It is good to have news of two fine Australian organs, and to know that Reg Porter-Brown is still remembered there (he died 35 years ago). The recordings he made on the Marrickville Wurlitzer must be the ultimate in extracting a virtuoso performance from a two manual instrument – as stated on one of the record sleeves “Second touch must have been in continuous use, along with pistons”. Fortunately 11 ranks are just enough to give a reasonable variety of sound; if the organ was in terrible condition at the time of R P-B's recordings, that makes his achievement even more remarkable.
In later years Reg made his home in Southampton – his “Base theatre” was officially the ABC (formerly Forum) cinema, but I suspect that he also wanted to be near the large dual-purpose Compton in the Guildhall which gave so much scope for his talent. I live near enough to have enjoyed many of his recitals there during the sixties and seventies, and although Reg certainly made the most of it, I came to regard the Compton as a mixed blessing. A friend remarked that “apart from the clarinet, every reed on that organ is some species of Tuba”. Exaggeration for effect of course, but the more powerful reeds are harsh to a degree that can easily become unpleasant.
I have posted on Youtube a broadcast during which Reg demonstrated the way he used second touch to play melody and accompaniment in his left hand (and pedals), leaving his right hand free to play all manner of complicated embellishments:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwOc07U7vhA
It seems that Neil Jensen's excellent sample set is no longer available – links still appear in google but lead only to “404 not found” messages. That makes even stronger the case for sampling the Marrickville Wurlitzer – preferably presenting it as a 3-manual, since we don't all have R P-B's technique, and changing manuals is more convenient than operating pistons. I have not come across the Orion Centre Wurlitzer, but 17 ranks certainly sounds an interesting prospect. I agree about the importance of sampling organs in peak condition – many Wurlitzers must be 90 years old, most are no longer in their original homes, and the reeds in particular have sometimes deteriorated to the point at which it is impossible to play a melody on them because of uneven voicing.
I do have a snow story that's very much connected with music. During the seventies variety shows and pantomime were often accompanied by electronic organ and drums; the Lowrey Holiday was a popular model for this purpose, though there were still some drawbar Hammonds around. I'd been playing for pantomime, and emerged to find that a blizzard had blown up during the show. I wasn’t too worried; I was staying with friends 25 miles away, but my route was along busy main roads; I reckoned the traffic would keep the roads clear. I nearly made it – but a few miles short of my destination the engine stalled. This was long before the days of mobile phones; it seemed that my best option was to trudge to the nearest house and phone the breakdown service. As I was contemplating this a huge 4 by 4 vehicle pulled in, and out of it jumped two members of the Canadian Air Force. It turned out that there was a base nearby, and they had decided to go out and assist motorists in difficulty. As one of them said “We're used to these conditions in Canada, but you Brits aren't”. They towed my car to the forecourt of a nearby pub, then took me home to very relieved friends, who'd been about to phone the police and report me missing.
As a public relations exercise this was of course brilliant – I've had a friendly feeling towards Canadians ever since! And I hadn't really misjudged the situation; I discovered that there was a known design fault in that Austin/Morris engine – in certain conditions the cooling fan could spray rain or snow over the electrical parts of the engine, causing it to stall.
Snow is rare enough in Britain (especially the south) for us not to make a big investment in snow ploughs etc., so when there is a heavy fall it can be a serious problem. On the other hand – in the right conditions it looks really beautiful!