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David Ivory Concert – 17th Feb 2019

Coming to play at Old Windsor Memorial Hall is always a real treat for me. I’ve been playing the wonderful Compton Cinema organ there for so many years that it’s like meeting up with an old friend. It’s also nice to see the Hall itself looking so well cared for after it’s recent refurbishment.

The fact that the organ sounds so well and the concerts are so well attended is in no small part due to the dedicated team who look after the instrument, organise the concerts, provide refreshments and do all the other jobs that need doing.  To think that an organ which is so old is working perfectly and still produces the sounds of the 1930s – when it was built – is a credit to the John Compton Organ Company who built it and the technicians who maintain it.

The audiences that regularly attend the concerts are well used to my ‘Themed second halves’ and my way of dressing to match the theme! At the February concert we were joined by members of the Theatre Organ Club, who are not at all used to this sort of (some say “over the Top”) presentation. I’m pleased to say that everyone entered into the fun and went home happy, especially the organist!

David Ivory

david ivory feb 19

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Len Rawle… A Happy Return

In my long life, I can’t remember seeing STANDING ROOM ONLY signs at a Theatre organ concert.   However, the welcoming sight of the Old Windsor Memorial hall being furiously filled to capacity with extra seating at the last minute, was certainly something to remember my most recent concert in Old Windsor.

It has been my pleasure to have known the organ throughout its 80 year history firstly in the cinema, then to ownership by Windsor tobacconist, Ted Lawrence who installed the organ in the Memorial Hall.  I enjoyed hearing the opening concert there with Jackie Brown and Vic Hammett and later talking with the famous reed voicer Arthur Jones regarding the taming of the rather vocal Tubas.  Subsequently, I have been fortunate to play concerts there most years.

This year, as well as opening the January concert by musically sending the organ Many Happy Returns on its 50th year in Windsor, our concert coincided with the international year of celebrations remembering the Holocaust. Thus I also included the very evocative theme from the film Schindler’s List. Plenty of familiar show music followed, including those memorable tunes from Oklahoma into which I injected a rather wild Ho Down as part of the Farmers Dance.   It’s the sort of musical humour and risk-taking that I like to share with audiences.

The Compton Company built many magnificent classical and concert organs and during the interval a Mr. John Horsman kindly came on stage to ask about the organ’s church like qualities. Accordingly I opened the 2nd half with a short demonstration of these and included an own composition tribute to the recent loss of two significant members of the theatre organ world, Frank Hare (Theatre Organ Club) and Jim Buckland (Worthing Wurlitzer).

Once again the Windsor Compton proved it can deliver a wide range of orchestral and percussive tones that so assist the creation of the all important tonal contrast in light music.   It is a remarkable instrument from a remarkable period in time. It is also my passion that a way forward can be found for refurbishing the entire instrument and promoting its future use.   If you know of anyone interested in volunteering their skills then please keep in touch with the trust.

Here’s to many further happy returns to the Old Windsor Compton for organists and audiences alike.

LR
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Unexpected benefits of Social Media

The Old Windsor Theatre Organ website was set up in early 2017 as a way of improving access to information about this incredible instrument. Use of Facebook started in 2016 with details of forthcoming events posted on local interest groups such as ‘We Love Old Windsor’, ‘Windsor Past and Present’ and ‘Datchet Eye’

Performing organists are invited to write an account of their visit, or memories of playing the organ in Old Windsor, and this forms the basis of the website Blog, enriching the information still further.

Following the concert on 28th January 2018, the following comments were posted on one of those Facebook groups that highlighted a rewarding and unexpected outcome. Having seen one of our posts advertising the concert, a local lady, Cathy Kitson, decided to take take her Dad along who was an ex-organist himself. He has severe Alzheimer’s but he really enjoyed the concert and it sparked conversation between father and daughter. What a wonderful unexpected consequence of using Social Media.

FB posting Organ

David Ivory Concert – 28th Jan 2018

To me a concert at Old Windsor is special. I’ve been playing there, off and on, for so many years.
The organ is, of course, splendid and produces all the sounds you would associate with a vintage Compton cinema organ of the 1930s; it also makes a very passable classical organ sound.
Apart from the organ, another thing that stands out is the friendliness and efficiency of the team that look after it, not only towards the audience but also to the organist.
I was pleased to see the improvement work on the fabric of the hall, you can tell the place is cared for as soon as you walk in.
All in all another enjoyable concert at the Memorial Hall – thanks for asking me.

David Ivory

p.s. I found the following old newspaper cutting that might be of interest

Old Windsor

Michael Wooldridge Concert – 21st May 2017

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,

Michael

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