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John Compton

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According to the Aberdeen church website they are still hoping to restore the COmpton:

 

http://www.kirk-of-st-nicholas.org.uk/worship/organ.asp

 

As for the oil industry, they can't be said to completely neglect organs - St John's Chapel has a one-manual organ dating from the early nineteenth centruy whose restoration was funded by oil.

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But it doesn't look as if the entry on the organ has been updated recently. It says the most recent organist retired in 2006 after over 30 years' service. Surely they haven't been without an organist for six years!

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My understanding is that the church hasn't been used as a place of worship for years, since they started the archaeological dig in the middle of it

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Surely they haven't been without an organist for six years!

 

Hi

 

Sadly, all too common these days. Several organs round here languish out of use because there's no one to play them - and often no money to pay and organist and/or the churches have no tradition of paid musicians. At least 2 - maybe more - are now unplayable because the pneumatic actions have suffered as a result of dis-use. Very sad - but at leats they remain in situ and restorable (for now).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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To correct MusingMuso, Southampton Guildhall Compton has just one Tibia and it's made of wood!

 

Compton metal Tibias can be quite good actually - those at Hammersmith Odeon and the Cameo Regent St are actually quite sweet. It largely depends on how well they are winded and tremmed.

 

I urge you (all) to buy the new Richard Hills CD recorded at Southampton Guildhall - then you can hear fro yourself what Compton was capable of. See http://www.ssfweb.co.uk/silverst/html/grand_variety.html

 

Peter

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To correct MusingMuso, Southampton Guildhall Compton has just one Tibia and it's made of wood!

 

Compton metal Tibias can be quite good actually - those at Hammersmith Odeon and the Cameo Regent St are actually quite sweet. It largely depends on how well they are winded and tremmed.

 

I urge you (all) to buy the new Richard Hills CD recorded at Southampton Guildhall - then you can hear fro yourself what Compton was capable of. See http://www.ssfweb.co...nd_variety.html

 

Peter

 

 

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

 

I don't think it ws me that said it Guv! I have only briefly glanced at the Southampton spec, and I don't recall that I've ever commented about it. I may be wrong and ready for the glue factory, but I don't think so.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Hi

 

Sadly, all too common these days. Several organs round here languish out of use because there's no one to play them - and often no money to pay and organist and/or the churches have no tradition of paid musicians. At least 2 - maybe more - are now unplayable because the pneumatic actions have suffered as a result of dis-use. Very sad - but at leats they remain in situ and restorable (for now).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Now you mention it, that's a perfect description of the organ in the church where I was brought up and served as a choir boy: St Stephen's, Bradford. What a shame.

 

Off-topic apologies, but I distinctly remember one Sunday immediately after the organ having been 'cleaned' (by whom?) we were showered by a fine drizzle of what looked like black dust when the display pipes were played.

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The research continues on John Compton and his company, and stumbling across something interesting sparked another possible avenue of enquiry. I wasn't aware that Jimmy Taylor, (who ran things after the death of John Compton), was quite an accomplished organist, and served as Honorary Assistant at St Bride's, Fleet Street, until his death, duirng the time that Gordon Reynolds was there. Equally of interest to me was the fact that he also gave an opening concert in Birmingham, on a new theatre organ. So how good an organist was he? Was he a dual talent....playing both light and classical music?

 

Aniother question springs to mind....the comparative costs of Compton extension organs compared to straight instruments. I was surprised to learn that one theatre organ built and installed in 1935 cost £6,000, which was quite a lot of money in those days. A whole house would probably cost between £500 and £1,000, depending on location in those days, which makes £6,000 sound something like £1,000,000 to-day.....surely not!!!!!

 

Best,

 

MM

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...I wasn't aware that Jimmy Taylor, (who ran things after the death of John Compton), was quite an accomplished organist, and served as Honorary Assistant at St Bride's, Fleet Street, until his death, duirng the time that Gordon Jacobs was there.

 

You mean Gordon Reynolds.

