JC, 1876

.

I'm fairy sure that JC just put these influences together, but then formulated his own style and ways of doing things quite brilliantly.

Something which I stumbled across by a process of research and pure logic,is a possible connection betweem Halmshaw's, Brindley & Foster, Compton and John Makin Pilling.

 

I've been trying to confirm what I suspect may be the case. Halmshaw built an organ for a house in "Bolton-le Moor" which was the old name for Bolton. The name of the client was one Mr Sebastian Wilkinson Pilling, who it seems, was a founder member of what is now the Incorporated Association of Organists. He moved to Mirfield,(between Dewsbury and Huddersfield), and Halmshaw's (probably then still in Dewsbury) moved the house organ to Mirfield. Mr S W Pilling's name is still associated with Mirfield history, and buildings are named after him. Clearly becoming an immensely wealthy individual, his last home was Welton Hall, Brough, in North Humberside, into which Brindley & Foster moved and enlarged the house organ into a 4-manual concert instrument. I have yet to check the dates, but could the young John Compton have had a hand in this? (I suspect that he may have left B & F prior to this).

 

However the big question is whether Mr S W Pilling was related to John Robert Makin Pilling, who was very much associated with the paper-making industry in and around Bolton, Bury and Manchester, whence Mr S W Pilling originated.

 

There are just so many co-incidences here, but it has already consumed too much time, and my hope is that someone may just know the answer for whatever reason. It would however, be intruiging if the Pilling name is associated with Compton and his employers before Compton set up on his own, and associated again, many decades later, when the company finally ceased trading and John Pilling started making electronic organs in the corner of a paper-mill!

 

Best,

 

MM

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Well, I'm up to page 10 now, and surprising things still emerge as I read and re-read information to hand.

 

I learned yesterday that Compton, by then working on his own accord for the first time, used a bi-phonic pedal Diapason as early as 1906!

 

It does tend to confirm the fact that he was, in his own rights, a highly inventive organ-builder, before the other major innovators joined the Compton team.

 

I am no nearer to making a connection between Mr S W Pilling of Welton Hall, and the Mr Pilling of Makin Organs, and it's rapidly becoming as futile a quest as looking for evidence linking Compton and Sir Bernard Lovell when they were involved, rather vaguely, in "developing RADAR". It amazes me that a prominent and very wealthy Liberal of the late 19th century can be so elusive, when the name Pilling is in itself quite rare. Then to discover that the "Mr" Pilling who bought Compton's electronic interests is equally elusive; his name almost non-existent on company records as a director of anything. He isn't mentioned in the Carnforth histories and on-line material, (he lived his latter days in an old hall in Carnforth), yet we know that there was a Bibby connection and that he was a very wealthy industrialist. It is so frustrating when people operate beneath the obvious radar, yet you know they existed and were very significant. Grrrrr!

 

The wonderful thing about computers is the way it is possile to back-track and make corrections as new evidence emerges, as well as make indicators to specfiic points of reference, so I am moving on to other things, and if, to quote Mr Micawber, "something turns up", I can slot it in later.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Well, I'm up to page 10 now, and surprising things still emerge as I read and re-read information to hand.

 

I learned yesterday that Compton, by then working on his own accord for the first time, used a bi-phonic pedal Diapason as early as 1906!

 

It does tend to confirm the fact that he was, in his own rights, a highly inventive organ-builder, before the other major innovators joined the Compton team.

 

I am no nearer to making a connection between Mr S W Pilling of Welton Hall, and the Mr Pilling of Makin Organs, and it's rapidly becoming as futile a quest as looking for evidence linking Compton and Sir Bernard Lovell when they were involved, rather vaguely, in "developing RADAR". It amazes me that a prominent and very wealthy Liberal of the late 19th century can be so elusive, when the name Pilling is in itself quite rare. Then to discover that the "Mr" Pilling who bought Compton's electronic interests is equally elusive; his name almost non-existent on company records as a director of anything. He isn't mentioned in the Carnforth histories and on-line material, (he lived his latter days in an old hall in Carnforth), yet we know that there was a Bibby connection and that he was a very wealthy industrialist. It is so frustrating when people operate beneath the obvious radar, yet you know they existed and were very significant. Grrrrr!

 

The wonderful thing about computers is the way it is possile to back-track and make corrections as new evidence emerges, as well as make indicators to specfiic points of reference, so I am moving on to other things, and if, to quote Mr Micawber, "something turns up", I can slot it in later.

