Equipment & Technical – Compton Organ
An important part of our facilities at the Colosseum, the Compton Organ is a very fine instrument with an impressive pedigree and a comprehensive choice of stops. Suitable for Classical, Orchestral and Theatre works, it was completely overhauled and restored to its former glory during the summer of 2007.
A powerful instrument with a large range, the organ has some excellent sounds represented. Its console features three manuals, with ivory keys, connected to 16 sets of pipes (or ranks). The largest pipes are 16 feet long; these can be stop-combined to give a maximum length of 32 feet, to produce stunning results in the Colosseum’s spacious acoustic.
As befits an instrument of this kind, the Compton contains real percussion instruments that are playable from the keyboards and pedals. Its tuned percussions feature Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone and Tubular Chimes, with the un-tuned percussions including cymbals, drums, tambourine and castanets, together with special silent-movie effects.
The Compton’s History
Installed in 1960, the Colosseum’s organ is a particularly fine example of the output of the John Compton Organ Company – one of the most prolific and celebrated British organ builders of the 20th Century. The company had the reputation of being one of the most advanced organ builders in the UK, especially during the early part of the last century, and patented many innovations that later became common practice in the industry. Among the company’s most famous achievements are the instruments for Downside Abbey (1931), St Luke’s Chelsea (1932), and St Bride’s Fleet Street (1958), as well as for the Odeon in Leicester Square (1937). In addition, the firm had the distinction of building all the BBC’s broadcasting instruments, including the concert organs at Broadcasting House and Maida Vale Studios, which still survive intact. The company went into liquidation in 1971, evolving into Compton-Makin, and now known simply as Makin Organs Ltd.
The core of the Colosseum’s organ was taken from the 1934 instrument built for the Gaumont Chelsea, in London. This was removed from the theatre in 1960 and re-designed for the Colosseum as a dual-purpose, classical and theatrical instrument. As part of this work, Compton changed the stop list and layout, and added three new sets of pipes. One of these, the Posaune – a French-style trumpet on high wind-pressure – was built especially for the new location. A second Diapason pipe rank, quieter than the original, was added to increase the instrument’s flexibility in playing classical organ music. A Vox Humana rank was also incorporated, contributing further to the organ’s capabilities. The net result is a very versatile and well-balanced instrument, which has been newly restored to the highest standards.