My first visit to see the Compton at Old Windsor was in September 1979, when I was 14 years old, and my mum and I went to the Windsor & District Theatre Organ Trust’s annual Open Day on a coach trip with the members of the Sussex Organ Society. Before then I had been playing electronic organ and had played in some music festivals and in some electronic organ concerts with my teacher, Bobby Pagan, but this was my first time with pipes. Wonderful organist Pauline Dixon, the 1978 ATOS UK Young Theatre Organist of the Year (YTOY), was on hand to help explain the organ and I played, probably for just over 10 minutes.
Edith Rawle, mother of organist Len, was there that day with an information table about the London and South of England Chapter of the ATOS and, having heard me play, suggested I should enter their upcoming YTOY competition at the Gaumont State Theatre, Kilburn, that November. After much encouragement from Edith and her husband Les, who became almost surrogate grand-parents to me, I was into a whirlwind of rehearsal sessions on various instruments, including their beautiful 3/19 home Wurlitzer at Wurlitzer Lodge, Northolt, and found myself playing just two months later in the YTOY at Kilburn, coming second, just two points behind winner Stephen Vincent. A year later I entered the YTOY, held at the Granada Kingston in 1980 on the 3c/10 Wurlitzer, and won.
I am fortunate to enjoy a life and career in the wonderful world of music and theatre organs, which has taken me to play fabulous instruments in beautiful venues throughout the UK, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and even to Australia, but it all started for me at Old Windsor, so I always enjoy my return visits to play the Compton, which continues to sound lovely.
All best wishes,