Yes, OT, but T period correct! In Oroville, CA we have the historic 1928 State Theatre, which 'lost' its organ in the 1950s. WE (Mt. Shasta chapter American Theatre Organ society, and the State Theatre Arts Guild, who runs the place) have had donated a large historic Wurlitzer Theatre Organ and in July, we will start preparing the theatre for the organ. We have to rebuild the organ chambers which were used for HVAC purposes until a few years ago. Lots of damage and re-creating to do, but that part will be done by the middle of September. Unfortunately, that part will use up all the money we've gathered so far for this project, so that's one thing we're looking for (the group is a 501(c)3 ) but we also need to re-leather chests, clean pipes and re-shellac them too. In mid-July we will pick up some very large wooden pipes (pic) from Portland OR. These are so big, that we will put them up as soon as we refinish them instead of trying to store them--by mid September! The first pipes to go in! We need volunteers who would like to build or repair, some on the building, but mostly on the pipes & pipe chests. I realize this group is world-wide, so I mentioned this is a Heads-up for Northern California folks.
Next April is the Theatre's 90th Birthday Bash, bring your model T!
The Theatre website: orovillestatetheatre.com
And, of course, you can always PM me too.
(No, that's not me in the picture--I wear glasses!)
Now back to your regularly scheduled program, "As the T turns."
Am I really crazy? All I have to do is look at the photo of those pipes, and I hear Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
I had to put something in here besides "Bump".
These are the largest pipes in the organ, some are as small as a pencil, but yes, these would be used for that piece--especially if we're showing Lon Chaney in "Phantom of the Opera." These are the pipes that makes your seat vibrate! Nothing about the theatre organ is artificial--real drums, real percussion instruments, of course a couple of car horns, cymbals, siren, etc.
Here's the "Human Interface Module" where one man controls all of the action.
Those big pipes got used a lot in the movie "Wings" for bombing runs, flight of the Gotha (German bomber) and other sound effects.
A little film trivia. When the movie "Wings" was being made, (only about eight years after WWI ended), the producers made a real effort to make it appear as real as the technology of the day would allow. Among other things, they tried to get correct WWI aircraft. However, even then, they couldn't find a surviving German Gotha bomber. So they used an American bomber that was similar in size and appearance, and repainted it to look like the German plane. The scenes of it are fantastic, and quite impressive to realize that such large airplanes actually existed and flew that early.
I don't know if any of those big planes survive today. I used to know a fellow that owned and flew a real 1918 Jenny. He passed on about twenty years ago. I often wonder what became of the airplane. It was his pride and joy to fly.
Most people are familiar only with the opening of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, But the rest of that great organ piece is wonderful as well. I love the sound of the "king of instruments".
We've still got one in LA. Most of the rest of them were taken out and put in pizza parlors!
The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles has a huge theater organ. During the showing of Gance's Napoleon the orchestra played some of the score, but would stop for a rest and the organ would take over. And of course there's the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, where even if they're showing a talkie there's an organ concert and a sing-along with the organ.
The Balboa Theater in San Diego also has a restored organ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6IesNDYjik
With mention of 'pizza parlors', I recall my sister & hubby taking us to one in Phoenix. An experience all of it's own.
We'll be right back after this message:
What a great project and thanks for sharing.
I love the organ, theatre, tracker or, classical. And, of course, being a theatre person, this interests.
I have many organ records (yes, records) and CDs, including a boxed set of everything Bach ever wrote for the organ.
No offense, but I'm a little tired of all the references (not here) to the Toccata and Fugue in D. It's a beautiful piece in it's own right but overused. There are many, many stirring and beautiful Bach organ pieces that should be heard more often.
Now, back to the regularly scheduled program.
Theres a puzza place in Arizona Messa if i remeber correctly that realy impressive
Many (maybe 1959) years ago, at the Church that I attended at the time, the elderly organist dropped dead during a service. He had a teenage girl as a protege. She was to take over as the organist the next week. She asked if she could come in every night during the week before she was to start as the new organist. She was given permission. In those days church doors were rarely locked, and those of us who had the good fortune to hear her practice gathered. She was really good, and after a run-through of the next service's music, she treated us to about an hour of 50's rock and roll on the church pipe organ. She did refrain from using the carillon however.
