Wayne's Secret World of the Organ

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Organs are very public instruments, huge examples found in churches and theatres. But once Hammond invented their electronic version in the thirties, the organ found a place in the home.

Electronic organs became enormously popular; as affordable as pianos, featured on TV game
shows, and often bought by people with no musical experience. By the 1970s there were dozens of
manufacturers, organ societies in most UK towns, and thousands of models hidden away in average homes. The technology advanced to provide easy-to-play features and a whole palette of tones. Fashion designer Wayne Hemingway is fascinated by this secret world of exotic sounds swirling around British living rooms of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The easy-play electronic keyboard or organ has often been ridiculed (memorably by Not the Nine O'Clock News). Comedian Graham Fellows, aka John Shuttleworth, explains why he finds it so funny.

The scene largely died in the 1980s, leaving countless organs behind - now nearly free on
Ebay. But a few organ societies still exist and we meet Brett Wales, a young superstar of the scene whose instrument sounds like a full orchestra. And then there's 79 year old Tom Baker who finds near-daily solace in his Technics 5000.

They are easy to dismiss as kitsch, naff and only for ironic enjoyment, but the home organ was, for many, home entertainment which brought people together in a way TV and ipads don't.

The programme also includes James Taylor of the James Taylor Quartet and Nigel Ogden, presenter of Radio 2's The Organist Entertains.


Produced by Peregrine Andrews
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
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