The Theatre Organ Club

Other News

Return to Weston-super-Mare:
Delighted to announce that Cameron Lloyd will be back at the organ of the Plaza, Weston-super-Mare for two more preludes:
Gone with the Wind (1939) - Sunday 18th February at 6pm
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - Sunday 31st March at 6.30pm

Len Rawle MBE 1938 – 2023

It is with sadness that we heard that Len died, suddenly, on November 14th 2023.
Len had been a good friend to the TOC for many years and he often pointed out that he was born the same year as the Club was formed, in 1938.
We had got to know Len and Judith in recent years, due to his continued support and willingness to play at Club events, usually for expenses only, and it was especially nice to have spent a weekend with them both when Len played for the Club at Grant and Rachel’s home in Tibenham.
The Club was also honoured to be invited to Chorleywood for a meeting, which was a very informal event, with Judith providing refreshments and Len providing music at the Empire Wurlitzer, the console was also available afterwards to those with the nerve to try it, such was their generosity and hospitality which made for a day to remember.
Len was, quite fittingly, voted TOC Patron on four occasions and was our final Patron in 2020.
Len was born at Tonypandy and was a graduate of the London School of Music in Cardiff, later studying in London where he was able to get to grips with some of the remaining in-theatre organs and meet some of the great names of the organ world.
Len’s parents, Les and Edith, had installed the country’s first residence organ at Northolt where Len was able to hone his skills, before taking the plunge and purchasing his own Mighty Wurlitzer for his and Judith’s new home in Chorleywood.
I well remember Len saying that every playing engagement fee was measured in bricks for the new house, which was to be built around the Wurlitzer, which was officially opened by Gerald Shaw with Jack Fergusson and Len in June 1968.
Len was frequently to be found playing for the TOC and COS in the 1960s, in company with Keith Beckingham, John Mann and Graeme Wright, before becoming a star organist in his own right, not just in the UK but as a truly international organist, being featured in the US, Australia and throughout Europe.
Len had the distinction of appearing on the first edition of ‘The Organist Entertains’ in June of 1969 and appeared on many subsequent editions, as well as on TV, most famously in ‘Metroland’ where he was visited by Sir John Betjeman, in 1973.
Len and his father, Les, were also renowned as organ builders and restorers and, as well as their own instruments, were responsible for keeping alive the Wurlitzer at the Gaumont State Kilburn and the Christie at the Regal Edmonton, as well as the installation of the Wurlitzer in Woking Leisure Centre and the re-installation of the Edmonton Christie at Barry Memorial Hall, amongst others. However, Len’s greatest achievement was the ‘Raising of the Granada Tooting Wurlitzer’ in 2007, for which an amazing £40,000 was raised, which enabled the famous organ to be heard for the first time in over 30 years. Sadly, and much to Len’s disappointment, the project was short lived as all the hard work was for nothing as the organ was again flooded, never to be heard again.
Despite the frustration of Tooting, Len continued to be one of the busiest and most popular players on the theatre organ circuit. He had returned to Tibenham in September to play for a group of pensioners and had been playing the piano the evening before he died.
Len’s passing leaves a big gap in organ circles, but his legacy lives on through his un-tiring involvement in all aspects of the organ scene for over 60 years, and through his many, fine recordings.
We send deepest condolences to Judith and their family.
Early days at the Granada Willesden
At the Gosport Compton
At Weston-super-Mare Odeon with Andy Quin - meeting the people
Keith Beckingham writes:
May I add my name to what I am sure will be a long list of fellow organists, friends and enthusiasts wishing to express great sadness at the recent passing of Len Rawle MBE.
I first met Len over 65 years ago when we were both young members of the COS and TOC.  A warm friendship developed which endured over the years.
Whilst I was with Hammond Organ (UK) Ltd I tried to recruit Len but at the time he was settled working in the insurance industry. Later Denny Jacobs succeeded where I had failed and Len joined Yamaha where he not only played a part in product development but also helped establish Yamaha Music Schools throughout the UK.
I was always delighted to accept Len's invitations to play concerts for ATOS, knowing the organs at Kilburn and Woking would be in tip top condition and tuned to perfection. Such events also provided the opportunity to chat to Len and Judith and catch up on news.
We also had fun together recording the CD 'Double Touch' at St Albans.
Len was always modest about his playing but he was a master of registration, coaxing sounds from organs that us lesser mortals never found.
In addition to entertaining audiences at home and abroad Len also inspired many youngsters to play both theatre and electronic instruments offering encouragement and sharing his expertise freely and willingly.
There can be few in the organ world who have left a greater legacy than Len.
My heart goes out to Judith and family at this very sad time.



Weston-super-Mare's former Odeon has a new owner.

Merlin Cinemas has taken over the building and plans to re-open it in the near future.
It is good news that a new cinema operator has taken it on relatively quickly after Odeon closed it in June.
Merlin has assured that it recognises and values the listed status of the building, its heritage and the importance to the local community. Both a short and long-term investment plan to improve and restore the building has been promised along with a commitment to the preservation and promotion of the original Compton organ.
It will now be known as the Plaza Weston-super-Mare, and Merlin Cinemas said it would be focusing on getting it open as soon as possible, after a ‘refresh and rebrand’.
Although reports state that the Compton organ is one of only two original organs in working cinemas in the UK, there are in fact four, the others being the Odeon (Luxe) Leicester Square, Regent Street Cinema and the Plaza Stockport.
All change (or not) at Woking:

ATOS concerts at Woking will be introducing contactless card payment as of the autumn 2022 concert programme, so the two payment methods will be bank card or cash.  Please note they do not accept cheques.

Simon Preston and Harold Britton:
We were sorry to hear of the death of organist Simon Preston on May 13th 2022 and this rather overshadowed the passing of Harold Britton at around the same time.
Harold was born at Bristol in 1923 and studied at the Cathedral under Clifford Harker, later taking tuition from Dr Harold Darke. In 1966 he was invited by Fernando Germani to attend his organ class at Accademia Musicale Chigiano in Siena. The following year Harold studied the works of Marcel Dupré together with the composer in Paris.
Harold was with Granada Theatres in 1946 and was known for his versatile approach to playing all types of music on all types of organs. He played on occasion for the TOC, the last time being in 1983 at Archbishop Tennyson School in Kennington, a concert he shared with David Shepherd.

Harold was best known as Walsall Borough Organist for 44 years from 1957 - 2001. He had given recitals in most of the county’s principal cathedrals and concert halls. These include St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, Colston Hall Bristol, Broadcasting House and St George’s Chapel, Windsor. In addition he has participated in the Ely Cathedral Organ Festival and given an extensive series of recitals at Birmingham Town Hall.

Bill Potts
Many members will remember Bill through his CD stall which he presided over, mainly in the south. Bill's sister, Joanna, sent the following tribute:
Sadly, Bill died in hospital on Wednesday 17th November 2021.  He had battled with cancer for a few years and I for one have been amazed at his bravery and his ability to live life to the full, following his interests and looking with great optimism to the future.  He loved theatre organ music and I know got a tremendous amount of pleasure through the Club. Only recently he showed me is extensive collection of CDs and vinyl telling me about the different organs and the organists. He had so much knowledge on this subject matter clearly showing his passion for it.

Kevin Morgan informs us that, due to change of circumstance, he is now available all year round for concert and recital bookings, please write to:

Or phone:
01253 723370 or email


Peter Held 1937 – 2021
We are sorry to hear that Peter Held died on October 8th in Sydney, Australia to where he had migrated in 1968.
In his youth, Peter trained for a career as a concert pianist, however, the church organ beckoned and this was followed by theatre organ lessons from Tommy Dando at Dublin’s Theatre Royal Compton. He must have done well as he was offered the position of assistant organist, a duty he performed from 1956 - 61.
In 1960 he played a summer season in Brighton where he met his hero, Douglas Reeve.
Returning to Ireland he was engaged to play the Compton for the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Savoy Limerick.
More electronic organ work followed for summer seasons and in Clubland before returning to Ireland to tour with the Jack Cruise Variety Show, which included a return to the Savoy Limerick.
Peter migrated to South Africa in 1964 and spent two years touring with Chipperfield’s Circus, during which time he broadcast for the South African Broadcasting Corporation on 30 occasions.
After migrating to Australia, he often played for The Theatre Organ Society of Australia .
He returned to the UK regularly and played for clubs and societies as well as seeking out organs to visit and try.
We last saw Peter at Tibenham some three years ago when he gave a good account of himself at both the Compton and Wurlitzer organs.