Thursday, 12 November 2009

Selfridge's: The New Organ in 1912

I read this short announcement in the September 28, 1912 edition of Musical News. I have never heard about this instrument. I checked in Lewis Foreman's book about Music in London and found no reference. I have a knowledgeable friend on the case, and he has suggested that the instrument was perhaps damaged or destroyed during the war. Apparently it was installed in the Palm Court. It sounds like an excuse to visit Selfridge's in Oxford Street on the grounds of historical research! Any information will be gratefully received.

An organ as an attraction at a drapery store is suffi­ciently unusual to be of interest. Mr. Selfridge is, we believe, a musical enthusiast, and he has had the happy idea of installing an instrument by Messrs. Norman and Beard in the Palm Court of his establishment in Oxford Street. The specification of this was given in Musical News for August 10th last. In order to give due im­portance to the occasion, Mr. E. H. Lemare was engaged to open the organ with recitals on September 18th and 19th, which were attended by a very large audience on each day, who testified their appreciation of the player's remarkable mastery of the instrument, as well as his choice of pieces. There is no need to review in detail the various items, except to protest against Mr. Lemare's excessive use (especially at the first recital) of the tremulant, a mechanical effect which was particularly out of place in the last movement' of Mendelssohn's sixth sonata. At each recital Mr. Lemare improvised on a theme sent up from the audience, his performance being remarkable .for its ingenuity, resourcefulness, and fancy. The art of extemporisation is not lost so long as Mr. Lemare lives. One of the themes was specially devised to show off the set of carillons with which the organ is fitted. These are, un­fortunately, placed in the swell-box, but although thus somewhat muffled, the tone is undoubtedly very sweet and pure. Similar carillons of a larger size are devised a, substitutes for church bells, a use for which it is evident they are extremely suitable. As regards this organ, no doubt it will prove a great attraction to Mr Selfridge's customers. B.

Musical News September 28, 1912

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