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Midi Acc

An Introduction to ‘George’


The Midi accompanist was an amazing piece of kit developed at the RN College Manadon to provide music for Services at sea. Now largely overtaken by technology (CDs / I PODs etc!!! – see Seagoing Support!), it was a project that served the Sea Going Church Community well!

Here follows an overview and history of the project!

An Introduction to ‘George’

The Midi Accompanist music player. ‘George’ has been developed to aid worship in situations where music and/or musicians are not available. It becomes a music player when it is plugged into a keyboard or tone generator, and can in most cases be connected into PA systems. The unit comes complete with power adaptor and leads to enable quick connection for instant music.

The Hymn tunes are stored in a plug-in cartridge, which can then be selected for playing individually. Each cartridge represents a complete Hymn Book making tune selection and playing very easy. A full listing of Hymns or choruses along with an index of tunes and meters where relevant, is included.

JLS would be happy to provide a demonstration of George on-site for Churches within the South West area, or here at JLS Designs. Also we can supply compatible Keyboards and amplification equipment as necessary.

The well proven technology and simple operation (no musical skills are required and it is definitely user friendly) makes it ideal for Churches and Fellowships where there is a shortage of musical skills and where resources are limited. George is currently being used by churches, missionaries and Armed Forces world – wide. George is also available in a standalone briefcase, with tone generator and active speakers giving the user the ability to play music in church, housegroup or even in the open air. The project seeks to enhance Christian Worship by making good quality Christian music accessible to all.

Midi Accompanist Features : Introduction and repeat facility, Tempo and pitch selection, quick and easy tune selection, Cartridges to emulate specific Hymn books. Plug – in and play ease of operation.

Technical Specification : 
Power requirement : 12 volts DC From 240v AC power adapter (supplied).
Midi Device connection : Midi output from 5 way din connector, Midi lead (supplied).
Cartridge Connection : via 25 way D-type connector on unit face
Dimensions : 216mm Wide X 130mm Deep X 105mm High

The Midi Briefcase has been developed to act as a standalone unit providing musical accompaniment to aid Christian Worship.

The Briefcase contains the following equipment :

Midi accompanist.
Midi Tone Generator.
Amplified Speakers.
Mains power Adaptor.
Internal Battery pack.

The above items are all neatly housed in a robust briefcase, providing security for the internal components. Approx internal case dimensions : 495mm Wide x 359mm Deep x 155mm High.

Power Requirements options:

Mains input 100 – 240 VAC at 3 amps (Fused Mains plug).
Internal Batteries. 8 x D cell type batteries housed within the briefcase.
External 12 VDC using supplied external lead.
All equipment within the briefcase is designed to operate from 12 VDC, the total maximum current consumption at full volume is less than 1 Amp.

Musical Power Output :
The Amplified active speakers provide 40Watts PMPO or 5Watts RMS per channel.
Input sensitivity of the Amplifier is 200mV.
Dimensions : 86mm x 216mm x 130mm. Weight 1.3Kg.


A short history prepared by Cdr Chris Mather, OBE RN Rtd based on items of news in NCF Newsletters with assistance from Cdr Brian Parker RN Rtd and Cdr Kevin Shaw RN.

1990 October – At the NCF Amport House Weekend Lt Kevin Shaw, then an instructor an the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon, asked for prayer for a project to provide good music for services at sea when no organist was available. This marks the beginning of the project, Kevin set the task of design as a course project, which was taken up by S/Lt Jeff Crofts.

1991 October – At our Amport Weekend Kevin brought along Jeff’s prototype MIDI-Accompanist (referred to as MA below) and demonstrated its capability when plugged into the standard Navy issue Organ, Portable, Small (OPS). It played a selected number of verses of a chosen hymn and could vary speed and pitch. It enables a portable electric organ to be used for playing hymns when there is no proficient keyboard player available.

1992 April – Kevin took the first four MA units aboard the yachts of NCF’s cross-channel Easter Sailing Expedition for sea trials! On the 14th April MA won its designer and builder, S/Lt Jeff Crofts of RNEC Manadon, first prize in the Young Electronic Designer Awards Competition. His award was presented in the Science Museum, London by the Duke of York, who was reported to comment that he looked forward to decent music at church services in his next sea-going appointment! Meanwhile Kevin redesigned the hardware to suit volume production and modified the software to match.

