Monday, 20 February 2017

Smith Connoisseur - The story

Five and half octaves with a 1 1/2 octave Sub Bass

The Smith Connoisseur organ arrived today, and yep, there is a whole different story about this organ too.

The story goes like this.....

Once upon a time there was a little boy (yours truly) about four years old that was taken to a week-long Bible School by his parents in 1971.  The only thing of note that he remembers to this day was the massive (massive to a four year old anyway) old pedal organ up the front of the auditorium (chapel) that led the singing. This old organ roared majestically and had no trouble at all leading the singing with a congregation of adults and children up  to 400 strong on occasion - it seems an exaggeration, but it was true.  The little boy version of myself was in awe and wonder instantly - it was love at first site. I wanted to play it and I wanted to own it....simple as that.

Big wide rubber-covered pedals

I was duly choofed off to piano lessons, which annoyed me, as all I ever wanted to do was play the organ....especially that organ. Time passed, lessons came and went and in mid teenage-hood, my parents and I went to a few more of those same Bible Schools. Every chance I got I asked permission to be able to quietly play the organ between sessions during the day - I played it every chance I could until I was told by some poor long-suffering soul that "that's probably enough for today Phil". Ha ha - there is nothing quite like the palpable lack of self-awareness of a teenager!

Gold painted scrolling of the front-facing swell shutters

Once I was a baptised member of this church I was allowed to officially play the organ for services and sessions during these weekly retreats - and that I did with great relish whenever we attended.  That Smith Connoisseur was the benchmark of organs in my opinion.  Back at my own church I was also offered a rotational position of organist on a large 2MP Dominion (another story for another time!) however the Smith still reigned supreme in my mind. Playing the Smith was really blew back my hair especially with that upright action and those massive bellows.  It was at one of these Bible Schools at the tender age of 12 that I decided that a certain sassy young blonde girl was the one I wanted to married, so as soon as I finished my apprenticeship at the age of 20, I took off to fair Adelaide to make that thought a reality.

These top ornamentals often get ruined - these are 100% in tact

The Bible School premises was owned by a church member and had been used by the Christadelphians attracting people from all over Australia and internationally (as it still does) to its thrice-yearly week-long retreats. The Smith Connoisseur had been used in this premises for many decades before I came along and was only pensioned off in the 1990's. It would not be an exaggeration to say that 60 thousand people have sung hymns to the accompaniment of this organ over the decades.

Nearly 20 years later and with five daughters in tow, the still pretty sassy blonde lady and I returned to that Bible School for a week-long retreat in the early 2000's.  To my disgust, I found that the wonderful Smith Connoisseur had recently been moved aside for a electronic 'thing'...Quelle Horreur!   I spoke to the owner and the committee and asked if we could wheel the Smith back out so when it was my turn to play the organ during the week, I could use it.  They agreed.

So much hand carving on
this instrument

Every time I played the Smith during that week, all the older folk who had been coming to that Bible School for the last 50 years were ecstatic and showed no restraint in letting me know.  The singing exploded, those that had never heard it before were intrigued and asked endless questions, the owner was reduced to was a busy week. It was also a very happy week for me too.  Nevertheless, once the week was over and we drove back to Adelaide, the Smith got wheeled back into a dusty room and that's where it stayed.  The other organists found it too exhausting to play...."Yes Phil, it sounds fabulous when YOU play it....but I'm not touching the thing!". Fair enough.

Probably the most powerful instrument
I have ever played.
Its vertical action sure lets the sound
escape efficiently.

A decade later we moved back to the Lake Macquarie area but were not much involved with this community however....then....pretty much a few days after I found my Estey Artists model on eBay, what should appear....yep, you guessed it...the Smith Connoisseur.  I bid. I won. I organised the piano removalist instantly. I now own that very Smith Connoisseur that I have loved since childhood. 

The fantasies of a four year old boy are at last made real 45 years later.

I am deeply satisfied.

Take care folks


P.S. What are the odds...two significant reed organs appear back in my life a week apart?!
P.S.S.  There is a third organ, but the odds of ever finding that are just mind-blowingly impossible. (Another story for another time folks.)


  1. Interesting that a young boy could realise his dream of owning that instrument. I hope you enjoy it for many years to come. Phil in California USA

  2. Great story! The ROS online newsletter published mine recently. Mardy Eisloeffel

    1. Feel free to send them any of the stories on this blog - you have my permission Mardy

  3. That's a love story and loads of different levels.

    1. I'm back into it now Marlene. Keeping three blogs running will be fun (eeep!)

  4. That's fantastic! A great story and just fabulous that this one has made it's way to you as well.
    The first time wasn't coincidence, and this time, just a week later... well, I don't even know what to call that.

  5. wow fabulous story! you should write a book! great looking organ too, so, when do we get to hear this great one, Mr HM?
    you know, if you ask the cosmos to keep a look out for your 3rd organ, it just might turn up too! good luck there!
    thanx for sharing

    1. I'm still looking for the 3rd lost organ - that would be a pure miracle