David Drinkell Posted October 20, 2011 Share Posted October 20, 2011 ========================== Thanks for the interesting reply; much of the content being buried somewhere in my data collection on Compton. I sense that Compton was at his very best when he was re-building organs, and had a good basis on which to build. That is very much the case with Hull City Hall, Trinity Hull, Ilkley and even Wakefield among others. The dividing line seems to be the inheritance of an indpendent Swell Organ (at the least), and as I know the organ at Ilkley possibly better than most, I can vouch for the fact that the new and old blend wonderfully. A smallish church with a 53 speaking stop organ, would normally be a recipe for something totally over-bearing, but it is just loud enough and contains voices of great subtlety. It is also one of the few non-concert or cathedral organs to include the 32ft Polyphone, and it's only a short 11 mile hop to go and investigate. Additionally, the Ilkley organ has the most exquisite English oak twin-cases, carved by the fanous "mouseman" Robert Thompson of Kilburn. The church furnishings and organ cases are worth a trip on their own. http://www.ilkleypc.co.uk/index.php?page=organ Diverting slightly, I recall sitting in a nice cafe in Settle, North Yorkshire, where all the dining furniture was by the "mouseman," and with a pen and a piece of paper, I priced up the modern-day value of it new. I recall spluttering in disbelief, when the furniture turned out to be worth more than the builidng!!!! Of course, the compton legacy continued after the company folded, but in the southern hemisphere. However, that's something I have still to investigate fully. The decline of the company has a certain irony, for they were on the cusp of something remarkable, in that they had made enormous strides in electrone design. At the time of the opening of the Festival Hall, a Compton electronic was installed, and it was considered so good by some, including the Rector of St Bride's, Fleet Street, that the original proposal was to have one installed at that particular church. Fortunately, good sense prevailed, and possibly the finest pure Compton organ ever built now graces this lovely Wren church. That was, of course, post John Compton, who was not around to see or hear it. Strangely enough, the work of Compton is not really the problem at the moment, The main problem surrounds those early years, when he entered into partnership with others, before going solo. Perhaps we will never know all the influences which shaped his remarkable experiments in tonal synthesis, but it is worth having a stab at it until I know that the secrets died with him. What I can say by way of anecdote, is that even in those early years, he had hopped onto a remarkable bus in the company of other "technocrats," and what they achieved together was remarkable, if currently deeply unfashionable. I suspect that beneath the introvert eccentricity of John Compton, there dwelt an intellectual tiger with a voracious appetite. MM Reading Ian Bell's account of Compton in the BIOS journal some years back, one gets the impression that Downside was exceptionally fine (which I think it is), but later new jobs failed to match it. I don't know - I think St. Luke's, Chelsea is an excellent and confident statement of Compton principles (although a former organist, Charles Cleall, once described it to me as 'almost a monster'). Would it, I wonder, be considered as superior to, the equal of or inferior to St. Mary Magdalen, Paddington, which contained quite a lot of earlier pipe-work? I was always mightily impressed by the early (1927) Compton at All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, Belfast, which managed an incredible amount with only six or seven ranks. The big one on the other side of the city, St. Mark's, Dundela, was less convincing, partly because someone later donated a four-manual console and the existing pipe-work was stretched to provide a rather nondescript Choir Organ, but mostly because the Great and Bombarde mixtures lacked punch. The Swell Cymbale, from the Viola rank, was excellent, though, and the Trumpet rank outstanding. I find Compton three-rank Swells (Harmonic Flute, Viola, Trumpet) can be remarkably good, and the firm's voicing is always impeccable. I never got round to the other big Comptons in Ireland, but I'm told that Mullingar was very fine but needed some real mixtures to perfect it. I was surprised that Walkers' got the job of restoring it - no offence to them, but it didn't seem up their street at all at the time. I believe the 2-rank Miniatura+Fagotto sanctuary division was replaced by an electronic equivalent at the same time. A student friend said Tuam RC Cathedral was pretty good (by comparison, when I played at the CofI Cathedral in Tuam in 1992, it had been neglected for so long that the lock on the console door had seized up). The confidence, quality and artistry of Compton's conceptions added up to a very worthy entity. No one else seemed to manage it so well. There is a Spurden Rutt of similar size to All Souls, Belfast in St. Peter's, Colchester and it simply doesn't cut the mustard - a real shocker! I wonder how the Rushworth for South Norwood Methodist Church (now at Holy Spirit, Southsea) would compare with the similarly schemed Compton at St. Osmund's, Parkstone? I've been acquainted with some very nice Miniaturas over the years. Very versatile, very musical, and some of them were running on their original electrics after fifty years and only just beginning to show the need for serious attention. The Fairfield Hall electrone, which followed the one in the RFH, was acquired by a buyer in St. John's Wood, where I tried it some thirty years ago. It was, for its age, a fine piece of work. I think at the time, a lot of organ builders were considering whether a convincing electronic organ could be made. Guess who wrote this in 1947: "....as and when we can produce an electronic instrument as good as a pipe organ we will do so, but at the moment it woud cost some 5,000 pounds to develop a successful prototype and I cannot afford it." I think the only other builder to produce his own electronic organ was Davies of Northampton - using a system originally evolved by Maurice Forsyth Grant! One Compton man who set up on his own was Grinstead of Kilkenny. His magnum opus was the over-ambitious 4-manual organ at Limerick (Church of Ireland) Cathedral. Local pressure was to have the biggest organ in Ireland - it is also the only one with three swell-boxes. It has a number of Compton features but is really too big, both as an instrument for that building and as a task for Grinstead (if he had had the know-how of the Compton staff behind him, the result might have been different), and has been a burden for a long time. Grinstead's rebuild at Killaloe Cathedral was a nice little job - Compton-style detached console by the Dean's stall so the Dean at the time could act as his own organist. St. George's, Stockport was not improved, IMHO, by being rebuilt and de-Comptonised. Like Hull City Hall, the original organ was a Forster and Andrews, and I reckon that, generally, their workmanship was excellent but their tone unexciting. An idle thought - Compton theatre organs had more imaginative schemes than Wurlitzers, but the latter had a sexier sound. If you substitute a wooden Tibia for the usual metal Compton one, would you then have the best of both worlds? Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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