I am ashamed to say that, despite years on listening in fascination to 'The Organist Entertains', I had been unaware until this week that one of our number, David Lowe, the owner of Swallow, is a very highly respected organist who has featured on the programme many times.
The world of the cinema organ is one that I find thrillingly incomprehensible, having no musical talent or skill at all, and I am awestruck by the complexity of those behemoths - in the building, restoring and maintaining, as well as the playing, of them. The sound, and the kind of music associated with them, transport you into another world as no other kind of music can - not to the same sort of other world, at any rate. A big part of the pleasure of listening to 'The Organist Entertains' (Tuesdays, Radio 2, 9.30 pm - give it a try) is entering into another world of arcana and expertise with its own language and its own gods... It feels like a glimpse into a hidden world, a bit like that of the canals, a land of mystery known only to the elect, but available to those who are prepared to dedicate themselves to learning its ways.
Anyway, this morning, to round off our weekend's festivities, David gave a recital in Droitwich's St Andrew's Church, on what he referred to as its 'reasonably mighty pipe organ' meaning, presumably, not the Tower Ballroom Wurlitzer which I guess qualifies for true mightiness. It was marvellous. I shall get in a right mess if I try to be any more specific, but I did enjoy the opening piece, Paean, by the splendidly named Oliphant Chuckerbutty (I really should have heard of him too shouldn't I), and David, having swapped his overalls for blazer and flannels, fitted the image of the entertaining organist perfectly.
I took the opportunity the other day to consult David about the apocryphal organ that apparently lived, and was played, in Chertsey's hold in the 1960s. I have now heard this from two independent sources, so I asked David whether it was really possible. He thought that it could well have been a harmonium, a small (well, domestic scale) reed organ with foot operated bellows, which would not have required an electrical supply. A quick bit of Wikipedia research suggests that these came in varying degrees of size and complexity, and we being built for the British market into the fifties, when they were supplanted by the Hammond organ and other electrical instruments. They continue to be made for a large Indian market, but have eveloved to reflect the different style of music and are now quite different from what Chertsey may once have had. That's a shame, as it seems also that they are very difficult to maintain and restore, so the chances of replacing Chertsey's are pretty slim. I shall continue to look into this fascinating aspect of the boat's history nonetheless.