1992 October – Prototype MAs have provided experience with onboard use of the system. They have been used aboard HMS YORK (Lt Cdr Chris Thomas reporting), HMS EDINBURGH (Lt Cdr David Caroll reporting) and HMS ALACRITY. A fourth MA is used for demos. The first ten production MAs are nearing completion and bulk items for a total of 50 MAs have been ordered. Fifty is the number needed to satisfy all onboard requirements for the RN. The cost of an MA is £120 if assembled in house with RN facilities. Funding for the first production batch of 10 MAs has been met by gifts from NCF, the RN Lay Readers Society and interested individuals. Funding for the further 40 MAs is being sought. There is also the problem of Copyright and implementing suggested improvements. These first MAs were fitted with a cartridge with tunes for hymns on the standard Naval Hymn Card (BR 416) plus a small selection from Mission Praise and Songs & Hymns of Fellowship. Permission was obtained for their use on ships.

1993 January – Lt Cdr Andrew Morgan received an Accompanist for use aboard HMS HECLA deploying for a long ocean survey.

1993 August – The August edition of Navy News reported that the ‘Electronic Pianola’ designed by Lt Jeff Crofts RN has now been installed in 15 RN ships. A sum of £6,020 was awarded by the Sailors’ Fleet Amenities and Fleet Recreation Funds to RNEC Manadon towards producing 50 Accompanists.

1994 February – At the NCF Amport Spring Weekend, Lt Cdr Kevin Shaw demonstrated the MA used with a Music Sequencer and two small powered speakers which can replace the ‘Organ, portable, small’ and enable it to be used in submarines and by RM detachments, for whom the Organ is too bulky. NCF owns an MA with a Music Sequencer which is available at houseparties to provide ‘hands on’ experience for seagoers.

1994 December – The manufacture of additional MAs is progressing slowly due to the lack of help with the workload. Kevin asked for assistance from anyone with a talent for electronics assembly (to assist with management of assembly) and computer-based music sequencing (to prepare music for inclusion in an improved cartridge).

1995 August – FOSF Staff Chaplain, Rev Richard Madders, sends a signal to: SURFLOT, Subject: MIDI ACCOMPANISTS. ‘… To avoid reliance on musical expertise in flotilla, NCF amongst others, is planning to supply total of 40 MA which enable hymns to be played on OPS at touch of button. Initially, deploying ships will be given priority, but aim for all major units to hold unless volunteer band present. Urgently require information on location of 11 MA already in circulation.’ [FOSF signal 081150Z/unclas] MA status is: 13 are in or available to the Fleet; 20 more are with a contractor; a further 30 will be produced at HMS COLLINGWOOD. Accountability is being discussed with FOSF Chaplain.

1996 October – The Venerable Michael Bucks, Chaplain of the Fleet attended the NCF Amport Weekend. There was discussion of the Navy’s new Church Officer scheme during which he made the comment that it had ‘grown out of Little Grey Boxes’ acknowledging the importance of the MA in the scheme’s development. The MA cartridges in use are limited to the naval hymn card repertoire. A new cartridge with a larger repertoire including hymns with a wider appeal is urgently needed.

1997 February – Cdr Brian Parker retires from the RN and starts work on a new cartridge, to be called the RN Interim Cartridge. It will contain most of the tunes for the Combined Mission Praise. Brian is now able to devoted a great deal of time to this project. Kevin completely rewrote the software providing more flexible cartridge coding and greatly increasing the cartridge capacity.

1997 June – RAdm John Hilton, who supports the Metopolitan Tabernacle in London, asked NCF to loan the church an MA for evaluation. NCF sent one of their two MAs. The result of this was that the Met Tab saw the MA’s potential and a co-operative project between Cdr Brian Parker and Chris Laws, organist at the Met Tab started. They have produced a new cartridge using 50 tunes from ‘Psalms & Hymns of Reformed Worship’ selected from the 460 available from Met Tab in MIDI format. JLS Designs Ltd, a small electronics company in Somerton run by ex-CPO John Sambell assisted by ex-CPO Andy Sales (ex NCF serving members and known to Brian) commenced production of MAs for the Met Tab who regard it as the most suitable equipment for a whole range of situations especially where there is a shortage of musical skills and resources are limited, including use in the Third World. This wider use of the equipment will ensure a growing repertoire of tunes available to RN Church Officers and a greater choice than could have been produced from naval resources alone. The Met Tab will call their version ‘George’ from the name of the wartime aircraft auto-pilot equipment. The resulting increased customer base makes commercial involvement in production, development and repair a realistic proposition which will be of benefit to the Navy. JLS also undertake technical development to permit more tunes per cartridge.