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You mean Gordon Reynolds.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Thank you.....I've edited the post accordingly. It's amazing how something can transmute in the course of five minutes. I wrote the name immediately after reading it!! Attention span of the average flea.

 

Moving swiftly on, I've also discovered an uncorrobrated source which claims that Hill, Norman & Beard supplied reed registers to Compton, and Rushworth & Dreaper made Flutes for them.

 

Now that's got me scratching my head, especially as a notable authority on theatre organs once told me that Compton kept J W Walker & Sons busy during the depression years, and virtually kept them alive and kicking making "things" for theatre organs.

 

It's grindingly difficult to get hold of all the information in the absence of company records and most of the original staff, but a lot has been unearthed and put on file.

 

 

Best,

 

MM

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The research continues on John Compton and his company, and stumbling across something interesting sparked another possible avenue of enquiry. I wasn't aware that Jimmy Taylor, (who ran things after the death of John Compton), was quite an accomplished organist, and served as Honorary Assistant at St Bride's, Fleet Street, until his death, duirng the time that Gordon Reynolds was there. Equally of interest to me was the fact that he also gave an opening concert in Birmingham, on a new theatre organ. So how good an organist was he? Was he a dual talent....playing both light and classical music?

 

Aniother question springs to mind....the comparative costs of Compton extension organs compared to straight instruments. I was surprised to learn that one theatre organ built and installed in 1935 cost £6,000, which was quite a lot of money in those days. A whole house would probably cost between £500 and £1,000, depending on location in those days, which makes £6,000 sound something like £1,000,000 to-day.....surely not!!!!!

 

Best,

 

MM

 

I remember hearing Jimmy Taylor play both types of instrument during the 1950/51 period when Compton's were rebuilding, enlarging and restoring the Hull City Hall organ and boy, he could play! Before the City Hall organ was being finally readied for the opening recital I heard him play some Whitlock (I think from the Plymouth Suite) and then he went on to exploit the instrument in cinema style, using the many percussion traps the instrument has. And at the city's then Astoria Cinema where there was a notable Compton theatre organ and which had developed a transmission hiccup, he took me along to hold keys and then put it through his paces, playing typical pop tunes of the era. Like Compton, I would say Jimmy Taylor was equally talented.

 

Jimmy Taylor's association with Gordon Reynolds may well have also blossomed in Hull where the latter I believe was earlier tutored by Norman Strafford on the Holy Trinity Compton.

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Ian Bell's masterly, affectionate and highly readable account of Compton in the BIOS Journal some years back says that Walkers' had the capital but not too many orders, Compton had the orders but not much capital, so Walkers' injected capital and were thus able to profit from the theatre organ trade without putting their name to it.

 

I remember old boys in the Organ Club saying what a good player Jimmy Taylor was. In particular, he could make a standard four-rank Compton sound like a million dollars.

 

I've heard it as a rule-of-thumb that one extended rank cost about the same as two straight ones. I don't know how true that is. Extension (and electric action in general) made the production of a great many cheap, poor instruments possible because it removed many of the disciplines and skills necessary to build a straight organ. Compton combined talent and confidence in these technologies with an extremely high standard of workmanship. Many of us will know of Comptons which are over fifty years old and still running on their original actions.

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I remember hearing Jimmy Taylor play both types of instrument during the 1950/51 period when Compton's were rebuilding, enlarging and restoring the Hull City Hall organ and boy, he could play! Before the City Hall organ was being finally readied for the opening recital I heard him play some Whitlock (I think from the Plymouth Suite) and then he went on to exploit the instrument in cinema style, using the many percussion traps the instrument has. And at the city's then Astoria Cinema where there was a notable Compton theatre organ and which had developed a transmission hiccup, he took me along to hold keys and then put it through his paces, playing typical pop tunes of the era. Like Compton, I would say Jimmy Taylor was equally talented.

 

Jimmy Taylor's association with Gordon Reynolds may well have also blossomed in Hull where the latter I believe was earlier tutored by Norman Strafford on the Holy Trinity Compton.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Thank you Barry, because it is this type of first hand experience which is quite difficult to come by, and which is worth a thousand anecdotes at third hand.

