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D Quentin Bellamy

Regal Marble Arch Organ Re-surfaces.

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I think that it was in about 1966 that the Regal Marble Arch was demolished, and just prior to its demise the 36 rank Hill Norman & Beard "Christie" organ designed by Quentin Maclean was removed into storage. It has remained in that state in a trailer (I gather located in a barn) in Cornwall ever since. I am sure that this situation has just about driven a generation of theatre organ fans crazy ! Apparently its owner who never succeeded in doing anything with his container of bits was (probably for quite reasonable reasons) not keen to encourage all manner of theatre organ anoraks to his home, but now he has died and the Marble Arch organ has re-surfaced (as it were).

 

Whilst it is restorable, its condition is far from good, and the photographs of it reveal that there is a considerable amount of restoration work required that would keep many organ builders busy for many months. There are a number of photographs of it in its present state - it will most certainly need its keyboards re-building!

 

The organ apparently wasn't a great success in the cinema in spite of its great size, but it has recorded well - particularly by Sidney Torch.

 

So far as the future is concerned, of course the issue with it its size. With organ preservation societies up and down the land struggling to find venues in which to re-install various Wurlitzers (and two homeless four manual instruments spring readily to mind), a 1920s orchestral pipe organ I guess will stand little chance short of a miracle and someone with a huge bank balance.

 

(It included a 44 bell carillon in its spec which created such a noise that an injunction was issued forbidding or at least severely restricting its use!)

 

The present state of the Marble Arch Christie can be seen via the yahoo group UKTheatreOrgans which is moderated by Peter Hammond. For those interested in such things I have definitely found this to be far and away the best theatre organ group on the net.

 

Q - who along with many theatre organ nuts is hopeful of a miracle! :lol:

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I think that it was in about 1966 that the Regal Marble Arch was demolished................ the Marble Arch organ has re-surfaced (as it were).

 

Whilst it is restorable, its condition is far from good

 

Q - who along with many theatre organ nuts is hopeful of a miracle! :lol:

 

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

 

I know how Quentin feels, but it is not all bad news by any means.

 

For starters, there is an initial determination to ensure that the parts of the organ are not broken up and dispersed willy-nilly; overseen by the theatre organist, Len Rawle.

 

Secondly, the organ IS restorable, but it is a major project rather than a quick dust and polish job.

 

Thirdly, it is unique as being the largest theatre-organ ever installed in Europe, and comparable in size to some of the American mega-theatre organs.

 

Fourthly, it has a dedicated band of enthusiasts with brightly coloured anoraks, who have proved to be capable of miracles, like the W.I. (There's nothing scarier than the W.I. or an unstoppable surge of anoraks)

 

Fifthly, as restorations go, this is a small job compared to many others. (Think of steam-trains, and I have watched one branch line go into decline, decay and disuse, then "miraculously" re-emerge as a tourist attraction after decades of hard work and loving devotion)

 

Sixthly, this country produces people like Fred Dibnah at an alarming rate, and you just know that some nutter is going to devote the rest of his life to the project.

 

Seventhly, this organ, if a venue could be found, would almost certainly qualify for a lottery-grant; such is the importance of it as a piece of heritage.

 

So it's not all doom and gloom by any means, but in the meantime, if anyone knows where a four-manual, 36 rank concert-organ (which is what it is, like those at the Bournemouth and Brighton Pavillions) may be installed and restored, then they might even qualify for a memorial bust or brass plaque in their honour, and we all know how much people appreciate THAT. :P

 

MM

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As far as I can think, there is only one multi-millionaire investing in theatre organs in the UK at the moment, and as he's already in the process of having a large 4 manual Wurlitzer import built into his new golf club in Sussex, I guess he won't be interested in the Christie!

 

As a point of interest the carillon bells (of which there were 32) are dated 1930, not 1928. Whether it's urban myth or not, the story goes that the whole carillon was replaced in 1930. This might co-incide with the major work which Reginald Foort claimed to have had done over a period of months in 1930 to re-arrange the chambers to make it suitable for broadcasting - a fact contested by Herbert Norman shortly before his death. It would seem to have been a very costly and unnecessary extra expenditure to have the bells replaced.

