Mighty Wurlitzer Restored and Back in use in Melbourne
‘One of the most renowned instruments ever brought to Australia is still being heard thanks to the efforts of a group of enthusiasts in Melbourne who rescued and restored it from rot.’ – Andrew Bell, ABC News
The name Wurlitzer is usually proceeded by the completely apt adjective, mighty.
It was a popular brand of theatre organ and a mainstay at cinemas in the middle decades of the 20th century.
There were an estimated 7,000 organs installed in movie theatres around the world by the mid-1930s and about a quarter of them were Wurlitzers.
“There were a lot of other manufacturers of theatre organs, but if you had a Wurlitzer you really had the bees knees, so to speak,” Melbourne-based organist Scott Harrison said.
The instruments first accompanied silent films, adding not only music but sound effects such as police sirens and galloping hooves…
John McLennan, another long-serving member of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia (TOSA), remembered the time when the Wurlitzer and its ilk were a crucial part of a good night out.
“I would go to a theatre in the city and the first thing I’d ask before buying a ticket would be, ‘Is the organ playing tonight?’,” he said.
Theatre organs have multiple keyboards and a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of stop tabs above and around those keyboards. Using electro-pneumatics, low-voltage electricity transmits the action of the organ keys to the pipes. The sound produced is remarkable and wide-ranging, while the console itself is eye-catching with its multi-coloured stops.
Read the ABC article and listen to the organ here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-07/mighty-melbourne-wurlitzer-organ-restored-from-decay/6524384
PHOTO 1: The Wurlitzer was restored by the Theatre Organ Society of Australia. (ABC News) PHOTO 2: A view of some of the 1,482 pipes used to play the instrument. (ABC News)
Theater Historic Society of America: Learn more about historic theatres on our website: www.historictheatres.org