Organist Interview: Peter Crompton

We have interviewed Peter Crompton, Organist Emeritus of the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook, about his recent experience of the Moot Hall Organ, and issues around organs in education.

What encouraged you to take up the organ?

I was inspired and encouraged to take up the organ by my late father who was an engineer by profession and a very good amateur organist. There was also much music in the home as a young boy and I always listened to the regular organ recitals broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in those days as well as the weekly broadcast of Choral Evensong.

Did you have any experience of the Moot Hall Organ prior to its restoration?

I was aware that the Moot Hall housed an organ but had never heard it or even entered the building so you will understand how pleasantly surprised I was to find such a beautiful venue housing such a fine instrument!

Post-restoration, is there any family resemblance between the 1904 Norman & Beard Moot Hall Organ and the 1933 Hill, Norman and Beard instrument at the Royal Hospital School?

There are some similarities particularly in the warmth and breadth of the diapason tone and the wonderful flutes. However, organ building was beginning to change at the time the Holbrook  organ was built and the mixtures and upper work are generally much brighter than those to be found on the instrument of the Moot Hall.

At the RHS you enthused generations of pupils about the organ. What is a good age to start playing it? Is it best to have learned the piano first? Is there any truth in the idea that the organ suits a certain type of personality?

It is important that before embarking on organ lessons that a young person is able to reach the pedals and I used to suggest that Grade 5 should be achieved on the piano as a prerequisite. I have met many different personalities in the organ world but there is one particular attribute if one is to succeed and that is endless patience!

We see that you were very involved with sports as well as music during your time at the RHS; does one help with the other?

Being regularly on the games field as a musician as well as taking an interest in sport generally helped me to connect with and relate more easily to the pupils. I always found that if you took a keen interest in their pursuits which invariably included sport and football, in particular, the students would be prepared to get involved in your pursuits. In fact all the ensembles, especially the Chapel Choir consisting of some one hundred and twenty singers, included many excellent sportsmen and women.

What, in your experience, is the best way of encouraging young people to learn to play the organ?

I found that by playing the more attractive and exciting repertoire such as that found in the French School of composition to the students inspired those wishing to take up the organ rather than the more academic or esoteric pieces. Also, I played many orchestral transcriptions which encouraged many impressionable young musical ears to listen to the organ, realising its versatility and breadth of potential.

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