Some time in 2001 I bought a copy of "Electronic Musical Instruments, 3rd edition" by Richard H. Dorf, a book that examines many organs from the late sixties. This of course is quite interesting to me, who along with a love of vintage synths has a love of old electronic organs, no doubt due to memories from my childhood. As I read this book, it became apparent that the author had been responsible for the design and marketing of a series of kit organs and accessories for them, many years ago.
One of the accessories was the "Reverbatape", a tape loop based reverberation system. That was the clue I needed to reassemble some scattered memories of an event that still has an effect on me to this day.
Many years ago, Mr. Fox, one of my father's elderly music students, arranged for us to visit someone he knew. Mr. Fox knew of my interest in electronics, and thought I would be interested to see what his friend or associate was building.
I do not remember the man's name, only that he lived in Beaumaris or Black Rock, a suburb away from Cheltenham (Victoria, Australia) where I lived at the time. At the back of his house he had a spacious sun-room. The central feature of this room was a huge electronic theater organ he was building, using parts both from a kit supplier, and other things he sourced from other locations. To give you some idea of the size it had grown to, he told me its power supply (supplies?) was loaded far greater than the specifications originally intended, though it had as of yet not failed.
I vaguely remember that he said this kit supplier was superior to any I had heard of before.
He also tended to add voices to it one at a time, apparently a feature of Schober kits. At the time I visited, he was adding a railway whistle and chuffer to the effects he had installed, and had recently received a new (green?) tab with a locomotive embossed on it. The railway effects were based on designs from Electronics Australia magazine.
There were no speakers in the console itself. Amplifiers were in the cupboards, and there were several speakers placed around the room. Built into the room would be a better description. I think each corner of the room was a tower of speakers. Notable were several small "coffee table" leslie speakers that had been crafted from plywood.
He also had three Reverbatape units. I clearly remember the name, and looking at the array of tape heads under the transparent cover. I think a couple of these were in the cupboards along with the amplifiers, though one had not been installed, and this was the one I was shown.
While I was invited back, transport required my father's cooperation, and there was one successive visit, to get photocopies of the model railway projects, which incidentally I still have.
I remember mentioning that I would like to build a synthesizer, and being told that would cost a thousand dollars. He showed me a book on construction of a synthesizer - the ETI 4600. The quoted price was probably what the ETI 4600 kit cost at the time.
This all occurred many years ago, around the mid '70s. Mr. Fox has long since died, though the owner of the organ was probably in his late forties or early fifties, so may well still be alive.
The clues such as the Reverbatape, that there where no speakers in the console, that it was a kit organ, lead me to conclude this was a Schober.
This organ, and the way it was effectively worked into the room has left a lasting impression on me, and I often think about it, though the years have eroded the memories. That an old Lowrey theater organ is central to my set-up, that my organ is set up with a walkway behind it, has six amplifiers, etc., all call back to these memories.
I would dearly like to know what became of this organ.
While I have not found this organ, nor do I expect I ever will, I have indeed located the name of the owner, and his former address: Errol De Cean of Glenwood Ave, Beaumaris. I am unable to find him listed in current phone directories.
I did however locate myself a Schober Theatre organ, so the adventure begins anew....
The following was found in a Schober Club newsletter, and describes the organ in question. No wonder I was impressed!
The subject of the evening was the three manual, multi-channel organ, constructed by Errol, based on the Schober Theatre Organ with the voicing taken from the Dendy Wurlitzer.
The variations to the original Schober Theatre Organ included an upper (solo) keyboard from the Schober Recital Organ, a thirty-two note polyphonic clavier with integral switches four couplers, ten percussions voices, surf sound with glockenspiel and bird chirps to be incorporated. The organ has six channels, two Leslie type rotors, a celeste rotor, tremulants on all voices other than Tibia and Vox and has a complement of twenty speakers.
There are two expression pedals and Bass and Percussions can be controlled from either pedal through cam operated LDR'S.
There are also ten percussion voices that can be controlled from either the clavier pedals or the accompaniment keyboard or can be operated automatically by a rhythm generator having a total of fifteen rhythms.
A much modified Reverbatape is incorporated. All sounds from the organ voices go direct to their pre-amps, amplifiers and speakers with the voicings shunted to the Reverbatape and thence to a separate amplifier for the Reverbatape.
Article, art & design copyright 1999 by Ken Stone