 

Best,

 

MM

 

I discovered an interesting link (National Archives) about a Mr Samuel Pilling and his wife Leila, (and no more than what I write) that when they lived at Welton Hall there was a visit by the IAO in 1929. Of course, there is nothing, other than the name, to possibly link Samuel Pilling with the Mr Pilling of Makin Organs, but this is surely more than a coincidence I suggest. I have not discovered if there was a house organ at Welton Hall, but it would not surprise me if there was one, given the IAO visit.

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I discovered an interesting link (National Archives) about a Mr Samuel Pilling and his wife Leila, (and no more than what I write) that when they lived at Welton Hall there was a visit by the IAO in 1929. Of course, there is nothing, other than the name, to possibly link Samuel Pilling with the Mr Pilling of Makin Organs, but this is surely more than a coincidence I suggest. I have not discovered if there was a house organ at Welton Hall, but it would not surprise me if there was one, given the IAO visit.

 

You will find some possibly useful information about Mr Pilling and the Welton Hall organ in the Hull Daily Mail for 2 September 1929.

 

MM - In case you have not discovered this web page, there is reference to Samuel Pilling and John Compton. It is littered with typing errors. http://www.ebooksrea...nists-roh.shtml

 

Better to consult the facsimile of the original which is available on the "Internet Archive" site.

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Thanks to Barry and "Vox" for your efforts. I've managed to find all the stuff mentioned, and other things as well. The house (hall?) organ at Welton started off as a two (?) manual Halmshaw instrument in Bolton (it may have been 3...I have the details somewhere), was then moved to Mirfield just a few miles away from Dewsbury, from where the Halmshaw family originated, and was then moved again to Welton Hall by Brindley & Foster, only to be enlarged to a full four manuals. Somewhere, and I cannot recall where, I've seen a black & white plate of it.

 

I was quietly hoping someone would just come up with, "Oh yes...it was his father" or something along those lines, but like everything to do with Compton, it's difficult. The co-incidences are just too strong, but I do know that the Mr S W Pilling of Welton Hall, was a prominent Liberal who supported the MP Marmadukefox, and I think he was the son-in law to the said gentleman; his wife of course the daughter. I know only, so far, that Mr S W Pilling had business interests in Mirfield, and one of them happened to be a printing company opertaing under a double barrel name. He was also a friend of W T Best, and they are recorded as sharing a carriage at an important Bolton funeral. What's very interesting, is the fact that this particular Mr Pilling was obviously very influential. He was one of the founders of Liberalism in Mirfield, and his name is recorded for posterity in the Liberal Club archives....possibly on a stone outside. His name is also attached to a number of care homes for the elderly to this day, and so I get the impression that he was not only very, very wealthy, (which he must have been to buy Welton Hall and a four manual organ), but actually quite a good guy with many acts of philanthropy to his name.

 

Working backwards from Mirfield, it is almost inconceivable that there isn't a connection with the Mr Pilling of Makin Organs, because as I've already stated, the name Pilling is quite rare and really quite specific to quite a small area. Obviously, they fan out as they breed, just as rats and mice do, but the core remains quite localised, and the locality seems to be in the Bolton, Bury and Accrington areas, which are so very close to Rochdale and Oldham.

 

Incredibly, the name John Robert Makin Pilling doesn't appear on any company records I've thus far looked at, and although it may be an oversight on the part of gazeteers and compilers, the only reference to him as a company director is to do with the Makin Organs adventure and the purchase of the Bradford Computing Organ company; the directorships of which he resigned in 1995, not long before his demise from cancer in 1996.

 

However, I know for certain that Makin organs, or to be more accurate, Compton-Makin, were listed as a subsidiary of Bibby plc., and Mr Pilling was definitely associated with Bibby. My hunch is that Bibby plc., (as was), bought out the Pilling paper mill(s), whatever that was called and wherever it may have been. The Dunn & Bradstreet register may yield further information, but I'm not optimistic. I saw the Compton-Makin name in it once, but I don't think they were many details because it was such a tiny part of the group.

 

My fear is, that both the Pillings in question may just have been very wealthy by inheritance, and were only majority shareholders rather than company directors. If that is so, it makes the chase very difficult, and the best clues often lie outside the world of business information in such situations. There is an investment company which uses a Pilling House in Manchester, but......that could be anything and everything.

 

I saw the name Pilling mentioned in a historic railways document, so if we've got into that territory, the quest is probably doomed!!

 

We'll probably discover that the first mentioned Mr Pilling printed the Bradshaw's Guide or at least made the paper. The whole Compton thing is rather like a man arriving with a number of crates full of mosaic pieces, who then drops them by accident, doesn't leave his calling card and vanishes without trace; leaving the floor-fitters scratching their heads.

