THE THEATRE ORGAN

Robert Hope-JonesRobert Hope-Jones (1859-1914), Father of The Theatre Organ

PART TWO: BUILDERS OF THE THEATRE ORGANS

THIS PAGE IS WRITTEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH GLEN TWAMLEY (FRIENDS OF BEER WURLITZER)

-oOo-

PAGE TWENTY-EIGHT:
THE COMPTON THEATRE ORGAN

COLOURFUL CONSOLE CASES

John Compton Collage BlueJohn Compton, Pioneer, Innovator and Organ Builder

-oOo-

WOODEN CONSOLES STYLES
FROM PANELS TO SUNBURST

w1200_h678_fmax

As with other Theatre Organ builders, The John Compton Organ Company produced their organs with a variety of Console Styles.  The earliest Consoles were of wood and generally highly polished and often panelled. These Organs were called Kinestras, a term derived from Kinema and Orchestra, and were refined, dignified and quite simple in design.  The name, Kinestra has also been used to describe the Style of Console Cases belonging to such organs.

The simplicity in style of these Theatre Organs was not a disadvantage in the early years of the cinema when they were hidden from the audience since its primary role was to accompany the screening of a silent film and add to the mood being set while not distracting patrons from events on the screen.

Cameo PolyThe Console of The Compton Theatre Organ (2 manuals and 6 ranks) of the Cameo Poly Cinema Regent Street

-oOo-

The Company produced fifty-five Theatre  Organs with Panelled/Plain Consoles (The Compton List) 

-oOo-

With the introduction of talkies, the Theatre Organ began to be featured in musical interludes prior to the screening of the films.  The Console was now brought into full view of the audience and the need for it to be jazzed up soon became evident!

-oOo-

Much of the information found in the following sections has The Compton List as its source (Stephen Dutfield)

-oOo-

An example of a Compton Console Case Style that was more decorative was the Lacquered Style.  According to The Compton List, there were three such Consoles made, which were installed at the Picture House Dalston (May 1928), the Super Cinema Charing Cross Road (February 1928) and the Rialto Cinema Leytonstone (May 1927).

Picture House Dalston - LacquerLacquered Style, as exemplified by The Console of The Theatre Organ of the Picture House Dalston

This reproduction appears with permission of The Compton List (Stephen Dutfield).

-oOo-

The first major Console Case Style designed after the Panelled/Plain and Lacquered Styles by The Company was its French style, which was most likely inspired by the Wurlitzer Organ Company’s design.  This Style was introduced in April 1930 with the installation of the organ at the Marlborough Picture Theatre Holloway.  A total of sixteen such Consoles were built with the final one being installed at the Regal Cinema Uxbridge (December 1931).

Regal Uxbridge Peter HammondFrench Style Console of The Theatre Organ (2-manuals and 6-ranks) of the Regal Cinema Uxbridge

This photograph appears by permission of Peter Hammond (Taylor-Hammond Associates Ltd.)

???????????????????????????????????????The Regal Cinema Uxbridge

-oOo-

Another example of a French Style Console Case is that which was rebuilt in 1931 for the organ of the Rialto Cinema Leytonstone.  As a point of interest, The Christie Theatre Organ installed at the Rialto Cinema Leytonstone was the only Christie Theatre Organ installed in a Granada Theatre by Sidney Bernstein, who seemingly preferred the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ.

Bryon - Rialto CollageThe Theatre Organ (3-manuals, 11-ranks) of the Rialto Cinema Leytonstone as it is today
Bottom Right: Byron Jones, The Welsh Wizard with the Console
The Organ was installed originally with 2-manuals and 6-ranks.  It was upgraded in 1931 by The Compton Company
This Organ is now installed in the Church Hall of Eden Grove Methodist Church, Filton, Bristol.

The photographs appear by permission of Byron Jones and Paul Bland (Bottom Right).

-oOo-

In 1923, The Company built a Panelled-Style Organ for The Davis Family’s new cinema, the Pavilion Shepherds Bush.  However, this Console was replaced along with the additions of  some ranks added to the Organ in 1931.  The design of the new Console Case proved to be very popular and became known as the Gaumont Style (Flat Top).  This Style of Console Case was repeated with a total of twelve other organs installed in Gaumont Cinemas until 1934 with the last one being installed at the Gaumont Cinema Wood Green.

Shepherds Bush Pav. - Ivor Buck.Gaumont Style Console Case (1931)

This photograph appears by permission of Stephen Dutfield (The Compton List)

-oOo-

When the Paramount Corporation commissioned The Company to build Theatre Organs for their new Cinemas at Liverpool (October 1934), Glasgow (December 1934), London (February 1936) and Birmingham (September 1937), it produced a unique Console Case design, which became known as the Paramount Style.  