 

Nontheless, the tenor bell in the clock chime of the memorial tower in Blaenavon, is dated 1928 (the others are dated 1931 - the year the tower was built) and is said to be the number 27 bell (which in bell terms means 27 down from the top, as opposed to 27 up from the bottom) from the first Regal, Marble Arch carillon - so there may be some truth in the rumour.

 

When it comes to pointless additions to organs that one must take the biscuit. A cymbelstern would have been cheaper and taken up much less room :lol:

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Sixthly, this country produces people like Fred Dibnah at an alarming rate, and you just know that some nutter is going to devote the rest of his life to the project.

 

Sadly, it is for this very reason that the Regal organ has ended up in the state that it is now!

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Sadly, it is for this very reason that the Regal organ has ended up in the state that it is now!

 

 

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

 

How VERY dare you? (To quote the excellent Catherine Tate show)

 

I met Fred some years ago, and he was no anorak!

 

A superb, largely self-taught engineer (as well as a steeplejack), he did some magnificent restoration work to old traction-engines and stationary steam-engines, and was a mine of information about them.

 

Unfortunately, the gentleman who bought the Christie organ from the Regal, Marble Arch, was the exact opposite. He took organs into storage, but then, (possibly for a variety of reasons) did nothing about them.

 

He refused to let anyone near them, he lived as a recluse and, as a consequence, he has presented quite a headache to those best positioned to restore them. The Christie is only one organ, but there are, I believe, two others at the same premises.

 

MM

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

 

How VERY dare you? (To quote the excellent Catherine Tate show)

 

I met Fred some years ago, and he was no anorak!

 

A superb, largely self-taught engineer (as well as a steeplejack), he did some magnificent restoration work to old traction-engines and stationary steam-engines, and was a mine of information about them.

 

Unfortunately, the gentleman who bought the Christie organ from the Regal, Marble Arch, was the exact opposite. He took organs into storage, but then, (possibly for a variety of reasons) did nothing about them.

 

He refused to let anyone near them, he lived as a recluse and, as a consequence, he has presented quite a headache to those best positioned to restore them. The Christie is only one organ, but there are, I believe, two others at the same premises.

 

MM

 

As an avid fan of Fred and owner of just about every book, video, DVD about him or introduced my him, I absolutely agree. He embodied everything that I think is great about this country, and it would yet be a finer country if we had a few more people like him.

 

However your original post was slightly contradictory in that you mentioned Fred in the same sentence as some nutter who would spend his life cherishing the Christie. Fred wasn't a nutter! Perhaps it is a little unkind of me to think of our late Cornish friend in these terms too - perhaps he was just a little misguided. I'm sure that he originally had the best of intentions to set up his museum BUT, when it became apparent that this was not going to happen, he should have had the good grace to admit defeat and place the organ on the market, as there were others who could have rescued it long before it got into the state in which it is now.

 

He also had a Wurlitzer there (Granada, Greenwich) similarly stored in another lorry or two, and the former EMI Abbey Road studio Compton installed and playing in the house. I know that an offer has been made for this from someone who I know will love and cherish it and restore it to it's former glory (which was better than the rather undeserved reputation is gained at EMI) and I am extremely hopeful that he will be successful in acquiring it.

 

Also - if my six numbers come up on Saturday I'd be quite interested in the Christie :lol:

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As an avid fan of Fred and owner of just about every book, video, DVD about him or introduced my him, I absolutely agree. He embodied everything that I think is great about this country, and it would yet be a finer country if we had a few more people like him.

 

However your original post was slightly contradictory in that you mentioned Fred in the same sentence as some nutter who would spend his life cherishing the Christie. Fred wasn't a nutter! Perhaps it is a little unkind of me to think of our late Cornish friend in these terms too - perhaps he was just a little misguided. I'm sure that he originally had the best of intentions to set up his museum BUT, when it became apparent that this was not going to happen, he should have had the good grace to admit defeat and place the organ on the market, as there were others who could have rescued it long before it got into the state in which it is now.

 

He also had a Wurlitzer there (Granada, Greenwich) similarly stored in another lorry or two, and the former EMI Abbey Road studio Compton installed and playing in the house. I know that an offer has been made for this from someone who I know will love and cherish it and restore it to it's former glory (which was better than the rather undeserved reputation is gained at EMI) and I am extremely hopeful that he will be successful in acquiring it.

 

Also - if my six numbers come up on Saturday I'd be quite interested in the Christie  :lol:

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Stephen,

 

If your lottery number comes up try starting at around £200,000 for the Christie. I never did see this job and I fear that I never will. I can still dream though.