1997 September – All 460 tunes in the Metropolitan Tabernacle’s ‘Psalms and Hymns of Reformed Worship’. are now in a database and it is hoped that they will be contained in just two cartridges. Through the Met Tab, interest in the MA has spread to other civilian churches. The present MA team consists of: Chris Laws – organist at the Met Tab – who is working on a Sunday School set; Lt Cdr Kevin Shaw responsible for design and software; Cdr Brian Parker responsible for production; Rev Bill Matthews who acts as RN Link and is reviewing the music requirement for the Navy; and John Sambell (ex-CPO) of JLS Ltd whose firm is responsible for assembly. Some problems have been reported of compatibility with some keyboards but not those used by the RN which are the Cassio CPS300, being replaced by the Cassio CTK530. MIDI-Accompanists are available for Church Officers from FOSF Staff Chaplain, Rev Richard Buckley, RN, HMNB Portsmouth.

1998 March – Cdr Brian Parker has turned one of his bedrooms into a MIDI workshop where he can surf the internet for good hymn tunes already in the format he needs. The new cartridge with 460 tunes for the Metropolitan Tabernacle is in the final pre-production phase. While it is excellent for formal worship in a large church it is not ideal for the Navy so Brian is collecting the tunes for a ‘popular’ cartridge for RN Church Officer use. A modification kit has been produced to convert MAs to an improved standard ready for the new larger capacity cartridge.

1998 October – Some ships have reported being unable to use their MA because organs are not held and stores report that they are unavailable. Organs (NSN O422/537-4733) [Typo note: Oscar 422 not Zero 422] are available and, if reported unavailable, please would Church Officers request that the commodity manager be consulted. He can only buy more organs once he sees his stock start to turn over. Likewise, FOSF Staff Chaplain holds spare MIDI Accompanists and more can be supplied.

1999 March – Cdr Brian Parker completes work on the Interim Naval Cartridge with 221 hymns and 5 classical pieces. It is unveiled at the NCF Ancient Mariner’s Day on 6th March in the context of ‘support for seagoers’. He asks for bids from Members at sea to try out this new cartridge. There exists the prospect of a further doubling in size of the cartridges so they are capable of holding a complete Hymn book plus some incidental music. The MA Team continues work on a much fuller cartridge (800+ hymns) based on the common 3 year lectionary. The Interim Cartridge is at sea with Rev Charles Howard (FEARLESS), CPOWEA Paul Hillyard (BROCKLESBY) and LOM Keith Harcombe (NORTHUMBERLAND). It has been offered to ships via the Staff Chaplains and is also available, on request from Cdr Brian Parker, to Chaplains, Church Officers and NCF members for use in ships, naval establishments and at NCF functions.

The MA Team (Rev Bill Matthews, Lt Cdr Kevin Shaw and Cdr Brian Parker) met at COLLINGWOOD with Army and Navy Chaplains at which the Iinterim Cartridge was put through its paces. From this meeting came a requirement for a ‘Briefcase’ version of the accompanist for field use. The urgent need of Army Chaplains in the Balkans has led to its rapid development by John Sambell and Andy Sales at JLS Ltd, Somerton. The first of two briefcases will shortly be on its way to Macedonia with the hymns from the Army Field Service Book and a selection of others. The briefcase configuration uses a tone generator and a pair of active speakers in place of a keyboard and has a performance better than the ‘organ portable small’. It would also be very suitable for submarines and further briefcases are being prepared to offer for trial in this environment.’

1999 November – The NCF Gen Sec when phoning around for seagoers news for the NCF Newsletter encourages use of the Interim Navy Cartridge. At this time 10 ships where NCF members are the Church Officer all have an MA and 5 are using the interim cartridge.

2000 May – Submarine trials are carried out with a Briefcase version MA and are successful, but no order yet. At the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park in May, the Army Chaplains department have their MA briefcase version on display.

2001 July – User Request Document submitted for formal funding of MA as a naval stores item.

2001 August – Rev Vic Vivian on furlough from the Mission to Seafarers in Pusan tries out the MA and believes the briefcase version to be just what the mission needs for taking services aboard merchant ships. Rev Bill Matthews retires from the RN. Rev Barry Hammet takes on the project side of the MA and Rev Roland Wort the administration of the MA hardware. There have been 70 MAs produced for naval use and a survey is made to establish where they all are.