Paramount Glasgow ConsoleParamount Style Console of The Compton Theatre Organ (4-manuals and 10-ranks) of the erstwhile Paramount Cinema Birmingham now maintained by The Penistone Cinema Organ Trust and installed at the Paramount Cinema Penistone.
This organ was originally installed with a Melotone Unit.

The Organ Consoles for installation at Liverpool and Glasgow featured bas-relief art-deco plaster panels while those for Tottenham Court Road and Birmingham had a simplified decoration.

Liverpool ParamountThe Console of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Odeon Theatre Cinema Liverpool

This photograph appears by permission of Stephen Dutfield (The Compton List)

The Organs for the Paramount Cinemas at Glasgow and Liverpool were built with Solo Cellos while the Paramount Cinema Birmingham was installed with a Melotone Unit.  It would seem that the Paramount Cinema Tottenham Court Road, London, was installed with only the Melotone Unit and not with a Solo Cello.

David Shepherd's homeThe Console of The Compton Theatre Organ once installed at the Odeon Theatre Tottenham Court Road is now installed at the home of Mr. David Sheppherd

This photograph appears by permission of Stephen Dutfield (The Compton List)

-oOo-

vic-hammett-odeon-birmingham red.Vic Hammett seated at The Console of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Paramount (Odeon) Birmingham

Click here to hear Vic Hammett playing the Theatre Organ

-oOo-

The John Compton Organ Company was also commissioned to produce a number of Special Console Styles in wood for installation with organs at specific venues. Such a Special Console Style is exemplified by that of the organ installed at the Gaumont Cinema Lewisham.  Here metal end pieces were fitted over a Gaumont Style console case.

Gaumont Lewisham UNIQUEThe Unique Console Design of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Gaumont Lewisham

This photograph appears by the permission of Stephen Dutfield (The Compton List)

-oOo-

One of the most celebrated instruments designed by The Company was one with a Unique Console Case for the Organ built specifically for installation in the Guildhall Southampton.  This Organ has 51-ranks including its Melotone and has 4,000 pipes and was built with two wooden Consoles, each with 4-manuals that are placed on either side of the auditorium. This organ was the largest produced by The Company.  It recently underwent restoration and is played at regularly at concerts.

Guildhall Southampton CollageThe Consoles of the Guildhall Southampton
Left: the Variety Console; Right, the Classical Console

 -oOo-

In addition, unique designs were produced for Special  Wooden Console Cases for Compton Theatre Organs installed at the Warner Cinema Leicester Square, the Gaumont Finchley, the Davenport Stockport and the Ritz Whitton.

WarnerLSqThe Console of the Theatre Organ of the Warner Cinema Leicester Square

This photograph appears by permission of Stephen Dutfield (The Compton List)

Click here to hear Molly Forbes play the Theatre Organ of the Warner Cinema Leicester Square

-oOo-

Much like a person would use garden tools to add decorations, new plants and flowers to their property to make it look more appealing, a way of making the Theatre Organ look more attractive to an audience was to add decorated Side Pillars or Coffin Ends, as they were called by the workers at The Compton Factory, to the Console Case.  These additions were often painted in white, cream, gold and silver and often bathed in coloured light.  Certainly a decorated Console would add to the excitement generated as it rose up from the pit and came into full view of the audience while the organist played a rousing tune.

Apollo_organ_console_small.jpg 2Decorative Side Pillars of the Gaumont Syle Console Case of The Compton Theatre Organ (4-manuals and 15-ranks) installed at the Apollo Theatre Hammersmith

This photograph appears by permission of Peter Hammond (Taylor-Hammond Associates Ltd.)

-oOo-

In 1931, Compton’s chief draughtsman, Frank Mitchell, devised a new Style of wooden Console Case that featured Boxed Side Ends.   This Style was first seen in April 1931 when the Organ (2-manuals, 6-ranks ) installed at the Savoy Cinema East Acton was opened to the public.  

This Console Style was the forerunner of what The Company called The Sunburst.  This Style was introduced with the Theatre Organ (3-manuals, 8 ranks) installed at the Playhouse Drewsbury in  October 1931.

Sunderland - Black's RegalSunburst Style Console
This is the Console of The Compton Theatre Organ (3 manuals, 9-ranks) of the former 
Regal Cinema Sunderland,
which was installed in March 1932,
and now present at the Ryhope Community Centre and maintained by
The Sunderland Theatre Organ Preservation Society

This Style proved very popular with cinema management and patrons alike and was used to decorate a number of other Compton Theatre Organs.