 

FF

 

Yes, it'll have to be all six numbers. Five and the bonus might just do the console!

 

Seriously, I think we all (well, those of us interested in that sort of thing) would like to have the chance to see and hear it, but realistically speaking I think we might probably only have the chance to hear parts of it in other instruments at some point in the future. However, as MM has pointed out, there just might be someone out there who is prepared to take it on. Miracles do happen now and again - I certainly never thought I'd be looking forward to seeing and hearing the Granada, Tooting instrument in concert, but I'm planning the coach outing as I write.... :lol:

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Thinking of the Regal Marble Arch and its Carillon, do we know of other organs linked to bells? I know that the Hazel Wright organ at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California is so linked. Are there (m)any more?

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Thinking of the Regal Marble Arch and its Carillon, do we know of other organs linked to bells? I know that the Hazel Wright organ at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California is so linked. Are there (m)any more?

 

Well they weren't real bells, but the Conacher at St.Josephs RC in Cardiff used to be connected up to the Miller electronic 'bells' installed in the church tower. There was a small one-octave keyboard mounted on a pillar adjoining the organ console (with dummy sharps - there were only 8 chime rods) from which the organist was expected to sound the Sanctus at the appropriate point in the Mass.

 

However, an enterprising young organ builder who was once organist at the church (and who may or may not be known to members of this group) wired this keyboard through to one manual of the organ and added the appropriate stopkeys to allow him to properly mark the Elevation of the Host without ever having to leave the organ bench!

 

The remains of the Miller chimes are now derelict, and I was responsible for removing the extra stops and interconnecting wiring in the late 80s - an act for which I have since apologised to the organ builder in question!

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The Rieger in St Gile's cathedral in Edinburgh has a Glocken which I last heard used in the Hymn intro for 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today' one Easter Day. Hull, Hereford and the RAH all have bells o one sort or another.

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The Klais organ at Altenburg has a Ruckpositiv Glockenspiel, used to great effect by Domorganist Paul Wiskirchen in Karg-Elert's Choral Improvisation In Dulci Jubilo (Op75 No2). I have it on an EMI Electrola ASD Prezioso label

CD800.011

 

Incidentally, does anyone play this work at Christmas over here? It's a fabulous piece !

 

H

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The Rieger in St Gile's cathedral in Edinburgh has a Glocken which I last heard used in the Hymn intro for 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today' one Easter Day. Hull, Hereford and the RAH all have bells o one sort or another.

 

 

Yeah... but how many actually connect to a Carillon -- ie bells in a tower ??

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Yeah... but how many actually connect to a Carillon -- ie bells in a tower ??

 

Whilst to the digust of some here, and the delight of others, a good many straight organs have one or more tonal percussion stops ( and almost all theatre organs have several distinct types) the only other example of a Tower Carillon I can call to mind is the National (RC) Shrine in Washington DC where I believe the Knight's Tower Carillon is playable from the Solo .

 

BAC

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The Rieger in St Gile's cathedral in Edinburgh has a Glocken which I last heard used in the Hymn intro for 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today' one Easter Day. Hull, Hereford and the RAH all have bells o one sort or another.

 

 

Indeed they do. A significant number of German organs, including some of quite modest size and some dating back to the time of JSB have a glockenspiel of some description. Most organs of any size in the USA will have both chimes and a Harp/celesta, and quite modest organs from the 1920's and 30's will too, though these were not infrequently casualties of neo-baroquization where it took place. In the UK, excluding theatre organs, tonal percussions are not that frequently found but they are normal on dual purpose instruments (Southampton Guildhall, Wolverhampton, Dome Brighton and so on) and quite often included on Town Hall instruments: in addition to those mentioned above there are - St George's Hall, Liverpool, Huddersfield Town Hall, Albert Hall Nottingam, Middlesbrough Town Hall, and probably others. The original scheme for Liverpool Anglican Cathedral included a set as part of one of the divisons that were not included in the instrument as finally completed, but apart from Hereford I do not think any other English Cathedral has them now though possibly the ones that were installed in Norwich are still lying around in the triforium and the (unconnected) Celestial organ in Westminster Abbey has a set.

