2004 release of recordings made in 1980, 1981 and 1983 at the Marshall Sykes organ in the Cecil Theatre, Hull. Released on the Audicord label. Originally released on cassette in 1993.
Running time: 52.44.
Code: ACD 225.
The Lady is a Tramp
George Gershwin Medley: I Got Rhythm / Love Walked In / An American in Paris / Somebody Loves Me / Someone to Watch Over Me / Fascinatin’ Rhythm
This is My Lovely Day / Hello Young Lovers / We’ll Gather Lilacs / If I Loved You / Get Me to the Church on Time / Alice Blue Gown / Wouldn’t It Be Loverly
South Rampart Street Parade
Cole Porter Medley: Don’t Fence Me In / True Love / My Heart Belongs to Daddy / It’s All Right With Me
The Birth of the Blues / Everybody Loves Somebody / Poor Butterfly / You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You / Cherokee / Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia / Dream a Little Dream of Me
SLEEVE NOTES (REVISED IN 2004):
The Cecil Theatre, Hull, housed a truly unique theatre organ, being built and installed as recently as 1955, and the only such Instrument made by Marshall Sykes of Leeds, a few of its 15 ranks of pipes having been rescued from the Fitton and Haley organ in the city’s Carlton cinema. In 1972 the Cecil was converted into a bingo and multi-cinema complex and local concern for the organ resulted in the formation of the Humberside Theatre Organ Preservation Society. In the conversion the chamber grllles were covered over, so preventing any sound getting out.The then Cecil owner donated the organ to the Society, in the hope that a new home for it could be found. Unfortnately none could but in 1975 the Society was given permission to install soundproof shutters that could be opened up for concert use, and they then commenced presenting regular Sunday concerts.
Armsbee Bancroft was a native of Burton on Trent. His interest in the theatre organ began when he was a teenager, with particular appreciation of the contrasting styles of Horace Finch (with whom he became a life-long friend) and Vic Hammett (the final track of the CD being played in tribute to him). He was very well known in the Midlands and was influential in getting the Wurlitzer installed In Burton Town Hall. Then Robin Richmond presented him on “The Organist Entertains” and he was very soon in demand for concert work all over the country.
He first played the Cecil organ in concert for the Humberside T.O.P.S on 26th March 1978. It was most certainly a time of mutual appreciation, as at the end of the concert the Society’s secretary said to Amsbee “Your kind of music is our kind of music”, and Amsbee remarked that he wished someone would buy the organ for him and install it in his home, such was his liking for the sound of the instrument. He was appointed Honarary Patron of the Society, and gave many more concerts there before his untimely passing in January 1989. He was featured playing this organ on “The Organist Entertains” in 1981 but no permanent record was ever made available. The producer therefore hopes that this will continue to be accepted as a fitting tribute to a much missed and greatly respected true gentleman of the theatre organ world and that for its duration you can “dream a little dream” that you are there in the Cecil and enjoying his music once again as the entire contents of this CD were recorded during his concerts in 1980, 1981 and 1983.
The years In between this album’s first release on cassette and its appearance on CD were difficult ones for the Humberside Society. When the new Cecil owners, Mecca, decided to use the theatre for Bingo on Sunday afternoons, the Society was obliged to hold its concerts on Sunday mornings, not a convenient time for the majority of members and visitors and support declined as a result. In 1995, by way of attempting to improve the situation, the Society started to hold its concerts at an alternative venue on Sunday afternoons and using an electronic organ, and removed the organ from the theatre and started seeking a new home for it in the Hull area, so that its sounds could be heard by a wider audience once again.
After five years of unsuccessful efforts, support had declined to such a low level that the society felt compelled to discontinue its concerts altogether, and although it persevered in its quest for a further couple of years, it finally had to concede that it has no alternative but to close down.
But it wasn’t as simple as that. Being a registered charity, the law stated that it had to first either sell the organ, or donate it to another charity with an interest in its preservation. For a considerable time no buyer or other charity expressed any interest and so the only remaining option seemed that it would have to be scrapped. Even Amsbee would have been deeply saddened by that situation.
It has to be said that only being allowed to speak through very small grilles, the organ could never have sounded at its best in its latter years at the Cecil. It no doubt sounded magnificent when it was first installed and could have done so again, as at one point in time arrangements were in hand for it to go into the large concert hall at Bridlington Spa, until the Council decided they were not after all prepared to finance the work.
Fortunately in 2002, a last-minute rescue made by the Scottish Theatre Organ Preservation Society and aided by a grant from the Scottish Heritage Lottery Fund, saved the demise of this unique instrument.
One must hope that it will in due course be recorded again in its new home at Greenlaw Town Hall, Yorkshire’s loss being Scotland‘s gain.
The Producer acknowledged the Committee of the Humberside T.O.P.S. and Armsbee for permitting the original recordings to be made and offered most sincere thanks to the now also late Mrs. Joan Bancroft for agreeing to the material being released.
Production, recording and photograph by John Greenwood.