 

Quite irrelevant to the subject, it is actually quite rare to find organ-builders who are also very good organists, though Mark Venning, Fr Willis and Robert Noehren spring readily to mind.

 

Best,

 

MM

Ian Bell's masterly, affectionate and highly readable account of Compton in the BIOS Journal some years back says that Walkers' had the capital but not too many orders, Compton had the orders but not much capital, so Walkers' injected capital and were thus able to profit from the theatre organ trade without putting their name to it.

 

I remember old boys in the Organ Club saying what a good player Jimmy Taylor was. In particular, he could make a standard four-rank Compton sound like a million dollars.

 

I've heard it as a rule-of-thumb that one extended rank cost about the same as two straight ones. I don't know how true that is. Extension (and electric action in general) made the production of a great many cheap, poor instruments possible because it removed many of the disciplines and skills necessary to build a straight organ. Compton combined talent and confidence in these technologies with an extremely high standard of workmanship. Many of us will know of Comptons which are over fifty years old and still running on their original actions.

 

 

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

 

 

Thank you for the information David, which makes sense of the things I've come across. Still, it doesn't confirm or refute the statement I read concerning Hill, Norman & Beard and Rushworth & Dreaper supplying pipework, but the fact that Walker's supplied things does tend to suggest that when pushed to meet orders or ran out of production capacity, Compton were more than willing to outsource things from other organ-builders, just as happens to-day.

 

I still haven't read Ian Bell's account of Compton in the BIOS Journal, but I will get around to it in due course.

 

As you rightly point out, many untouched Compton organs continue to function well after what is now 60 years, while others (especially theatre organs) are as good as the day they were made, thanks to the continuing attention by enthusiasts.

 

It's actually quite interesting, because one authority claims that Compton actions were never as good as those of Hope-Jones, but it rather begs the question as to how good an organ-action needs to be before it is declared fit for purpose. If non-mechanical actions function well enough after 60 years, (or even at all), it says something about the build and engineering quality, and I cannot think of too many non-mechanical actions which function quite so well after quite so long.....those of J J Binns excepted. The original Compton action, after a bit of cleaning and care, still functions after more than 80 years at the Bournemouth Pavillion.

 

Incidentally, my inflation accounting was a bit wide of the mark. £6,000 in 1935 is equivalent to around £350,000 to-day, which is still an awful lot to pay for an 8-rank theatre unit-organ.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Quite irrelevant to the subject, it is actually quite rare to find organ-builders who are also very good organists, though Mark Venning, Fr Willis and Robert Noehren spring readily to mind.

 

I beg to disagree. Kenneth Tickell; Bruce Fowkes; Christopher Batchelor; Andrew Scott; Geoffrey Coffin; Trevor Crowe spring to mind. Two of these are FRCOs; another an ARCO.

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Arthur Harrison, A.H. Miller (Cambridge), Peter Bumstead (Ipswich) also come to mind. Holdich was supposed to be a competent player, too.

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I beg to disagree. Kenneth Tickell; Bruce Fowkes; Christopher Batchelor; Andrew Scott; Geoffrey Coffin; Trevor Crowe spring to mind. Two of these are FRCOs; another an ARCO.
=====================================

 

 

I was thinking more in terms of history to be honest, and I'll tell you why. I came across someting on the internet about village life in Newton Burgisland, (the birthplace of John Compton, (unless he was actually born in Swepstone in variously 1874, 1875 or 1876 but definitely NOT in 1865....nothing is easy or straightforward about this man).

