“This wonder of a bygone age is little known to the people of Weston but is known to enthusiasts around the world”

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Compton Organ, Odeon Cinema, Weston-super-Mare

Nominated by music4u on 29 July 2010

The Compton Organ at the top of its lift

The very distinctive grand exterior

Phil Kelsall, Organist of the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool at the Odeon Compton. 7th March 2010

World renowned organist Arnold Loxam shown here on his last concert at the Odeon, Weston-super-Mare, at the grand age of 87 years. 18th April 2004

music4u nominated Compton Organ, Odeon Cinema, Weston-super-Mare and wrote:

The Compton Organ is the only one left outside of London in its original installation and still playing in a British commercially operating cinema.

Some have been moved into private homes or bingo halls, but this one is original and still playing to the public at concerts run by the West of England Theatre Organ Society (www.wetos.co.uk). Both the cinema and the organ are Grade 11 listed and photos can be found at www.wetos.co.uk/links. Built in 1935 all the parts are working thanks to a small band of volunteers, and the very famous and rare mechanically bowed Cello can be heard on special occasions.

This wonder of a bygone age is little known to the people of Weston, but is known to enthusiasts around the world, and was recently featured by the American Theatre Organ Society in its obituary for the renowned organist Arnold Loxam. It was also featured in a BBC Radio Bristol broadcast last week when a short recording was played.

Location

Odeon Cinema, The Centre, Weston-super-Mare BS23 1UR

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5 Comments

WestonCompton said on Fri 02 July, 14:59h:

One of the most beautiful sounding theatre organs I have heard.

Diaphonicdiapason said on Sat 10 July, 01:44h:

Music4u is correct. This instrument is an asset to WSM and is unknown by most of it's residents. Most people think of organs as just providing music for church, but this one can play almost anything! Anyone who came along to one of the Sunday afternoon concerts would realise this as the programme is very varied, there is always some classical music, but also songs from the shows, pop tunes of yesterday, and novelty numbers showing off the different sound effects this organ has. If you want an afternoon of LIVE easy listening entertainment I can highly recommend it!

hjelbert said on Fri 06 August, 07:29h:

Loose yourself in an audio visual treat in the dark. What could be better?

Robbo said on Sat 04 September, 05:09h:

Weston is very privileged to be able to boast ownership of Compton Organ in the Odeon Cinema. This ownership should be preserved for years to come, as it is one of The Wonders of English Heritage. The Compton built by John Compton Organ Company possesses state of the art technology and engineering and therefore, be cherished. The Compton is played today by professional Organist’s for Concerts. I personally recall it at Children’s Saturday morning Pictures rising from the floor with its coloured lights changing and filling the Cinema with music! It was a sight not to be forgotten.

S_Dutfield said on Wed 08 September, 08:00h:

Despite the cinema organ making an enormous contribution to the popular music scene in this country from the mid-1920s until the late 1950s - not only in live performances in cinemas, but also through broadcasts and recordings - there were less than a dozen such instruments installed in total in cinemas across the whole of the West of England from Bristol to Lands End. These organs aren't electronic, they make music by blowing air through real organ pipes, in the case of the Odeon these being concealed above the stage. Whilst many others have been preserved in public buildings or privately, there are now only two original cinema organ installation in commercially operating cinemas in the whole of the UK. One, as might be expected, is in the heart of London's West End. The other is at the Odeon, Weston-super-Mare! This organ was regularly broadcast nationally by the BBC from its opening in 1935, and over the past 30 years has been featured in concert in the hands of some of the world's organists. The organ is kept in fine condition by the volunteers of the West of England Theatre Organ Society, and is enjoyed and appreciated not only by the visiting organists but by the audiences of enthusiasts and music-lovers who attend these event. However, despite having been in the town for 75 years, and events regularly being announced in the local press and on local radio, it is amazing how many people from Weston and surrounding area do not know that the organ exists. It is a real historical, musical and visual gem, and certainly deserves the status of the Seventh Wonder of Weston!

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