Cumbrian Society of Organists

Review : Visit to Stockport : 26 April 2006

Four members of the society, Anne Emmett, Ian Pattinson, Chris Price, Alan White and four guests made their way to Stockport to see the two remarkable theatre organs.

In the morning we visited the town hall, a magnificent building sometimes called the “Wedding Cake”. Here we were met by Don Hyde, chairman of the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust (www.voxlancastria.org). This Wurlitzer organ, originally in a cinema in Stockport, was moved to the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. On its closure, it was returned to Stockport. The ornate console was a joy to behold, especially in this remarkable hall. Whilst the console is by the stage, (and yes, it does come up through the floor), the pipework (all enclosed) is on what was the balcony at the back of the hall. At the top of the staircase there is a small exhibition of organ pipes and the action. On show is an electro-magnet built by F. H. Royce & Co. of Manchester for the Robert Hope-Jones Electric Organ Company. There are two chambers, each with a window so that the audience can see the pipes etc. We were allowed to go inside both chambers where everything was carefully arranged. It was great fun viewing the array of percussion instruments.

We were all given the chance to play the organ and to pretend that we were all “Reginald Dixon”! And what fun it was too. The console was user friendly. The organ had been beautifully restored to its former glory and sounded magnificent. The LTOT are, quite rightly, proud of this instrument. It is used for lunchtime concerts with audiences in excess of three hundred and, of course, tea dances.

In the afternoon we walked the short distance to the 1930s Plaza Cinema with its Compton organ. This was demonstrated by Robert Rowley whom showed the versatility of this instrument by playing suitable music, then going on to the Toccata from Vierne’s 1st. Symphony! This was very different from the Wurlitzer, not so easy at first especially in a drier acoustic. There is a wonderful art-deco console, (which also comes from below), which keeps changing colour! We all had a play though I don’t think that we were used to double touch stop tabs and double touch keys. This again is maintained by a bunch of enthusiasts, led by Brian Chantry.

It was a thoroughly successful day out. We were greeted with enthusiasm by all our hosts who went out of their way to make our visit  totally enjoyable. Nothing was too much trouble for them. Members, you missed a great day out!