Friday, March 14, 2008

Wurlitzer Theatre Organ.

Curiosity led to going along to a concert featuring a renowned Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. The Sunday arvo gathering, in a 1930's cinema, was relaxed, quite retro and anachronistic yet presented an opportunity to hear a powerful and majestic instrument.
The lights dimmed as they say and from the empty stage music sounded and in fine traditon the Wurlitzer and the performer ascended from the depths onto display under the spotlights. The cream and gold console was wicked looking and the performance was grande with tremelo and leslie-like effects to the fore.

Back down in the pit again. The instrument has about four key boards and a pedal board and has an array of about 150 stops and controls to manipulate the sounds.

The excellent artiste, Mr John Atwell gave us rip roaring numbers very typical of the genre along with other lilting modern arrangments. (He is a research scientist in his other life.)

The historical Wurlitzer was formerly in the Capitol Theatre, Sydney, and was relocated to the Orion Theatre, Campsie, restored and installed by the Theatre Organ Society of Australia (NSW Division) and unveiled in 1988.
The Theatre Organ Society is the expert in these matters. Another relevant web site is here.

Under the stage is a large basement housing the ranks of metal and wooden pipes, percussion and gadgets that are activated by the magician at the keyboard to emulate an orchestral sound. In this way it differs from the electronic organs that only produce electronic sounds.

The sound emerges from a long opening along the front of the stage and is heard forte or piano by physically opening or closing a set of shutters probably controlled by a pedal.

The Wurlitzer descended out of view and the support artists took over: The Enso Toppano Duo, the frail elderly father was a virtuoso piano accordianist who outshone his son and if anything overdid the up-beat numbers.

This was special in that he is among a wave of immigrants who are now reaching old age and whose traditions may fade with them.

Mrs McNaughton (accordanist, wife of ex-Lord mayor of Newcastle & charity worker) would have been impressed!

The Orion theatre opened as a Cinema in 1936 and in the foyer was a mural of the P & O's newest most modern liner Orion. Overall the Art Deco sytle is evident but restrained.

Nowdays, instead, in the foyer, is a mural once displayed on board the Ocean liner Orion which ended service in London in 1963.
P & O Australia saved the oil painting and it was hung in its Sydney offices until 1984. Summer Storm by Tristram Hillier.

A touch of fantasy remains because the venue holds wedding receptions and is into 'dream mandaps' with Indian style glamour for that special day. (Sacred tents for Hindi weddings)

The surrounding suburb of Campsie is small and busy with a large population of people with a Chinese background as well as Koreans and Vietnamese (from my observations) and it caters for all these tastes in a big way which is interesting to see. There bikes are left outside the rail station and is a little reminiscent of how their homelands used to be.


Sally said...

I used to love the Wurlitzer at the Mecca in Kogarah. What a blast from the past! Fantastic.

GMG said...

Quite interesting and informative post. And what a lovely Wurlitzer... The SFO-like tram is nice and the icons are fantastic. Cricket? No, thanks!
Have a great weekend. See you in Santorini at Blogtrotter

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