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Contributors' Profiles

LEN RAWLE - MBE

      With a family name that is synonymous with the very heart of the organ scene here and overseas, Len Rawle has the benefit of a family steeped in the tradition of theatre organ preservation.  More than 40 Theatre organs have passed through the 'saving' hands of the Rawle's!  Following his rebuilding of the Granada Harrow Wurlitzer, he recently completed the transplant of a mighty Wurlitzer in the Isle of Man.   For many years he has maintained the large Wurlitzers at Kilburn and Woking and successfully headed up a £40,000 project to raise the long entombed Granada Tooting Wurlitzer in South London, one of the most significant restoration projects in the UK. It is one of the most famous of broadcasting Wurlitzers still in its original home. 

      Born in Tonypandy, South Wales in 1938, Len's classical training, starting at age 4, came from the London College of Music in Cardiff.   Later his studies transferred to London where he also came into contact with many leading organists. He was also fortunate in having the UK's first residence based WurliTzer, transplanted from the Granada Wandsworth Road London, into the family home at Northolt, Middlesex.

      At the time he met his wife to be, Judith, he was planning to save the famous 4 manual WurliTzer from the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square…..It  became the centrepiece of their own, self-built home at Chorleywood, Hertfordshire!!   Described by many, as the finest sounding residence WurliTzer in the World, he has recorded, broadcast and televised this, one of the largest WurliTzers in Europe, many times.   Two particular highlights, were, appearing on the very first 'The Organist Entertains' BBC Programme (plus many subsequent ones) also in the much celebrated and often repeated Sir John Betjamin BBC T.V. documentary 'Metroland'.   Poet Roger MacGough formerly of ‘The Scaffold’, Judith Chalmers and even the Blue Peter team` have also recorded documentary programmes with Len.   He also appeared in Carlton TV's 'The Mighty Organ' and with historian Lucinda Lampton for the award winning series ‘Sublime Suburbia’.   More recently historian Dan Cruikshank visited the homes of those who new or worked with Sir John Betjamin, not surprisingly, Len was again featured at his fine Wurlitzer installation during BBC2’s ‘Betjeman and I’.   David Dimbleby has also conducted an interview with Len at the Granada Tooting for the BBC series ‘How We Built Britain’. He has also been seen at the Tooting Wurlitzer in a Channel 4 presentation.

      Len was Musical Director for Yamaha UK for 17 years.   As 'Mr Yamaha' he helped establish the UK electronic organ market and specified the design of their organs for Western Europe.   He also structured a network of over 100 music schools and trained 400 teachers.   This in turn led to over 11,000 students being taught on a weekly basis! 

His enthusiasm for teaching, lecturing & writing in addition to concerts on both pipe and electronic instruments keep him at the forefront of the organ scene.   In the UK he has been described as 'The Rembrant of the Organ', in Holland 'The Sound Magician' as he invariably produces a wide variety of new sounds from the instrument at hand.   Len's musicality is called upon from time to time when theatre organs are transplanted or upgraded.   He has a passion for organ tone and has acted as consultant for pipe and electronic installations both in the UK, on the Continent and even in Australia and the USA.   He is proud of having been invited to help inaugurate several re-installations of theatre organs, in particular, the WurliTzer in Hobart, Australia, The LTOT Granada Studio Tours WurliTzer, Manchester, the famous 'Torch' Christie at Barry, the Sheffield Compton, the St Alban's organ museum WurliTzer, the Ashorne Hall Wurlitzer the ATOS Woking WurliTzer, the Haarlem Compton in Holland, the UK’s latest and largest Wurlitzer at the East National Complex in Uckfield plus of course the Tooting Wurlitzer and IOM Wurlitzers. Last year he re-opened the Wurlitzer/Strunk organ at the Tuschinski theatre in Amsterdam whilst in 2013 he heads to Perth to re-open their Compton and then on to New Zealand to put finishing touches to a new Wurlitzer installation in Christchurch.
 