 

Anyway, a very elderly lady wrote her memoirs about village life in the late Victorian era, and mentioned that ordinary people would not be acknowledged by their superiors, but they would acknowledge them, with men and boys touching their caps with ladies and girls giving a quick curtsey. She mentioned walking down the street near Compton's shop; (the evidence pointing to some sort of clothing or millinery shop), which would have distanced the Comptons from the hoi poloi. This explains how John Compton was able to attend one of the best schools. (King Edward VI - Birmingham), which would have incurred school fees, (unless he had gained some sort of bursary or scholarship, as was sometimes the case with boy choristers in cathedral choirs for instance. One may well imagine that the Compton family must have been very disappointed when their beloved John chose to work as a lowly apprentice after leaving school and failed to pursue the academic option. (Some failure :))

 

What this shows is an extraordinary demarcation in the populus of the day, but one which also applied even within the ranks of the "educated class". The fact that most (if not all) organ-builders during the Victorian era chose to establish a trade rather than pursue university and academia, would also have been a barrier, and would have made them subservient to the top professional musicians of the day. It's no co-incidence that many a titled organists made good money from being organ consultants, when in reality, they possibly didn't know very much about organ-building. The emergence of the new middle-class is a compelling story in its own rights, because it was they rather than the 'hoi poloi' and the 'toffs' who built the golden age of technology and mass production.

 

So although my knowledge is incomplete, I think it would be fair to suggest that most of the great Victorian and Edwardian organ-builders were not particularly accomplished organists, save for the few exception we know about. William Hill, for instance, was always the humble tradesman, yet J J BInns was apparently a good (at least competent) organist, who used to arrive by horse and carriage to practice at the upmarket Calverley PC, near Leeds, where I was once OC.

 

If we go back further still, it was not unknown that great organists would petition their superiors and employers, to ensure that the poor organ-builder got paid enough on which to humbly survive.

 

I suspect that the situation to-day is very different, and should our kind host find himself having dinner with the great and the good, and mention the fact that he re-built the organ of the Albert Hall, it would impress people rather than provoke a withering look from those who would immediately inspect his fingernails.

 

Best,

 

MM

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I beg to disagree. Kenneth Tickell; Bruce Fowkes; Christopher Batchelor; Andrew Scott; Geoffrey Coffin; Trevor Crowe spring to mind. Two of these are FRCOs; another an ARCO.

 

And also down here in the West - Lance Foy, Stephen Cooke and David Coram.

 

A

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

 

Incidentally, my inflation accounting was a bit wide of the mark. £6,000 in 1935 is equivalent to around £350,000 to-day, which is still an awful lot to pay for an 8-rank theatre unit-organ.

 

 

Out of interest, this 25 stop three manual Rushworth and Dreaper from 1932 cost £16,000 when new.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N02431

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Does anyone know the definitive birth date of John Hayward Compton?

 

This should be so easy, but it's proving troublesome without crawling around Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire and digging through records.

 

I'm even struggling to piece together the family history.

 

Best,

 

MM

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I'm even struggling to piece together the family history.

 

You need to spend some money on subscriptions.

 

You should be able to find out a lot about his family (though not necessarily his precise birthdate) from family history websites such as http://www.findmypast.co.uk and http://www.ancestry.co.uk. I have used both prefer the former, but they are both said to have information the other doesn't. If nothing else, the census records will identify the family members and where they were living once every ten years up to (currently) 1911.

 

I might find some references to the firm here: http://www.britishne...rarchive.co.uk. This site is not yet very old and coverage is still very patchy and biased towards the nineteenth century. However, I note that they have the Nottingham Evening Post up to 1944, which could yield something. I had a very quick look at the London papers, but couldn't see any twentieth-century ones.

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You need to spend some money on subscriptions.

 

You should be able to find out a lot about his family (though not necessarily his precise birthdate) from family history websites such as http://www.findmypast.co.uk and http://www.ancestry.co.uk. I have used both prefer the former, but they are both said to have information the other doesn't. If nothing else, the census records will identify the family members and where they were living once every ten years up to (currently) 1911.

 

I might find some references to the firm here: http://www.britishne...rarchive.co.uk. This site is not yet very old and coverage is still very patchy and biased towards the nineteenth century. However, I note that they have the Nottingham Evening Post up to 1944, which could yield something. I had a very quick look at the London papers, but couldn't see any twentieth-century ones.

 

 

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

 

 

Thank you for this, which may become the final ports of call.

