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Archives and Gallery

Here you will find past items from our website, which now become part of our history.
From time to time we will remove some of what appears on our home page in order to make room for news updates and the like.

We held a most successful fundraising day on Saturday 7th June 2008, which I was glad to be able to support by performing a series of well attended concerts on the organ during the day

The organ was in a wonderful frame of mind for the concerts. It was almost as though the beast had been awoken from slumber by being called on to fulfill its original function. Perhaps part of the problem is its lack of being played in theatre style regularly? Who knows? I have only received positive feedback so far with no criticisms, which is encouraging and is also good for my aging ego!

Many members of theatre organ clubs and groups were most helpful with coverage. We really appreciate that, and thank everyone concerned.

Representatives from Reading, Rye and Christchurch came along, so I hope there will be some positive feedback from them which will permeate throughout the organ world. My performance is not the issue: it is the organ itself which is what we am trying to promote.

On Sunday 13th July 2008 Pippa Quelch from BBC Radio Devon broadcast an interview with the Church Secretary and myself, plus of course the organ!
For anyone who missed the programme, a recording of the interview can be downloaded and saved by right-clicking HERE, and then selecting Save target as...... It's a simple as that!

To bring you all up to date on the technical side of things:
Over the summer months the tremulant for the Vox Humana rank of pipes was taken away to be rebuilt and repaired. Mike successfully acquired a Chrysoglott and set of Cathedral Chimes from the USA. These items were eventually delivered direct to the Church courtesy of UPS in October. We are pleased to report that both items are in pristine condition.
Unloading and uncrating the items proved to be a rather onerous task. The van driver helped to manhandle the three lots into the church hall, without the aid of a trolley. The rest was done by
Mike, who ended up with a fixed penalty notice for
overstaying his time in the Council's car park! Fortunately the CEO of East Devon District Council waived the penalty after Mike wrote a letter to him.

Also in October, a Mr Don Bray of Seaford in East Sussex kindly donated a box of various percussion items. Glen went and collected these bits from Don's home. There are a mixture of Wurlitzer and Compton parts including a cymbal, triangle, sleigh bells, castanets and woodblock. However we now need the mechanisms to make these items work!

Jeremy Collar, who is both a member of FOB and also a most generous benefactor, recently acquired and donated a Compton organ Xylophone unit, which is believed by many to be vastly superior to those produced by the Wurlitzer factory. This unit may need some re-leathering work, although until we can inspect it we don't know for sure.
Glen and Mike collected it from Nick Pitts at "Burtey Fen" near Spalding on Wednesday 19th November, and also had an enjoyable time playing                                                    the Wurlitzer and Compton organs as well as inspecting the organ chambers.
Glen and Mike duly delivered the unit to Brian's home the following day, much to his suprise! It will be easier for Brian to check it and carry out any repairs there, rather than having to drive down to Beer to work on it.

At the beginning of October members of the team spent several days in the organ chamber carrying out basic repairs. Mike got stuck in to sort out the action of the shutter movement, as it would appear the shutters have never fully opened, whilst Glen attended to some of the many air leaks. Brian joined us for a while and cleaned up all the magnets on the main chest (the big wooden box that the pipes fit into).

During our few days at the church we also threw the doors open and filled Fore Street with the sounds of the Wurlitzer. Since the action of the shutters has been maximised, it is now possible to hear the instrument across the road from the Church! Several people came in to see what it was all about and we raised a total of 93 for the Wurlitzer Restoration Fund. We also held another Wurlitzer Open Day on Saturday 8th November, although this did not attract as many visitors as the previous one as it was outside the normal holiday season. It is also hoped that the Wurlitzer will be playing for Beer's Late Night Shopping in December.

More recently members of the Team have carried on with basic maintenance, with Brian testing all the magnetic contacts. As a result of this exercise we now need to purchase around twelve new ones to replace those found to be not working.
A source has now been found so it is just a matter of negotiating a deal!

