Southampton Guildhall Compton - Preview Day

The Auditorium
The Guildhall Interior
Photo: © Webbwize

It was with pleasure that I attended a preview of the re-opening of the Compton organ at Southampton Guildhall. Unfortunately, I can't say that I'm too fond of the interior of the building, as with its rather plain decoration/painted walls it rather resembles the interior of a prison! However, the Compton organ and its two consoles are a much different story, now being in better condition than they've been for many a long year and Peter Hammond and his team are to be congratulated on getting this far in a relatively short time period.

Peter Hammond with Listing certificate
Peter Hammond with Listing certificate
Photo: © Webbwize
It is also good news that the Compton organ (circa 1936) has been awarded Grade 1 Listing, ensuring that it will be saved from the wrecker's ball for many a year in the future. Peter can be seen here proudly holding the certificate and a celebratory drink.
Richard Hills
Richard Hills at the Theatre Console
Photo: © Webbwize
We were very lucky that day because Richard Hills, one of the UK's finest artistes, came down specially to demonstrate the organ and to entertain us. Richard showed us what the organ can now do, a much needed improvement over the situation, before Peter's team started working on it. As Peter said, the organ is now 99.8% functional. That's probably better than many other installations with far less than the 3500 pipes in the Guildhall Compton!
Richard Hills
Richard Hills at the Classical Console
Photo: © Webbwize
Richard Hills is probably the UK's finest example of an organist who is equally happy at the Classical or Theatre console. This was ably proved by Richard moving on to the Classical console where he very ably demonstrated its use and some of the more 'straight' sounds of the organ. Richard was Classically trained at Westminster and is able to play music normally reserved for only the most competent of artistes.
Melotone speaker
Melotone Loudspeaker
Photo: © Webbwize
Pictured here is a double voice-coil Compton Melotone loudspeaker. The next two photos show a Melotone speaker in situ and the electrostatic Melotone unit that's used to generate the Melotone voices. A system unique to Compton organs and used to great effect on many of their Theatre Organs.
Melotone speaker behind grille
Melotone speaker behind grille
Photo: © Webbwize
Melotone unit
Melotone Unit
Photo: © Webbwize
Careful observation will reveal the flared end of the Melotone speaker, just behind the grille.
Richard Hills
Richard Hills at the Theatre Console
Photo: © Webbwize
Richard Hills continued to play the Compton from the theatre console for the remainder of the preview, with a lively repertoire of old and new and whilst all of this was going on a cameraman from Meridian Television was taking clips for inclusion in their news and current affairs programmes. This didn't appear to faze Richard at all, and he didn't even object when I climbed on the dias and poked my camera in his face and took flash photos. The look on Richard's face (left) is one of concentration, not disgust at the camera!

Some of us managed anough energy to climb the cast spiral steps up to the chambers and blower area, towards the close of the session. There now follows a series of photos which need no written explanation and were the culmination of a very pleaseant and entertaining afternoon.

Discus blower
Discus blower
Photo: © Webbwize
Discus blower
Discus blower with humidity control!
Photo: © Webbwize
Chamber view
Chamber view
Photo: © Webbwize
Chamber view
Chamber view
Photo: © Webbwize
Chamber view
Chamber view
Photo: © Webbwize
Chamber view
Chamber view
Photo: © Webbwize
Chamber view
Chamber view
Photo: © Webbwize
Distribution boards
Peter Hammond with distribution boards
Photo: © Webbwize
Thanks go to Peter Hammond and Team for organising the event and providing us with sustenance, to John Leeming for 'seeing us all in', and especially to Richard Hills who ably demonstrated the Southampton Guildhall Compton, prior to a forthcoming Gala Concert.
No Crowd Surfing
No Crowd Surfing!
Photo: © Webbwize
And finally for anyone thinking about indulging in Crowd Surfing, don't even consider it! Presumably concert-goers who indulge in Bar Diving will also be ejected?