 

Best,

 

MM

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<h2>

<span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;">If it's of any interest to MM for his 'Great Work', Percy Whitlock's diaries are littered with occasional references to Comptons. I append a small selection to whet his appetite.</span></span></h2>

<h2>

<em>Wednesday 11 July 1934</em></h2>

<p> </p>

<p>... Jimmy Taylor turned up, came to the flat for Tea, & passed my St Stephen’s [bournemouth] scheme with one suggestion which I think is an improvement.  Comptons are doing a £10,000 job at the new Southampton Town Hall (to seat 2,500) about 40 rks!  Two consoles, one luminous, the other stop-keys – the latter to have about 270 Tabs!!  We must have another 100 put on at the Pavilion!!!  Mr Compton has gone through the wind screen of his Lanchester, taking the corner too fast; face & nose badly cut, suffering from shock.  They are going to send a console hand down in Sept to put the new tabs etc. on the console.</p>

<p> </p>

<h2>

<em>Friday 10 August 1934</em></h2>

<p>...Tuners at Pavilion; went down and “helped”.  John Compton (& boy friend) turned up – he was quite pleased with the organ I think.</p>

<p> </p>

<h2>

<em>Tuesday 4 October 1934</em></h2>

<p>... to the Compton factory tried 2 rk, 3 rk, & 14 rk (the completed shop organ).  Tea at Shepherd’s Bush – called at the Pavilion – [Frederic] Curzon away. </p>

<p> </p>

<h2>

<em>Friday 15 September 1944</em></h2>

<p> </p>

<p>3. To St. Francis [of Assisi Church, Bournemouth - Whitlock had opened the organ in 1938]. Jolly Frank Holden & keen Mr. Fair (of Compton’s) got on with the job. They came to the house about 8.30, & we drank Tea, & talked the rafters blue. Much discussion about the Church House – Westminster organ (now destroyed) which Ball designed to use electrophonic basses, & the manuals re-inforced with pipes to fill in what electrophonics can’t do. A good idea. Worked out some schemes on these lines during the next day or two.</p>

<h2>

<em>Saturday 16<sup>th</sup> September 1944</em></h2>

<p> </p>

<p>3.15. Recital at St. Francis (Compton Electrotone) to the organists’ Assn: Overture ‘Otho’ – Handel; ‘Blessed Damozel’ – Debussy; the short G. minor (Bach). Tea in the Hall afterwards. [J D] Chandler [organist of St Peter's, Bournemouth] said (in a speech) that he looked forward to the day when this fine Church should have a <u>real</u> organ. Fair pulled rather a rye face, for he (and Bourne) are principally responsible for Compton’s electronics. However we all three visited the Pavilion at 9, after which Fair said he was going to look for a nice rope with a strong noose! They came up home again – two most enjoyable evenings.</p>

<p> </p>

<p> </p>

<p>Is this any help?</p>

<p> </p>

<p>best wishes,</p>

<p> </p>

<p>Malcolm Riley</p>

 

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====================================

 

Some of it reads like a "Boy's Own" story, and I wouldn't be in the least surprised to learn that John Compton was visiting Marconi when he got arrested in Italy.....Marconi lived in the area! I chuckle when I think how stupid they were to let him come back to England, since the factory was engaged in top-secret radar work.

 

Best,

 

MM

 

This is ringing a vague bell in the back of my skull and there did not seem to be any reference to it in the topic thread. Was this during WWII when John Compton was held in Italy as an enemy national or something? There was an article(s) in the Organ World section of the Musical Opinion written by an English organbuilder who was paroled to an Italian village during the war. He spent his 'spare' time repairing the pipe organ in the local church in time for their Christmas Day Mass, (or it could have been Easter).

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This is ringing a vague bell in the back of my skull and there did not seem to be any reference to it in the topic thread. Was this during WWII when John Compton was held in Italy as an enemy national or something? There was an article(s) in the Organ World section of the Musical Opinion written by an English organbuilder who was paroled to an Italian village during the war. He spent his 'spare' time repairing the pipe organ in the local church in time for their Christmas Day Mass, (or it could have been Easter).

 

Yes, that was Compton.

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This is ringing a vague bell in the back of my skull and there did not seem to be any reference to it in the topic thread. Was this during WWII when John Compton was held in Italy as an enemy national or something? There was an article(s) in the Organ World section of the Musical Opinion written by an English organbuilder who was paroled to an Italian village during the war. He spent his 'spare' time repairing the pipe organ in the local church in time for their Christmas Day Mass, (or it could have been Easter).

