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Reginald Foort

"Cinema Organ Herald" June-July 1933, Vol 3, p.p. 115-116

IT is always refreshing to hear comments on one's job from a disinterested critic, especially when they com/e from one in authority. Jesse Crawford paid English organists the great compliment of saying that he was amazed at the amount of trouble we take over working out and presenting our interludes compared with the number of times they are performed. He also said he thought it was a great mistake for organists over here to stick in the same job month after month, year after year. Of course I can hear the cry go up around me : " Many of us would be very glad if we were allowed to . . . ! " but seriously, I am referring in particular to the employees of big circuits, who remain religiously faithful to their original theatre for years, when instead, without impairing their loyalty to their employers, they could be transferred occasionally to other shows under the same control, so that other audiences could have the benefit of their experience and style. Of course, the idea of exchanging organists temporarily could be carried further still, if proper arrangements were made between the musical supervisors of the big firms.

The Regular Patron

When Mr. Jesse Crawford voiced this opinion to me he was putting into words an idea that I personally have had for years, but I have never developed it because the present organisation hardly seems to me to make the idea practicable. But it is nevertheless a good one. No matter how hard an organist may work in devising new ideas for interludes, no matter how well he puts them over, audiences of the suburban or provincial type (that is to say, every audience except those of a few West-End houses) are bound to get used to his musical idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. The audience gets to know every characteristic rhythm, almost every combination of stops he uses.

Mrs. Brown gets into the habit of going to the " Regestic " every Tuesday about five o'clock, whereas Mrs. Jones invariably patronises the opposition house and rolls up there every Thursday for the last show. When a theatre has an army of regular patrons there can be hardly any new trick or idea which the organist can think of to entertain Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jones that they have not heard him put over before. It would make a pleasant change if after a while a popular organist could be transferred to another theatre so that his style could be appreciated by a different audience and then welcomed anew by his original one on his return.

A Secret of Success

To be a successful entertainer you must, of course, give your audience what it wants, but in a manner that has some element of novelty: an unexpected twist or spectacular .climax. Every organist aims at having a recognised style of his own that has some special attractive quality, but just as it is an axiom in the theatre to leave people wanting more rather than thoroughly satisfied, it is also obviously true that, when you are entertaining every week an audience comprised mostly of regular patrons, to give them a change now and again will have the effect of making you even more welcome on your return. They will have been refreshed by the different style of your colleague, and the result will be that your own methods, instead of being in danger of beginning to pall, will take on a new lease of life. The effect would probably be summed up by your average patron something like this : " Well, it was nice to hear the new organist for a change, and he put up a good show, but it's good to have our own man back again; he's certainly got a style of his own."

The Organist's View

From the organist's standpoint the idea has both advantages and disadvantages. Obviously many players would welcome the opportunity of giving to a new audience their pet selections and working anew the novelty interludes over which they have spent much time and thought. At the same time it would be interesting to work on a new job occasionally, and compare tonal qualities and possibilities generally. If the change-over of players was not going to be a long one, arrangements could be made between organists (who are, on the whole, a most friendly set of fellows) not to make any drastic changes to the instrument that would hamper the other on his return ; tremulants are, of course, a matter of taste, and if one man was particularly pleased with his and did not want them altered, he would be quite prepared in return to leave alone the tremulants of his colleague. If ever the idea is developed, I feel sure that organists generally will help to make the scheme as easy-working as possible.

A Matter of Opinion

Of course, the question of accommodation in strange towns is a difficult one to a man who has a wife and family. Our unattached youngsters would welcome the opportunity of seeing fresh woods and pastures new, but to many a married man the prospect of being moved en bloc to another town for a matter of a few weeks or months would not appeal. I am afraid our cinema directors would have to use a great deal of discretion in the development of the interchange idea, but carefully done, it would give to the organ a great fillip. One naturally presumes our cinema owners are hard-headed men of business, and the fact that they are installing costly organs all over the country proves that they realise its value as a medium of entertainment, and therefore it behoves them to bear in mind every idea which will aid the organist to pull his full weight and sustain the interest of his audience. Maybe the idea of interchanging organists will one day be an accomplished fact; maybe it will remain just an idea; I am convinced, however, that the scheme is well worth serious consideration.

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