 

What I do know is something of the family history: the fact that Compton had several brothers and sisters and mention of a specific year, 1876, as the year of his birth. This is why I questioned the 1874 date as contained in the Musical Opinion after his death. The birthplace is also given as Swepstone rather than Newton Burgisland. His father married three times by the looks of it, and I'm still trying to work out f Compton's birth mother didn't end her days in Australia!

 

It's all a bit muddy at the moment, but like all such things, the penny eventually drops when all the information is to hand.

 

The "Wikipedia" entry is a bit wide of the mark it would seem; quoting his birth-year as 1865.

 

Far more problematic is the history of Jimmy Taylor, because he was working either with or for John Compton as early as 1906, when the patents were filed for what was the world's first, true theatre organ rather than the earlier straight-organs know previously. This was not the unit extension organ, which followed much later, but the "photoplayer", which used an automatic player piano, electrically connected to organ-pipes, which could be played from a "console" of sorts. I have yet to investigate this fully, but the information lies dormant in my files for the moment.

 

It's also intruiging to see how early some of the tonal experiments were, with one early instrument containing a Quintaton, which was nothing ore than a single stop-drawn combination of an 8ft and a 2.2/3....presumably flute Nazard. Even prior to 1910, Compton was producing all enclosed instruments.

 

The whole project is grindingly difficult to fathom and put into some sort of chrnological order, but things are beginning to take shape; albeit in a mist, inside a concrete swell box inside a cave.

 

With no company records and no codified history, anything I cobble together simply cannot take the usual time-line format, but must look at concepts, influences, experimental work and the eventual zenith of what the company created at Downside and St Bride's. The RADAR work remains....well...below the radar at the moment; shrouded in mystery and something of a problem area unless I can find contacts among the historic radar buffs, who seem to be as eccentric as organ buffs.

 

We plough on with all the speed of a shire horse, but they usually got to the top of the hill eventually.

 

Best,

 

MM

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On a completely unrelated topic, I wonder how many of you know the name of Ivor Norridge, whose funeral took place in Edinburgh this week.

I only ask as he was my boss in Edinburgh for 2 inglorious years under the Rushworth and Dreaper label.

However I remember him telling me many tales of Frank Geiger,( or was it Gieger ?? ) but would be fascinated to know more.

He worked in London at the very end of the Compton company, and certainly was a fine tuner and an extremely talented pianist.

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

 

I don't think it ws me that said it Guv! I have only briefly glanced at the Southampton spec, and I don't recall that I've ever commented about it. I may be wrong and ready for the glue factory, but I don't think so.

 

Best,

 

MM

 

I'm so sorry - someone on this thread said it and maybe I misread the messages as that one coming from your good self, but damned if I can find it now, which leads me to assume that either I saw such a posting and whoever posted it has now deleted it, or I am sprinting towards the finishing line in the race to become senile by age 51. Mmmm.

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I'm so sorry - someone on this thread said it and maybe I misread the messages as that one coming from your good self, but damned if I can find it now, which leads me to assume that either I saw such a posting and whoever posted it has now deleted it, or I am sprinting towards the finishing line in the race to become senile by age 51. Mmmm.

 

 

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

 

 

Don't worry about senility. I wish my problems were so simple, because I thought I was going mad when I tried to make sense of the Compton stop-combination matrix system. Sanity was restored only after a nice cup of Assam and a Worthington's Original.

 

What do you know about Albert Henry Midgley, who's name appears on some of the patents for that fiendishly clever bit of kit?

 

I can't think where I've heard the name before, but something rings a bell, and it may be connected with Manchester, Henry Royce (of Rolls-Royce fame), possibly Hope-Jones and even Radar work.

 

All I know is that he was an Electrical Engineer who lived in either Ealing or Wembley.

 

My God, these guys were clever!

 

Best,

 

MM

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Thank you for this, which may become the final ports of call.

 

If you are serious about the Comptons the links I gave should be your first port of call. Primary sources should always be given... er... primacy.

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