Sunderland - Reg Dixon 1977 borderReginald Dixon at the Console of The Compton Theatre Organ of the former Regal Cinema Sunderland (1977)

The photograph was provided by Paul Bland

Astoria Folkstone borderThis photograph of the Astoria Cinema Folkestone appears at Cinema Treasures and shows The Compton Theatre Organ (3 manuals and 6 ranks) with Sunburst Side Panels

Compton Theatre Organs with Sunburst Side Pillars were installed in a total of twenty-six cinemas and theatres according to The Compton List and include the following: Majestic Ashton-under-LyneRegal BridlingtonPlayhouse DewsburyAstoria FolkestoneTheatre Royal HalifaxRitz MaidstoneTheatre Royal ManchesterAstoria WokingRialto York and Capitol Aberdeen.

Edward O'Henry - Aberdeen Theatre Organ - CapitolEdward O’Henry at The Compton Theatre Organ of the Capitol Cinema Aberdeen

The photograph was provided by Paul Bland

-oOo-

The final Console Case constructed in this Style was for the Organ located at the Apollo Cinema Arwick Green (Manchester) and installed in December 1934.

a-brierly-at-the-last-compton-surround-organAlbert Brierly at the Console of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Apollo Cinema Arwick Green

This photograph was provided by Alan Ashton

May I recommend that the reader visit Mr. Ashton’s website, Organist 1st Radio
where links to podcasts of recordings of Theatre & Electronic Organs together with keyboards are available

-oOo-

Click here to see a short video on the Theatre Organs of Northern Ireland

-oOo-

The four Compton Theatre Organs installed in Eire during the early 1930s were installed at the Savoy Cinemas in Cork, Dublin and Limerick and at the Theatre Royal Dublin.

Savoy Cork todayThe Facade of the Erstwhile Savoy Cinema Cork

Sadly during the 1960s, the Organs of the Theatre Royal and Savoy Cinema Dublin (4-manuals, 16-ranks and 3-manuals, 14-ranks respectively) were removed and broken up while The Theatre Organ of the Savoy Cinema Limerick (3-manuals and 12-ranks) was removed in the 1980s and its current location is now unknown.

Today, only The Compton Theatre Organ of the Savoy Cinema Cork (3-manuals and 12-ranks) still exists having been purchased and stored for a number of years before being sold and installed in the University Concert Hall Limerick

.

Savoy Cork-Univ.Hall Limerick 1932The Console of The Savoy Cork Compton Theatre Organ and now installed at the University Concert Hall Limerick

The Compton Theatre Organ of the Savoy Cinema Cork had a Console Case with Sunburst Side Pillars while the Savoy Cinema Dublin had a paneled a wooden Console.  The Organ of the Savoy Cinema Limerick was installed with an Illuminated Rainbow Style Console Case (see the following section, Illuminated Consoles).  The Console Case of The Compton Theatre Organ of Theatre Royal Dublin was specially built for the location and was in a Moorish Style and illuminated (see the following section, Illuminated Consoles).

Theatre Royal Dublin CollageThe Console of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Savoy Cinema Dublin

These photographs appear by permission of Stephen Dutfield (The Compton List)

-oOo-

Click here to continue reading about

COLOURFUL CONSOLE CASES

——oooOOOooo——

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Mr. Ian McIver for providing information and photographs.  I would also like to thank Mr. Stephen Dutfield for allowing the reproduction of some photographs from The Compton List here and for the information provided there.  Many thanks are also due to Mr. Peter Hammond (Taylor-Hammond Associates Ltd.) for allowing his photograph to appear here.

I would like to thank Mr. Alan Ashton for allowing the photograph of Mr. Albert Brierly at the Console of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Apollo Cinema Arwick Green.

I would like to thank the North Lincolnshire Theatre Organ Preservation Society (NLTOPS) providing a photograph of their Organ and of the Louth Town Hall; and to Alex Smith for allowing the reproduction of some of his photographs of the Organ and Town Hall.

Very special thanks are given to Mr. Paul Bland for providing photographs, musical interludes and information and without whom this piece would not have been possible.

2 thoughts on “THE COMPTON THEATRE ORGAN – PAGE 28 – colourful consoles

  1. John Underhill

    It was lovely to see the variety of illuminated consoles of the 1930’s ,more so because my father “Billy Underhill ” ,was the longest serving organist at the Astoria cinema in Brighton. I remember, at the age of 6 riding up on the console when my father started one of his interludes. A memory I will cherish.

    Reply
  2. Rick Smith

    Did this organ use Goodmans 90 and 60 audiom speakers? Also was a band box for percussion parts?

    Thanks Rick

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *