Florence de Jong's Compton Theatrone
The John Compton Organ Co. demonstrated a three manual organ using electrostatic tone generation at the Radiolympia exhibition in 1935, and shortly afterwards introduced their Melotone unit as an addition to their theatre pipe organs. In 1938 the first production models of their electrostatic organs appeared – all initially two manual instruments – under the name Electrone for church installations, and Theatrone for entertainment-styled models.
The first Theatrones built had attractive consoles with an elliptical shape. This organ was purchased by Lou Morris for the Ritz cinema at Sheerness in 1938 and was one of the first two produced (the other was for the Park Hotel, Leeds which was decorated with palm trees on the sides). In 1942 it was moved to another of Lou's cinemas, the Rialto, Coventry Street, London. In both of these venues it was played by Lou's future wife- world renowned organist Florence de Jong.
After the Second World War it returned to Compton’s factory where the original Theatrone generator cabinet was replaced with one of the new 347 units. It was then moved to Cliftonville where it was featured at the Lido. It’s believed that this instrument was also used on the bandstand at Margate, and also in the ballroom at the Dreamland entertainment complex. Subsequently it passed into the hands of a succession of private collectors.
This instrument has only had a cosmetic restoration to date but will have a full restoration to it's 1947 condition in due course.
Savoy Radford Wurlitzer
This organ was installed in 1938 and was one of the last to be installed in the UK. It is a small instrument with just 2 manuals and 5 ranks of pipes, but had a reputation of being a good “entertainment” instrument.
The organ has had various homes since leaving the cinema but was sadly purchased by an individual who let it rot resulting in it's current state. He stored many of the wooden parts of the instrument - including the console - in a wet garage for 7 years which is why it is in such terrible condition.
The organ was about to be scrapped when we learnt about it and were able to rescue it at the last minute.
The tibia and flute pipes had all fallen apart, but it is testament to the quality of the materials used that they haven't rotted and are in the process of being pieced back together and restored.
The organ will, once restored, be given on long term loan to Wales' oldest cinema, the Market Hall in Brynmawr.
“La Fleur” Organ
from the CAPITOL CINEMA CARDIFF
Installed on Sunday 13th February 1938 and opened the following night. It was located in the right hand box of the cinema and was designed to replace the “straight” pipe organ that was built into the left hand box.
This Model BC was fitted with a “La Fleur” amplification system- it had 12 amplifiers with a total output of 240 watts, 24 speakers and 84 valves.
The model BC was manufactured between December 1936 and November 1942. About 13,000 were manufactured in total in Chicago USA.
Hammond organs in the UK were supplied through Boosey & Hawkes.
It was opened by Gerald Shaw and played by a multitude of organists over the years. One of particular note was Fela Sowande who was resident at the Capitol during the war years. The organ was removed from the cinema when the building closed in January 1978 and had been in storage for years. Unfortunately years of damp storage had left the organ as a pile of rust and rotten wood.
We are eternally grateful to David John of Neath who transformed this wreck of an organ back into the wonderful and rare music machine that you see here today.