The Theatre Organ Club

Club Events

Our final event of 2022 was indeed a spectacular one, when an audience of 145 converged upon the Grade II Odeon in Weston-super-Mare to hear Keith Beckingham and John Mann play the original 1935 Compton organ on November 20th 2022.
There had been superb media coverage on BBC local news website, interviews on Radio Bristol and newspaper coverage arranged by the indefatigable Peter Young, to whom we send thanks.
Both Keith and John had been looking forward to this event as they had been booked to play at the Odeon just as lockdown began, so it was a great pleasure to ask them both if they were willing to try again at our first post-Covid visit to Weston-super-Mare.
To say that they both jumped at the chance would be an understatement and both had begun rehearsing at home almost before we had agreed the date.
As well as our loyal local supporters, there were organ fans from as far away as Sheffield and one special visitor, in the shape of Alan Ashton, who had braved the journey by train from St Austell, which had included bus replacement, as if he hadn’t suffered enough.
The Compton was in good voice, thanks to Ben Snowdon and his dedicated team, and although it hadn’t been used since our last visit, just a bit of tuning was required, everything else worked, a tribute indeed to the art of British organ building.
We hope to return to the Odeon this coming year and also hope for an equally large and enthusiastic audience.
Our celebration of this event was tinged with sadness as just a week later we learned of the death of Paul Kirner, whose loss will be felt by many in the organ world and the world of entertainment in general, and we send our condolences to his family and his countless friends and admirers, and we are thankful that his work will carry on through his devoted team at the Music Palace.
A full-on weekend at Paul Kirner's Music Palace, South Wales as reported by Sarah Bryant:
The weekend of 20th and 21st August 2022 proved to be one to remember, with Simon Gledhill giving his first public performance on the Christie organ installed in Paul Kirner's Music Palace, sponsored by the Theatre Organ Club.  The BBC had been to the Music Palace about ten days previously, when they interviewed Ben Snowdon and Donald MacKenzie, the latter also being filmed. 
Simon gave us a terrific selection of music, all beautifully played and arranged, and making the most of everything the Christie has to offer.  His programme included a Shall We Dance selection, music by Jimmy van Heusen, Sketch of a Dandy, Theatreland, Autumn Crocus, Orpheus in the Underworld as a magnificent finale, and much much more.  The audience was enraptured by Simon's musicianship and his choice of music, and nearly took the roof off in shouting for more, not wanting to let him go.  His encore consisted of two goodbye songs – Auf Wiedersehen, and Goodbye-ee. 
The AGM went smoothly the following day, after which we had an ‘Open Console’ afternoon; again, we had numerous visitors who hadn't been before, all of whom took a keen interest in the wonderful collection of theatre organs and vintage electronic instruments.  Those who wanted to were able to try their hand(s) at playing them, including a boy who had been having piano lessons.  With the aid of Steve Dutfield setting appropriate registrations for him on the Christie, it was plain to see the delight on his face to be seated at the console of such a magnificent instrument and to be able to play it, resulting in much deserved applause. 
Photo of Simon at the Edmonton Christie by Erfyl Parry.
10. Simon Gledhill Concert Music Palace Saturday August 20th 2022 copy.jpg
Our July 2022 event at Gosport with Michael Wooldridge at the Compton fared much better, audience-wise.
Michael said “We had a really good day with a turnout far exceeding our expectations, somewhere around 90 in attendance I would think, meaning extra chairs had to be put out, and there were many first timers amongst them.  Better still, everyone seemed to really love the afternoon”.
The TOC will be sponsoring Andy Quin in concert in October, please try and attend and give generously to the organ fund to help with the ongoing restoration and upkeep of this unique (the only complete survivor on electro-pneumatic relays) and fine example of John Compton’s organ building genius.

Thanks to Michael for the photo.

Our May 2022 event at Louth Town Hall was superbly played by David Redfern, who had put a lot of time and effort into preparing a programme of lesser-known, but still familiar, music on the Compton and Hammond organs. Unfortunately attendance numbers were one of our all-time lowest, with just 25 in attendance, (where was everyone?) and I was rather dismayed when two of those left after ten minutes, and I hoped that it was not because of the music, rather that they had come to the wrong event or even wrong venue…
Those that remained however were full of praise for both David’s playing ability and of the musical content. Such was the acclaim that David has been booked by the Committee for the December 11th concert at Louth, please try and support this one if you can.
I can’t stress strongly enough the need to support both our events and events of others as if there is no audience there is no organ, they are disappearing at an alarming rate of recent, and whilst we are aware that the theatre organ has been on its last legs since 1948, it really seems that this is the case in many venues up and down the country.

Several venues have closed and the organs have not been found new homes and have been broken up, something we can ill afford these days.

David Redfern copy.jpg