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Whilst to the digust of some here, and the delight of others, a good many straight organs have one or more tonal percussion stops ( and almost all theatre organs have several distinct types) the only other example of a Tower Carillon I can call to mind is the National (RC) Shrine in Washington DC where I believe the Knight's Tower Carillon is playable from the Solo .

 

BAC

 

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

 

Now, somewhere in the dark recesses of what passes as my brain, I seem to recall that the tower bells could be played from the Skinner console at Riverside Church, New York, but I may be suffering from some sort of dementia, like the "Hunchback of Notre Dame"

 

Incidentally, Fr Willis had tonal percussions at St.George's Hall, Liverpool, which are still there; in addition to a sustainer device.

 

I know a church organ which has a very loud set of tubular-bells; all of which came from a cinema; the organ originally by Conacher, I believe.

 

There must be other examples of tower-bells controlled from an organ-console. It's the sort of things the Americans would love.

 

Deviating alarmingly, there is an organ of sorts, which uses stalactites to produce musical notes; somewhere deep in a cave in America. It isn't in very good condition apparently, and it seems a rotten thing to do to stalactites.

 

Interesting thought though....stalactites must constantly get noticeably flatter with the passage of time, but don't ask me to put a figure on the drop per drip rate. I expect a quarter-tone change would take a few million years.

 

:o

 

Yay for rock concerts!

 

:o

 

MM

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

 

Now, somewhere in the dark recesses of what passes as my brain, I seem to recall that the tower bells could be played from the Skinner console at Riverside Church, New York, but I may be suffering from some sort of dementia, like the "Hunchback of Notre Dame"

 

Incidentally, Fr Willis had tonal percussions at St.George's Hall, Liverpool, which are still there; in addition to a sustainer device.

 

I know a church organ which has a very loud set of tubular-bells; all of which came from a cinema; the organ originally by Conacher, I believe.

 

There must be other examples of tower-bells controlled from an organ-console. It's the sort of things the Americans would love.

 

Deviating alarmingly, there is an organ of sorts, which uses stalactites to produce musical notes; somewhere deep in a cave in America. It isn't in very good condition apparently, and it seems a rotten thing to do to stalactites.

 

Interesting thought though....stalactites must constantly get noticeably flatter with the passage of time, but don't ask me to put a figure on the drop per drip rate. I expect a quarter-tone change would take a few million years.

 

:o

 

Yay for rock concerts!

 

:o

 

MM

 

 

The Wanamaker (Lord and Taylor) Store Organ in Philadelphia has a set of "Tower Chimes" of large scale up at the top as well as a more normal scaled set with the other percussions. I do not know however whether they are actually in a tower.

 

Also digressing a bit, I note from the booklet of Peter Conte's latest recording (Midnight in the Grand Court) that in his performance of Vierne's Clair de Lune "the famous Clear Flute from the Ethereal Division soars above the lush tone of 36 ranks of dulcianas and muted violins in the String Division." I wonder what the dulciana haters on this board will make of that!!

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No, none of the old echo organ survives in Norwich, I'm afraid.

 

Peter

 

Interesting - I was wondering whether the "echo organ" at Norwich existed - I saw the panel on the console referring to its construction, and there is an Echo to Pedal coupler, but nothing else. Rather like the Pause button on the computer - by doing nothing, you wonder whether it is therefore doing its job.

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Well they weren't real bells, but the Conacher at St.Josephs RC in Cardiff used to be connected up to the Miller electronic 'bells' installed in the church tower. There was a small one-octave keyboard mounted on a pillar adjoining the organ console (with dummy sharps - there were only 8 chime rods) from which the organist was expected to sound the Sanctus at the appropriate point in the Mass.

 

However, an enterprising young organ builder who was once organist at the church (and who may or may not be known to members of this group) wired this keyboard through to one manual of the organ and added the appropriate stopkeys to allow him to properly mark the Elevation of the Host without ever having to leave the organ bench!

 

The remains of the Miller chimes are now derelict, and I was responsible for removing the extra stops and interconnecting wiring in the late 80s - an act for which I have since apologised to the organ builder in question!

 

 

Oh, Ha! Ha!. I was the original enterprising young organist. The small one octave keyboard mounted on the pillar keyboard included the on and off switch for the amplifier which took a while to warm up. This meant two excersions from the console, including the ringing of the elevation bell.