Brian, in the meantime, has now fully examined the Compton xylophone unit and has decided that all the motors should be re-leathered.
We will all be required to help with this part plus husbands, wives - and even neighbours - as it is a very fiddly job!
More about this will no doubt appear later.
The blower room has been cleaned and re-painted by Glen, to reduce the amount of dust and debris being pumped into the workings of the organ; whilst Mike has turned his attentions towards installing meshed inlet vents to the blower room, constructing a sealed loft hatch into the upstairs organ chamber and scrounging an oil filled electric radiator (both to ensure a constant temperature within the "chamber of horrors")!
After Glen finished working on the room he decided to turn his attentions to the blower itself. Being an original (and rare) "Spencer" blower, the housing was naturally showing signs of its age with the appearance of rust and flaking paint!
After much work with a wire brush, sandpaper and a couple of coats of decent paint, the blower case took on a whole new look.
The existing fabric air filter, which covers the intake side of the blower, was well rotted and starting to fall to pieces.
It was replaced with a new piece of muslin which should also help to reduce the amount of air-born debris being blown into the organ workings - not to mention bits of fabric as well!
The original motor plate was also showing signs of its age so, with a liberal application of a mixture of "Brasso" and "elbow grease", it was soon revived to almost pristine condition.
The rest of the team are still trying to revive Glen though!

Probably one of the most important developments in the restoration process was our ability early in 2009 to secure some input from Dorian Collins. This was entirely due to the efforts of our then Technical Advisor Brian Eady, who first made contact with Dorian after many abortive attempts with others had failed. For this I personally will be eternally grateful.
Dorian, who has already spent many years re-creating a miniature Blackpool Tower - complete with its own Wurlitzer - at his home in Worcester is passionately devoted to the future well being of theatre organs in general, agreed to assist us with our restoration programme at Beer, albeit for only a short period.
Dorian and his pal Damon Willets, a professional organist in his own right, made a visit to Beer on 24th February in order to assess exactly what needs to be done in order to bring our instrument back to its original splendour.
This is something I have been striving for since we first established Friends of BeerWurly almost a year ago. I think it is fair to say that Dorian and Damon probably achieved more during that seven hour visit than anyone else has managed to achieve since the the organ first arrived fifty years ago!
The photo to the left shows Dorian in the organ chamber during the first part of a lengthy full tuning process, while the photo to the right shows Damon seated at the console playing each note until everything was perfectly in tune.
While all this was going on Glen and Brian were busily keeping a record of everything which was being done, as well as all the recommendations and observations being made by Dorian and Damon. As a result we now know exactly what needs to be done and, more importantly, in what order.
The photo to the right was taken at around 7.30pm after a long and productive day and shows from left to right: Brian, Dorian, Glen, Damon and myself. No wonder we all look worn out!

On Thursday 5th March 2009 Glen and I decided to visit Walsall, as Glen wanted to spend some time trawling through all the old archives in the Walsall Local History Centre to see if there was any useful information on our Wurlitzer and the "Picture House" its original home.
After what seemed an eternity, Glen finally re-emerged triumphantly clutching a wad of photocopies in his hands! He had been fortunate in finding many old newspaper articles and advertisements concerning our organ's debut at the cinema in 1925.
After he had spent a similar amout of time checking out more material in the town library, we eventually wandered down to the Bridge area of Walsall to see where the cinema originally was.
While the area in general seemed to have changed little since the days of the "Picture House" cinema, we were still saddened to find a Tesco Metro store in the place where it used to stand even though we both already knew the cinema had been gutted by a fire in 1971.
The black and white photo to the right shows a similar view but was taken in 1948, and was copied from some of the archives Glen looked at during our visit. In case any younger visitors are confused by the "objects in the sky", these are in fact electric tram wires used to power the tram network which was common in most large towns and cities at the time the photo was taken.
The other three photos are some of the ones I took while we were there, although two of them would have definitely looked a lot better had there still been a cinema in them somewhere!
Our trip to Walsall provided a pleasant "away day" in general, and was particularly rewarding given the amount of time we had spent working on the organ itself. Even so, it still seemed more of a pilgrimage rather than just a day out!

It was towards the end of February 2009 that I realised we were starting to stray slightly "off course" from our original mission statement which was adopted when we first started out in August 2008.
Our principal aim is simply to "restore the organ to its former glory" rather than to assume overall responsibility for the regular maintenance of it, as none of us are suitably qualified in that area!
I therefore felt obliged to get us back on track because, for a while, we seemed to be concentrating more on the maintainance and tuning side rather than the actual restoration of the instrument to its original specifications which is what we originally set out to do.

Following some discussion Brian decided to leave us to concentrate on his own projects. This means that Glen and myself will complete all future restoration tasks between us with outside advice being sourced as necessary. Routine general maintenance matters such as tuning etc will now be undertaken by a professional organ builder as necessary.
We have been lucky to secure the services of Andrew Fearn, a board member of the Institute of British Organ Building.
Andrew lives fairly close to Beer and also has previous experience of theatre organs, in addition to which he is passionately keen on their preservation. He has agreed to provide a general maintenance/tuning service on a paid basis as required, subject to his other comittments.

