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Dallas Brooks Hall, Grand United Lodge of Freemasons, East Melbourne

Please note: The photographs on this page were taken by me in 1975, before George Stephens commenced work on the instrument, and indicate  the state of the organ as he found it

The Freemasons' purchase of the theatre organ was the subject of an inappropriate and gratuitously critical article from one segment of the classical organ world:

[Arnold, Julien, Vox, January/February, 1973, p. 4]

The composition of the organ purchased from Arthur Esgate will described in detail in its appropriate place when I add the New South Wales web pages to this site. Suffice it to say that it comprised twenty-six ranks of pipes, by Aeolian Skinner, Wurlitzer, Christie, Hill, Norman & Beard, Gottfried, Gray & Davison and Compton, controlled from a Compton console which was formerly the stage console (there were two consoles in that theatre) at the Astoria Theatre, Brixton, London.  [Esgate, Arthur, "The Dallas Brooks Hall Theatre Organ", Vox, March, 1973, p. 8]

Brixton Astoria - the console seen is the pit console: it was the stage console that is now at Dallas Brooks Hall

Brixton Astoria was very nearly destroyed in World War 2 - The distinctive entrance dome can be seen in the background of this photograph taken on 22 May, 1941, of the crater caused by a bomb that just missed the theatre

Arthur Esgate himself undertook the job of installing the organ at the hall. In April, 1974, he wrote a detailed progress report, which is here quoted more or less in full:

Arthur Esgate's health unfortunately declined, and he was unable to continue with the installation. Sadly, he died on 25 March, 1976, [Vox, April, 1976, p. 9]and was not able hear the organ at Dallas Brooks Hall. Organ builder George Stephens took over the task of installing the organ in 1975, and was faced with a daunting task. For all of Arthur Esgate's enthusiasm and optimism, the organ as it stood in 1975 was a nightmare. I was in Melbourne at the time George took on the job, and stood in the chambers with him, surveying the motley collection of assorted pipework, with birds' nests of wires trailing everywhere, wondering how it could be made into a concert instrument. Many of the ranks of pipes were unsuitable, or incomplete, or both. Although it might have been successful as a residence organ in the hands of its builder, in a concert hall it represented eclecticism of the worst sort. It was quite frankly a mess of ill-matched pipes and an action system best not described.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was clear that drastic redesign of the instrument was necessary. Organists John Atwell, David Cross and Tony Fenelon drew up a specification which took the best nineteen ranks from it, plus the en chamade Trompette, aimed at achieving a theatre organ which could be used to a certain extent as a classical organ:

Orchestral Trumpet - Aeolian

Tuba - Wurlitzer ????

Diapason - Hill, Norman & Beard

Diapason - Aeolian

Tibia - Compton

Tibia - Aeolian/Christie

Clarinet - Christie

Clarinet (free-reed)  - Aeolian

Kinura - New

Viol d'Orchestre - Christie

Viol Céleste  - Christie

Orchestral Oboe - Aeolian

Strings (2 ranks) - Aeolian

Salicional - Aeolian

Open Flute- Aeolian

Stopped Flute- Aeolian

Vox Humana - Christie

Vox Humana - Aeolian

Trompette en chamade [Atwell, John, "Melbourne's Newest Theatre Organ - The Dallas Brooks Hall Organ", Vox, August, 1978, p. 6]

Mechanical relay switches were dispensed with, an electronic switching system taking their place. The huge Pitman chests, on which much of the pipework stood, were completely reconstructed.

Completion of the organ was divided into two stages. The first stage, which provided an instrument of three manuals and thirteen ranks of pipes, was completed in 1978. [Vox, June, 1978, p. 4]

John Atwell reviewed the organ at this stage:

Hopes of an early completion of the instrument proved in vain, for, as John Atwell wrote to me at Christmas, 1978:

The organ, although still incomplete, was heard at the TOSA 1979 Easter Convention, when it was played by John Atwell and David Johnston. Adelaide visitor Baden Pike commented:

Unfortunately, the organ has never been completed. Rumours have recently been prevalent that the future of Dallas Brooks Hall isuncertain; however, no concrete news has yet been forthcoming (2001).  I shall update this page as and when more news arrives.

 

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