 

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Now this does really solve a mystery for me, because there are two versions in circulation, and both it would seem are corect and connected, which I didn't realise. The first version goes that he was arrested while on the Isle of Capri; the suggestion being that he was there for health reason. (He was getting on a bit by this time) The second version has him laguishing in the foothills of the Appenines on the mainland, in a village called Santa Maria something or other, (I have the details somewhere). Now what I do know, is that Compton's trip to Italy co-incided with German troops suddenly moving into northern Italy, which I think was at the invitation of Mussolini. It would therefore appear that he was arrested on the Isle of Capri, and then sent to the mainland, where he didn't restrict his activities to mending the village church organ. In fact, he spent a lot of time experimenting with way-out harmonics with a view to an all flue department which sounded as if it had reeds. (I have yet to find the source, but the late Stephen Bicknell briefly mentioned that he had been experimenting with the harmonic series as a young-man, prior to the end of the 19th century. In another reference to an unknown source, Stephen Bicknell also suggested that there was at the Compton workshop, an en-harmonic organ with all sorts of strange pitches, and in fact, one or two of the patents refer to this).

 

These experiments really go to the core of what the Compton story is all about, and which makes it quite unique. His approach was not just that of the trained craftsman, but the eternal scientific experimenter in all matters to do with tonal synthesis, which of course, is linked to the additive synewave synthesis of the electrostatic organs pioneered by Leslie Bourn. Now my speculation about Marconi may be wide of the mark, because I was harbouring the thought that he may have chosen to go to the village of St Maria on the mainland, but this is now less likely if not out of the question.

 

The intruiging thing is, that Marconi, on his return to Italy, lived quite close by, and of course, Marconi had been all things telegraph, radio and telephone when he set up shop in England, and that became the very familiar brand of GEC eventually. Having gone to Italy, Marconi supported the fascist government of Mussolini.

 

If nothing else, it shows what a complicated thing research can be, because a hunch or just the germ of an idea can send one on something of a wild goose-chase, or may reveal something totally unexpected. There is just no way of knowing at the start. I haven't had time to digest Maclom Riley's kind contribution from the Percy Whitlock diaries, except to quickly scan through them. One thing fairly leapt off the page however, concerning the combination organ at Church House, Westminster, and the suggestion that the pipes could add what the electrostatic tonal synthesis couldn't....that has interesting and important connotations on the electronic side of things.

 

The other things are wonderful anecdotes, and perhaps also a glimpse of things not readily known, some of which could never be included in a book. Having met, (when I was very young), the late Dr Reginald Dixon, and spent a week giggling at his wit and humour,(he was then about 90), I should imagine that Percy Whitlock enjoyed quite lively company, to say the least. He was the one who described Dr Dixon as being, "like the naughty boy at a party."

 

Having spent most of the last four weeks digging around and chasing after snippets of information, I really delighted and grateful for many of the responses I have received, because this has to be the least documented story ever, or at least one which is incredibly scattered. It's very good when people contribute pointers to very specific bits of information or articles long forgotten about.

 

Best

 

MM

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This is ringing a vague bell in the back of my skull and there did not seem to be any reference to it in the topic thread. Was this during WWII when John Compton was held in Italy as an enemy national or something? There was an article(s) in the Organ World section of the Musical Opinion written by an English organbuilder who was paroled to an Italian village during the war. He spent his 'spare' time repairing the pipe organ in the local church in time for their Christmas Day Mass, (or it could have been Easter).

 

That story reminds me of the Englishman who was sent to Algeria during WWII and, there evidently being not much else to do there, decided to repair the organ in the cathedral. Thus began the illustrious career of a certain Noel Mander!

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Hi

 

IIRC, the source for the Italian episode is a back number of "The Organ".

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

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Thanks for that Tony. There's a whole list of things I need to try and get copies of....articles in The Musical Opinion and The Organ featuring very strongly in it. If anyone has that particular copy which refers to the Italian sojourn, I wonder if this was where Stephen Bicknell got his information about the tonal experiments Compton carried out, going back to his earliest days...probably pre-1900.

 

There's also another interesting article, and I wonder if anyone knows if the Organ Club has an accesible archive. There was, apparently, an article in the Organ Club Journal about war-time organ-builders, and the contribution they made to the war effort.

 

I don't know whether Tony knows this, but there was a member of the Bradford Association by the name of Leslie Wilkinson, long deceased, who had a complete set of The Organ from the first one right through to perhaps 1965. I used to pour through all them as a lad, but I expect they got thrown out after his death.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Hi

 

MM - I must have the relevant back number of The Organ in my collection (I guess I'm about 80% of a complete set). I don't know Leslie - I've only been in Bradford for 10 years.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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