      In addition to his concert work he enjoys the hands-on work of restoring and rebuilding Wurlitzers his latest is for the Isle of Man Government.   This instrument is installed in the unique sea front setting of the Gaiety Arcade in Douglas.   Alongside that work, he has tonally finished the UK’s largest ever theatre organ at the East Sussex National Golf course and conference Centre in Uckfield.   Both of these immaculate instruments have been successfully launched. In addition to his weeks ‘Down Under’ he has also given numerous concerts and 'workshop sessions' in the USA, Germany, Switzerland and Holland.   One rather special ‘Educational programme’ for children in Buffalo USA saw no less than 69 busloads arrive at the Spectacular Shae’s Theatre.   ‘Len’s finest Hour’ comprised initiating more than 2,500 youngsters, all of whom were absorbed in a one of a kind presentation that introduced 10-15 year olds to the organ for the first time.
 
      30 recordings illustrate his ability to change his style to suit the very diverse capabilities of each instrument.    The very first commercial video recording of an organ ‘Think of a Sound’ featured Len but more recently there has been the release of the much-acclaimed DVD, ‘Raising the Tooting Wurlitzer’  
 
      Married with three children and six grandchildren he also has an interest in full size and large model aviation and has obtained his private pilots licence. 
 Len has been honoured by a number of Organ societies.   He has been twice honoured as Patron of the Theatre Organ Club and is a Vice President of the Lancastrian Theatre Organ   Trust.   He is also President of several other societies, including the Windsor Organ Society, The Friends of the Rye Wurlitzer, the Ipswich Organ Music Society, the Theatre Organ Society of Australia (Western Division).   He also aided the setting up of the Aylesbury Organ Society and the Netherlands Organ Federation the latter having recently honoured him as their ‘President for Life’.   Len enjoys his role as a trustee of a number of organ trusts.   He is also Musical Advisor of the American Theatre Organ Society in the UK, and is author of a widely read column ‘Len’s Notes’ in the monthly ‘Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade’ magazine.    For his ‘services to the organ world’ he has twice been invited to the Queen’s Royal Garden party at Buckingham Palace and in 2012 he was awarded the MBE for ‘services to music’. 
 
      Len is one of those specialist artists/preservationists who has never sought an engagement, being in the happy position of being kept busier than most, accepting invitations from those who enjoy his colourful and melodic style.    He welcomes the opportunity of performing on any type or make of organ and to audiences of all ages. CONTACT DETAILS - ‘TONAWANDA’, 132, BERRY LANE, CHORLEYWOOD, HERTS., W3 4BT.   TEL 01923 720511   FAX 01923 497464
E-MAIL This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A FEW RECENT QUOTES from Len's concerts.
The evening went so quickly, Len used his seasoned musical magic by making his arrangements so different and entertaining. Link this with his charming presentation and friendliness, it is no surprise he is popular as a player, a person, an arranger, a teacher and an organ aficionado!
Caroline Haycock 9Kingswinford Organ Society
 
From: "Russ Ashworth" 
I particularly like Len Rawle. He has a delicate interpretation of  registrations which works well with small organs and gives lots of variety. I heard him play John Ledwon's 4/52 home installation and he wasn't out of his depth with that either. Also in the same vein as GW which is something that I would be happy with..  Russ
 
Your concert in Los Angeles was exceptional in every way and served as a good lesson for us in the United States about what good musicianship is all about..  John Nelson, Tennessee
 
Thanks for the Brighouse CD.   I can't tell you how much my wife and I have enjoyed it. You always seem to do so much with a small instrument. 
I have never heard ‘Mornings at Seven’ and ‘You Can Give Your Heart Only Once’, done on the organ, they work great the way you handle them! …..this album, Bob & Bobbi Schoenfeld New Jersey, USA 
 
I hope it is not too long before we see you down this way again.
Martin Savage, Plymouth 
 
You find your way around the console like no-one else and we relish in the new sounds that you find. I consider you to be one of our regulars and will be contacting you soon.   Final audience count 426 which is excellent Christian Knighton – Bournemouth Pavilion
 
Thank you for a superb concert yesterday. The audience was totally enchanted. 
Hugh Ashley – Bournemout
 
…..Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed your concert two weeks ago. It was a superb, well-rounded, performance, greatly enhanced by your ability 
to produce such a huge variety of sounds…….. G Bennett, Solihull
 
 
 

 

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