I had earlier come up with a plan to create a secondary organ chamber in which to house all the larger percussion items which were removed before the organ arrived at Beer in 1958. Although these various parts were not deemed necessary for church use, they are now essential if the instrument is to revert to its original specifications.
We already knew from the outset that there is insufficient space within the existing organ chamber to install anything large, so have explored various options all of which we have found unsuitable.
Following some discussion with the church Deacons it was agreed that I would construct a secondary organ chamber directly underneath the main one, utilising part of the area adjacent to the toilets at the rear of the church. By removing part of the ceiling below as well as some of the flooring above in the main chamber, sound from below should rise through the resulting aperture to the main chamber which is a mere eight inches above. That's the theory anyway!
The sliding door between the adjacent room was moved from one side to the other an also reversed to open on the other side of the partition wall. That then allowed to old doorway to be blocked up so that the secondary chamber could be sited as shown.
A studwork enclosure was then erected using MDF board in preference to plasterboard, so as to allow removal of wall panels as required for access. As space is at a premium it was decided not to include an access door/hatch. The other considerations were unrestricted access to the toilets, particularly for wheelchair users as well as adequate means of escape in case of fire!
These photos show the construction and finish of Doctor Who's new "tardis" which will hopefully transport us, the Wurlitzer and everyone else back to those halcyon days of 1925! All that is needed now is some paint and the rest of the percussions.

Another area we have been looking at is the air supply to the blower room. When Dorian carried out his first check he found the air intake to be insufficient to meet the demands of the blower mechanism, which means the organ was not receiving the volume of air it needs to work properly.
We then created larger air inlets into the blower room by modifying what we had already created, as well as cutting a two-foot-square hole in the ceiling to allow more air to enter from the roof space.
It was at that point we discovered hidden air vents in an external wall which were allowing cold air to be sucked into the organ workings. These have now been modified with adjustable vents which can be closed during the winter, as the variations in air temperature will adversely effect the tuning.

Following the departure of Brian from the TEAM Glen and I, having decided to carry out all further restoration work on our own, now find there are not enough hours in the day!
As well as putting in three days working together each week at Beer, we also take work away for construction and restoration off-site so that when we meet up again at Beer everything hopefully slots together. That's the theory anyway!
In practice this arrangement tends to get things done in the correct order, as Glen and I work well as a pair because we always prepare a plan in advance so we both know exactly where we are heading.

I had earlier constructed a display board at home which will be placed outside the church regularly to advertise the presence of the Wurlitzer there, and also to advertise forthcoming concerts. This photo shows its first "test" during the run-up to Janet Dowsett's concert in March 2009.
The general idea it that the board will be placed across the stream, which runs past the front of the church, each morning when the church is unlocked and then put back inside when the church is locked at the end of the day. Apparently if it is left out overnight it will likely be thrown over the edge of the cliff above!

While I was finishing off the construction of the new secondary percussion chamber, which entailed creating an opening between it and the main chamber above, Glen was slaving over a hot soldering iron in the church hall connecting a wiring loom to the cathedral chimes unit we bought from USA last October. We both took turns with the painting though!
The photos above show to the right the opening from below taken from a partly painted secondary chamber, while the one to the left taken upstairs shows the secondary chamber through the hole in the floor upstairs.

The photos here show (arguably) my best features while painting to the left, while to the right a smiling Glen poses proudly for the camera having just finished soldering 49 wires to the cathedral chimes.
I have deliberately left out the photos I took of the untangling ceremony which unfortunately had to take place after 10 metres of newly purchased 50-core cable suddenly transformed itself into yet another pile of spaghetti like we already have upstairs in the original wiring loom!
Although I feel fairly confident that (after testing) the opening I have created between the upper and lower chambers, which is restricted by the base-board of the organ's wind chests etc, will be sufficient to allow percussion sounds to mix freely with pipe voices; I have made contingency arrangements by opening up the false wall beneath the raised staging behind the console.
By simply "flapping-back" a single length of flooring-grade chipboard, percussion voices will have an additional exit from directly behind the organ console. Let's just hope it all works!