Bob & Marv, You are both talking about Pizza Stop with one of the largest Theatre Pipe Organ installations anywhere. I've not been, but I do have the DVD of the place's story. It's up for sale right now, so we're all a bit worried. Somewhere I have a CD with Walt Strony playing the Superman Theme and no one believe that one person is making all that music.
Marty, so true, but that one shall "live in infamy" I'm afraid!
So "Bach to your regular programming"
Glad you're enjoying my OT thread, I was a bit worried there.
Some bits of the organ
Blower that runs it all
Some instruments loaded on the trailer in route to Oroville.
I am confused. As I anxiously await the next tidbit of music from the
various "machines" that churn the modern sound, I am told that the only
music that matters is Taylor Swiftish pop and good old rap/hip hop.
So, wut b down wit dis organ, yo ? Lain' down d sample stax fo d
John's story reminds me of another. My Aunt, Ernestine Parker, was a church organist for sixty years. One summer evening when I was eight, I went along with her when she went to the church to practice. She showed me how she could switch on the carillon and play music for the town. Before we left, she asked if there was anything I wanted to hear. I suggested a favorite song, which she played. But she had forgotten to switch off the carillon, so the neighborhood was treated to Silent Night in July.
To add to the list of Pizza joints. More than forty years ago, there was a big place in a small shopping mall in Santa Clara Califunny called Pizza and Pipes. It was quite popular for a short while, and friends and I went there a few times. The organ was quite good. Even modern songs played on it sounded okay. The pizza was fair, and way over-priced for pizza. About twenty years ago, I happened to be in the neighborhood, and noticed the signs still on the building (the building looked rather run-down). I asked somebody that lived in the area about it and was told they were still open and played the organ about once a week. I wonder if it still there?
I agree that the one Bach piece is a bit over-played. But I also think it is overall one of the best compositions of its kind. The total piece is just short of ten minutes. I like to close my eyes and listen to every note!
I have a few versions of the fugue bookmarked on youtube. One of my favorites is this one:
Quite a bit of those big pipes in this one. Listen closely at about 5:35 to 5:50, again at 6:30, 6:50 and 7:10, one of those big pipes holds a long (slightly muted) note in the background. I guess you would call it a counterpoint.
Watch this kid playing Bach's Fugue in G minor.
He has many incredible performances on Youtube, a lot of them on his parent's home organ. But nothing can match a real theater organ.
I use the word "kid" with the greatest of respect!
Participants in the 2010 MTFCA annual meeting in Mesa AZ. were treated to a performance at the Pheonix pizza house and it was wonderful, a real show.
It was at that facility I learned a new definition of a dressing table. Not your usual bedroom furniture piece with mirrors and drawers, but a HUGE trestle table loaded with every kind of salad dressing previously known to man, and a few more!!!
Allan from down under.
Many years ago, I liked to hang out at a funky guitar shop downtown.
The owner was a quirky guy (are we all ?) and had all sorts of weird
stuff in the shop besides stringed instruments. One day I came in and
he had a giant Hammond organ in the window. Said he had taken it in
on trade. A group of us were just shooting the breeze there by the counter
when this young kid of about 15 walked in and asked if it worked. The
owner told it it should, but it wasn't all put together yet. The kid was all
amped up to give it a whirl and so the group of us moved things around
got power where it needed to be, etc, and like the kid have at it. What
followed was nothing short of astounding !
Man, could this kid play !!! From the Beatles to Brahms, he had a crowd
of 200 people gathered around the storefront within minutes and went on
playing for an hour. The owner told the kid he could come back any time
he wanted and tear those keys up. It WAS impressive !
I'm kinda partial to this piece. 35 years ago my wife and I left the church to this. John Bull's Rondo in G. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s_vrQ7ZErE
Oh and I just checked. The place in Phoenix/Mesa id Organ Stop Pizza
We were in East Germany about 10 years ago. We visited an old mansion that had a large church attached. I asked the man in charge if my wife could play the very old organ. He said yes and she played some Bach and On Wisconsin. We later learned that Bach probably tuned the organ back in the day. My wife was thrilled that she touched keys that Bach might have touched.
A friend of mine who has been to Europe many times tells me that when they mention an Organ in Germany, they mean PIPE Organ, not any of those electronic ones (that a friend of mine calls "Appliances").
Speaking of "Appliances" I have a player piano that IS an Appliance--it says so right on the piano plate;
Hahaha! "Motor Operated Appliance"...
