Ritz Cinema - Compton Organ

Compton logo
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In keeping with the policy of ABC, Compton Organs were installed in many of their cinemas. Compton was all British made by the John Compton Organ Co Ltd of London. The Ritz had a 3-manual 6-rank pipe organ plus Melotone - no Great 2nd touch.


The console was positioned in the orchestra pit towards the left-hand side and encased within a colour-lit surround and the whole mounted on a motorised lift to rise to stage level.

The organ chambers were behind the decorative grille of the splay wall to the auditorium right. The addition of the Melotone greatly enhanced the sound of the organ in the dry acoustics (ie. minimal natural reverberation) of the new W.R Glen designed auditorium.

The Melotone provided percussion effects of Marimba and Vibraphone on the Accompaniment (lower) manual along with synthetic Cor Anglais, Krumhorn, Musette voices, Chimes and Carillon effects on the Solo (upper) manual. The mode of tone generation was electrostatic as opposed to the Hammond electromagnetic generation. Sustain and Vibrato effects were available.


Illuminated Surround
Bradford had the standard ABC style of reeded glass internally lit with changing colours. Two carbon arc follow spots from the projection room added to the experience.


Joseph Seal - The first organist to play the Ritz Compton at the Civic Opening on Monday 8th May 1939. Seal was the principal organist of the ABC circuit and based at the Ritz in Belfast, considered to be one of the leading theatres of the circuit. He later became Musical Advisor to all ABC cinemas.

Norman Briggs - In the early part of the war, Norman Briggs played the Compton from time to time though his principal residency was on the Wurlitzer at the New Victoria. He played Compton for a while in 1941 while Clarence Barber played a short residency at the New Victoria. Norman Briggs also held the official post of City Organist.

H. Vernon Kington - He followed as resident house organist having come to Bradford in 1941 from the Cecil Cinema/Theatre in Hull after it had been bombed. Kington was very popular with audiences during the war period. Regular cinemagoers during the war will recall how Vernon Kington on the Ritz Compton and Norman Briggs on the Wurlitzer of the 'New Vic' vied with each other in the popularity stakes as did the managers of the two cinemas.

Jack Fretwell / Ritz Compton

Jack Fretwell - Born in 1910 and worked in silent pictures in Derbyshire where he also played church and cathedral organ. It was after being demobbed from the second World War that he joined the ABC circuit and came to the Ritz in 1946 where he was appointed resident organist. Sadly his stay was abruptly terminated a few months later when the organ was damaged (destroyed) due to floods.


1946 Cinema Floods
As detailed on the Ritz Cinema history page, the cinema suffered damage during the city centre floods on Friday 20th September 1946 following heavy storms. The front stalls and orchestra pit were deep in water and the organ lift was at it lowest position.

The Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported . . .
"The organist, Jack Fretwell, arrived too late to raise the Compton organ and when an attempt was made the water had rendered the electric hoist inoperative. The whole of the pedal board is under water and it is not possible to estimate the damage."

Sadly due to cost and difficulty in obtaining parts so soon after the war it was decided to scrap the console and remove the chamber units - a great loss to the Ritz and its many supporters.


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