 

I therefore put on two Compton stop key units. One working an on and off relay for the amplifier and the other set up as a `spring tab' to control the Elevation Bell which meant I could stay put on the organ stool.

 

It was never possible to play more than the one note from the console stopkey tab, certainly not from the keyboards when I left Cardiff - maybe there was another enterprising young organists who extended the scheme.

 

FF

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Oh, Ha! Ha!. I was the original enterprising young organist. The small one octave keyboard mounted on the pillar keyboard included the on and off switch for the amplifier which took a while to warm up. This meant two excersions from the console, including the ringing of the elevation bell.

 

I therefore put on two Compton stop key units. One working an on and off relay for the amplifier and the other set up as a `spring tab' to control the Elevation Bell which meant I could stay put on the organ stool.

 

It was never possible to play more than the one note from the console stopkey tab, certainly not from the keyboards when I left Cardiff - maybe there was another enterprising young organists who extended the scheme.

 

FF

 

No, I'm sure you are quite correct Frank.

 

My mis-understanding of how the set-up worked was based on the urban myths circulating around the organ loft in about 1987 when I briefly became involved in saving the Conacher from being scrapped.

 

An early SSL transmission system had been fitted at some point in the 1970s - installed in the rear of the console - and the old relays were removed from the blower room, although parts of one of them remained sitting on top of a cupboard on the gallery. At the time this was done I'm guessing that the Compton stopkeys were disconnected because when I removed them the wiring wasn't connected to anything in the console. It was a church member who told me that you'd originally been able to play them from the keyboards, and he was obviously mistaken. There was certainly no key cable around in the 1980s.

 

The organ itself nearly came to a sticky end as for some reason a humidifier had been installed (which the thing really didn't need) but without an outlet valve for times when the organ was idle. Further to that, the damn contraption was set to run at full tilt and, with the organ only being switched on for an hour a week, it succeeded in wreaking havoc with all the chest-work which became virtually water-logged. When it really started playing up (I remember getting a desperate phone call at about 8pm one Christmas Eve due to a loud cypher on the No.1 Diapason - their organ tuner not being interested - unsurprisingly) they were all set to dump the instrument in favour of an electronic.

 

It was only through good luck that I happened to be in the same music shop at the same time as members of the church were listening to a demonstration of one of the latest electronics, and found out what was going on. We subsequently got a number of builders to quote, but almost all went for the "sledgehammer to crack a nut" option of recommending additions to the pipework and multi-channel capture pistons etc. etc. so the church were rather shocked at the suggested costs. Ironically the one builder who quoted a sensible price for doing exactly what we wanted (Conachers themselves) was more-or-less discounted on the grounds of "if they're that cheap they can't be much good!" Dr. Rowntree was invited in as arbiter, and promptly suggested the church burn the thing and buy a second-hand tracker job!

 

Eventually having persuaded the powers-that-be that we could do something with it, myself and a friend who was a member of their congregation got permission to do the work ourselves. The leather (and the motors themselves) were rotten, the magnets rusted, the woodwork termite infested etc. so we cleared everything out and converted it to direct electric, also installing a transformer/recifier in place of the antiquated generator which had been causing problems with the SSL panels.

 

Since we did the job at cost and over an 18 month period in our spare time - always leaving part of the job playable - it didn't cost the church as much as the replacement electronic would have, and is still working well now. Sadly a year or two back I had the duty of playing it for the funeral of the wife of the friend who'd done the job with me - but I think she'd have been pleased that I was playing the Conacher and not an electronic!

 

We did investigate the prospect of restoring the Miller chimes too. They fell into disuse following complaints about the noise from an elderly neighbour. At some point after this the interior of the tower had been painted, and the racks containing the chime equipment were taken off the wall and left in a heap on the floor. We didn't know enough about them to tackle the job, and in any case a climb to the top of the tower revealed an empty chamber, so someone must have made off with the speakers years before. There was a clock/timer mechanism in one cabinet, so I assume it either struck the hours or probably sounded the Angelus automatically. As far as I know all the equipment is still there.

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The burning question which remains is how much to restore a ruined 36 rank Christie pipe organ. Wonder if it's a task that Manders would take on.....

 

Q B)

 

You would possibly find that any major organ would take on the task - if the right money was available!! Those who would not really wish to be associated with a Cinema organ could save their reputation by classing it as "A Historic Restoration".

 

It's just a question of finding a lot of money.

 

FF

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