Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Review by Ian King

Issue 355 – September 2017

(CD) John Mann – Theatre Organ Magic
Running Time 67 minutes – Price £9.95

John Mann - Theatre Organ Magic
John Mann – Theatre Organ Magic

If organ CDs are thin on the ground, then theatre organ CDs are like hens teeth nowadays. We haven’t had a new one for over eighteen months (that’s less than the gestation period of an elephant!).

This CD shows John at the console of the Christie organ at Paul Kirner’s Music Palace at Porth in South Wales. You may not know that organ, but if I said it was the same one that was installed at London’s Regal Edmonton Cinema in 1934, it may start to ring a few bells. This Opus 2902 model was sometimes called the “Torch” Christie due to its connection to the legendary Sidney Torch who played and recored at the cinema whilst still in his early twenties (although he left the cinema in 1936). Torch was best known as for his twenty-one years as musical director of the popular BBC Radio Series ‘Friday Night is Music Night.’

The organ stayed in its original Gaumont home for more than fifty years before being removed in 1984 and relocated to The Barry Memorial Hall in South Wales, having its inaugural concert there three years later where it remained until 2010. In 2013 it was removed and sold to Paul Kirner and installed in an old Welsh chapel twenty miles away (now a ‘Palace of Entertainment’ containing old cinema and electronic organs).

Onto the recording and John’s playing is on top form once again (which is pretty impressive as he’s now been in show business for over sixty years) and the organ sounds extremely happy in its new venue. John has played the organ before, in fact he played it in its original location in the 1970s and when it was in Barry.

This recording took two days to complete and the result is excellent with a clear sound across the board. There is a fabulous variety of sounds and styles from the quietness of “Evensong” (which was the first piece John learned to play on church organ when he was a teenager) and “Poor Butterfly” to the power of “The Lost Chord” and the bouncier numbers of “The Messenger Boy,” “March Lorraine” and the “Tritsch Tratsch Polka.” Two that showcase John’s playing ability perfectly are the eight-plus minute nod to Welshman “Ivor Novello” (born about fifteen miles away in Cardiff) and the “No, No, Nannette” medley. There is also a tribute to another Welsh composer, Mai Jones, with her lovely “Rhondda Rhapsody” written in 1951.

If you are a fan of the theatre organ then this is a great recording to add to your collection.

If you are interested in hearing what the organ sounded like in its original location, we still have copies Doreen Chadwick’s “Echoes of Edmonton” CD recorded in 1976.

FULL TRACKS: March Lorraine • I Can’t Give You Anything But Love / Nobody’s Sweetheart Now / If You Knew Susie / Alexander’s Ragtime Band • Rhondda Rhapsody • The Messenger Boy • 60s Medley: Happy Heart / Downtown / There’s a Kind of Hush / I Only Want to Be With You • Ivor Novello Memories: Lorelei / We’ll Gather Lilacs / Keep the Home Fires Burning / Take Your Girl / Love is My Reason / Leap Year Waltz / Someday My Heart Will Awake / Rose of England • Happy Feet / Tap Your Troubles Away • Evensong • El Abanico • Tritsch Tratsch Polka • The Skater’s Waltz • Swingtime Medley: Save Your Kisses for Me / Top of the World / Mister Sandman / Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree • The Lost Chord • No, No, Nannette Selection • Poor Butterfly.

Review by Ian King from Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Magazine.