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My Dad's Legacy 

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Mr Leslie G. Shaw - Organist and Choirmaster (1922 - 2015). 

Sadly my Father passed away in early 2015 aged 92 and I owe much of my musical abilities to him.

Although he loved carpentry, gardening, cacti growing and electronics, his first priority was church music.

Leslie Shaw was born in Fulham in 1922 and from an early age of around 9 years excelled in music, playing a pipe organ in churches in and around the London area.

He was soon recognised in the mid 1930's as a young man possessing an obvious talent as an organist and choirmaster and was encouraged to study at the Royal College of Organists in South Kensington under the tutorship of Sir Malcolm Sargent.

Apparently, during those early years he met Sir Edward Elgar and was influenced by this composer and his music.

He held various organists positions including the giving of recitals in churches and cinemas playing the old Werlitzer theatre organs.

Occasionally he was asked to deputise at the last minute, and established good links with fellow organists including Sir George Thalben-Ball.

One of his musical gifts was the ability to improvise on a given hymn or melodic theme and make it last from 5 to 30 minutes or more!

Choral concerts were always a highlight for him as he either conducted or played organ for these special events, mainly for Easter and Christmas.

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During the late 1930's, he attended the North London Polytechnic in Holloway, there he studied music and audio engineering of that time - acoustics and instrument building such as pianos and pipe organ theory.

As long as I can remember Sunday worship services were important to him and he never liked to miss one. He was always described as dependable, thorough and professional in all his church activities.

His love and passion for music were always connected in some way with his daily jobs; working for companies such as 'Berry Pianos' in Harringay, 'John Bell and Croydon' Chemists, (Electro Medical & Audio Departments) in Wigmore Street, London and finally before his retirement; 'Engart Acoustic and Photographic', a retailer in Mayfair as a hearing aid consultant.

During his employment with 'Nathaniel Berry' in London, he was trained to build upright and grand pianos, he learnt by ear the art of tuning, and was often asked to tweak the 'Steinway Grand' at the Royal Albert Hall prior to a classical concert.

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My Father stringing an instrument at "Berry Pianos" in the late 1930's.

The keys on which piano strings are tightened are known as as wrest pins.

They are hammered into holes several sizes too small in the laminated wooden wrest panel.

The piano keeps its tune despite the 12 ton strain across the frame, each wire having a tenile stress of about 165 1bs.

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All through his working life there was a strong interest, passion and dedication connected with music making, sound reproduction and performance.

One of my earliest recollections of my Dad was him putting his music and robes into a hand made wooden box attached to his "NSU Quickly 50cc Moped" and driving/cycling off to church services, weddings and funerals, in all weathers to play the organ!

In my life so far, it's been a little like history repeating itself !

I too was encouraged to play piano at secondary school for the assemblies, so, 55 years on I am also playing instruments including the organ at my local church from time to time!

I too have always had a passion for music and high quality sound, amazingly, I also attended the "North London Polytechnic" studying Sound Studios and Recording in the same building 40 years on !

All I can say is, "thanks Dad" for the musical influence you instilled in me from an early age!

His final church engagement as organist and choirmaster was at the 'Parish Church of St Alban' in Romford 2014.

We felt it was fitting at his funeral to close with Elgar's "Nimrod" - on the organ, of course !

John L.G.Shaw. (07/06/2015).

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Audio clip of my Father playing the organ at a wedding service in 1970.

(Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933): Nun danket alle Gott Op. 65 Nr. 59)

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LP to Digital - Shaw Sounds - Updated June 2024

5 Douglas Ave, Harold Wood, Romford. Essex. RM3 0UT. UK.
Studio: 01708 342553 / Mobile: 07941 556912
Email  johnlgshaw@gmail.com

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