This month's featured organ is the beautiful white and gold 3/9 Mighty Compton Theatre Pipe Organ that was original to the Sunderland Odeon Theatre. It is now installed at the Ryhope Community Centre at Tyne and Wear
SR2 0RY in Ryhope, Sunderland, England. Being the first Compton instrument to be covered in these pages, it is the fifty-seventh instrument to be featured at Walnut Hill Productions.
All of the photos depicting this majestic machine were supplied by the illustrious Carl Heslop, known in the internet community as comtonorganist on deviantART. You can find the original pictures in his gallery. THe text was taken from various website searches on the intstrument.
In 1975 the late Ray Cook, then manager at the Odeon suggested to one or two people interested in the organ that a society be formed to look after the organ with view to getting it into playing condition again, then free use of the organ would be available to the society members. This was carried out.
The society grew from strength to strength, and members were encouraged to play the organ. Weekly meetings being held every Sunday morning, so that work on the organ could be carried out or just to sit and talk and drink tea or coffee. Monthly members concerts were also arranged by members to entertain anyone interested. Over the years, the Society engaged several well known organists including Reginald Dixon on two occasions, Ron Curtis, Doreen Chadwick, and Rippon Cathedral organist Ron Perrin and his choir.
The 3/9 Mighty Compton at Sunderland.
Original photo by Carl Heslop
Due to the success of these concerts, the Rank Organisatsion became interested and put on some shows themselves with guest organists such as Jess Yates, Folley Bates and Douglas Reeve from the Dome Brighton. Phil Kelsall, player of the Tower Ballroom Blackpool Mighty WurliTzer, gave the final concert at the theatre on the 28th of March, 1982. This date was exactly 50 years to the day when the Odeon first opened.
3/9 Mighty Compton at the Regal/Odeon in Sunderland.
Original photo by Carl Heslop
Arnold Eagle remained based at the Regal (he was also Musical Director for the company) until 1946, and during his stay lessons were arranged for a young man who became assistant organist from 1938 - 1940 before moving on to greater things with ABC, Stanley Wyllie latterly of Ritz Belfast fame. During Eagle's tenure there were a series of 'house' organists to fill in when his other duties called him away from the organ. circuit was absorbed by the Rank organisation in 1959 being renamed Odeon and in 1974 the auditorium was tripled, happily, the organ was retained.
The Compton was little used post war. Eventually the news came through that the theatre was going to close and be turned into a bingo hall. The organ was purchased by the society and was removed some time after closure. In 1976 restoration began by the newly formed 'Sunderland Odeon Organ Society' and by 1980 regular concerts were being presented. This state was short lived however, when the Odeon closed in 1982, the building was stripped of its fixtures and fittings and the organ was sold to the 'Sunderland Theatre Organ Preservation Society' for installation in Ryhope Community Centre.
After a period of negotiation with the Sunderland council, a descision was made to install the organ in the Ryhope Community Centre, located at the junction of Black Road and Ryhope Street. The organ was officially 'switched on' by the Mayor on 28 March 1992, exactly 60 years from the original opening date. Today, concerts performed on the 3/9 Mighty Compton are held on a regular basis, usually about six or seven times a year.