After I had done my bit with the paint pot and Glen had finished wiring the chimes, we moved them into position inside the new percussion chamber. The photo to the right shows Glen adjusting the new wiring so that it can be connected to a new connections board, slightly out of sight here. The chrysoglott, purchased with the chimes, can be seen in position to the right directly behind Glen in front of the secondary sound exit in the false wall.

In between all our other duties Glen and I paid a visit to a lifelong musical "sparring partner" of mine, Geoff Packer a former BT engineer. Geoff and I have followed a parallel musical course, albeit in different directions, since the early 1960's.
After Geoff was made redundant from BT he decided to pursue a fresh challenge which saw him gradually become a master of wrought ironwork, metalwork as a blacksmith!
I have for a long time wanted to devise a method of spotlighting our concert artistes during performances, and also being able to display a projected image of their fingerwork on the pull-down screen which is already present on the far wall of the church to the right of the organ console.
With Geoff's kind unpaid help and advice, as well as several arguments, we now have a portable overhead halogen lighting unit, plus a mini video camera (which I obtained at a bargain price on Ebay). This can now be quickly slotted into position using fixtures attached adjacent to the console, and then removed after the concerts.
The photo to the left shows Geoff in the forge, making the unit from steel tube, while the photo to the right shows the finished product in position. The lead from the video camera terminates at a female ended socket on the pole. A lead concealed under the raised staging simply plugs in to the camera at one end and the projector at the other, thus eliminating the risk of people tripping over wires draped across it!
Anyone wanting anything of this nature, or anything made of wrought iron etc, will find Geoff very friendly and obliging and usually able to supply items to individual specifications. He can normally be contacted easily on 01823 412999 (Taunton area).


Left: An audience waits patiently.

Right: Cyn does the introductions.

Left: A welcome to Jean Martyn.

Right: And the next piece is called................

Left: Chris Powell!!

Right:Chris introduces..........

Left: Elizabeth Harrison.

Right: Ian Griffin and Richard Bower.

Left: Introducing Matthew Bason.

Right: The audience seems to be enjoying it.

Left: An encore from Matthew.

Right: Can I go home now?

Left: Just one more please?

Right: Our own Trevor Bolshaw.

Left: Can I go home now too?

Right: Well-earned applause.

Left: Decorated for Christmas late-night shopping.

Right: Played by Glen.

Left: Richard Monks brought his own Roland.

Right: Can I have a go on the Wurlitzer please?

Left: He seems to like it.

Right: The audience certainly did!


Left: Janet Dowsett kicked off the 2009 season with her March concert.
Right: A small(ish) audience enjoyed the concert on this chilly day in Beer!

Left: Matthew Bason makes a welcome return in April, with electric piano this time as well.
Right: Audience applause demands an encore, so Matthew gladly obliges!

This month's Organ Showcase proved to be a poignant event for one person in particular. Pat Spencer with husband Bob were two special guests we were glad to welcome.
Pat who lives nearby is the daughter of Wilfred Gregory, an early resident organist at the Picture House Walsall when our organ was originally installed there: although he later moved to the Compton organ at the Tower Cinema West Bromwich. Please see the full feature on our home page.
This was the first time Pat had heard the Wurlitzer played in "theatre mode" since those days way back in the 1930's!
Pat was clearly moved when posing for the photo below, seated at "her father's organ"!
Left: Blurred section from audience photo shows Pat Spencer with husband Bob enjoying Matthew's show.
Right: Pat poses proudly with our "baby".

Left: Chris Powell made a welcome return for our May Organ Showcase
Right: The large audience clearly want more!

Left: Chris plays 12th Street Rag as an encore.
Right: Unfortunately we ran out of time otherwise Chris would have been playing encores all night!

Left: Richard Monks guests for the June Showcase with our new screen.
Right: Richard was the test pilot for the new percussions too. They sound OK to him!

Left: David Redfern gave a brilliant "percussion" performance at our July Showcase.
Right: The audience is about to give a him standing ovation!

Left: Matthew Bason did an unusual One-Man music show for our August Showcase.
Right: He received a "standing" ovation for a different reason!

Left: We "Conga'd" the lot of them around the back at the end to see the percussions actually working.
Right: "Are you the last one back? I want to go home!"

Left: Carlo Curley gave two brilliant performances in one evening, on two different organs!
Right: The audience naturally want more so Carlo obliged.

Left: Trevor Bolshaw closed our Fundraising Week in style!
Right: Our friends in the audience always love his playing, and always want more. Trevor always agrees.

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