My dad had a lovely Hammond "appliance" in one of his houses for awhile. Wouldn't let the little kids beat up on (touch) it.
He didn't play it but had been a square dance caller...
I have 2 pianos here (one is a Bush and Gerts player with the guts removed, the other is an heirloom) and I let the little kids beat them up as they wish.
One might turn out to be one like Burger's player. :-)
Have an old buddy that plays and he was the organist in a nearby town's big church for a couple years and they actually let him "open it up" for services!
He was pretty proud!
Do you happen to have any other pictures of the blower assembly? Machinery is cool.
Thank you to you and the volunteers on this huge project. I know it's been some time coming and thank you for posting. :-)
Duane, You want me to "Blow" this thread??
First a picture of my Appliance piano--it is an expression piano and came with an electric motor to run the pump: hence the "Appliance" rating, I assume. A UL listed piano!!
And, now as you requested, a better pic of the Blower.
I have a pic of the motor label, but you can't read it; I can see it's 3 phase and I think 4 hp, but that seems small.
Now Wurlitzer didn't refer to these as "Theatre Organs" per se, but as "Unit Orchestras" a fancy term for one-person orchestra. It was cheaper to hire an organist than a real orchestra! Hope-Jones was the clever guy who came up with the voicing and combination that created this unique sound.
When you're old, everything reminds you of something else. The discussion and picture of the organ blower reminds me of Rex Koury. He created the music for Gunsmoke. I'm talking about the real Gunsmoke, of course, not the TV show.
Doc Adams (Howard McNear), Matt Dillon (William Conrad), Kitty Russell (Georgia Ellis), Chester Wesley Proudfoot (Parley Baer)
The musical bridges between scenes were not prerecorded, but were played live in the studio, as the program was performed by the actors. Depending on which source you read, one of the instruments was a harmonium or an accordion rigged up with an electric blower. Most of the recordings you hear of the program now are a copy of a copy of a copy. But I once got a chance to hear one of the CBS master tapes, and it was very high fidelity, like being right in the room. As the actors neared the end of a scene and the music was about to begin, you could hear the offmike sound of the electric blower starting up.
More film trivia. When movies were first coming around, they were usually accompanied by a single piano, if at all. Sometimes, a small pedal pump organ would be used. As the craft grew and improved, film makers often composed musical scores to follow the action and set the mood. By the mid '10s, some larger theaters began using small orchestras to accompany movies. Scores needed to be provided for both types of venues.
Some large theaters already had large organs installed, remember, music was being written specifically for the organ over a hundred years earlier. The infamous Toccata and Fugue in D minor is said to date back at least to 1704 (almost 200 years before the first model A Ford) (I did have to look that up).
Movies became really big business right after WWI, and theaters were being built all across the country, and world. Many movies continued to be provided with musical scores, both for the organ, and small orchestras. Some of the finest theaters in the country continued to use an orchestra for accompaniment until the silent era ended abruptly a mere decade later.
Having read short histories of dozens of American movie theaters, it has always amazed me how many were built, with a full large organ, between 1928 and 1931. Most of those organs probably never paid for themselves before they were being taken out by the late 1930s.
They are such a beautiful instrument. I wonder how many were simply trashed after a short life. I once saw photos of a console and many large pipes rotting in a field.
Thank you David D for helping to save this wonderful part of our heritage!
David Dewey, That is great and wonderful work you are doing for Oroville's State Theatre. Have you ever been to Fresno's Warnors Theatre ? It was built as the Pantages Theatre in 1928, it still has its original unit orchestra organ in working order. I herd the sound once, its a special go back in time place.
The following from Wikipedia:
Warnors Theatre is an historic theater located in downtown Fresno, California. The 2,000-seat venue opened in 1928 as the Pantages Theater, after the name of its then owner, Alexander Pantages, and later, the Warner Theater in 1929 after it was purchased by Warner Brothers. The name was changed again in the 1960s to "Warnors" to avoid trademark issues.
The theater was designed by B. Marcus Priteca, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The theater features a unit orchestra (a pipe organ which includes numerous features and instruments, meant to be able to replicate sounds of a full orchestra with only one organist), which was manufactured by the Robert Morton Organ Company of Van Nuys, California and installed in 1928. The organ was to be used to accompany silent films. Aroud the same time the organ was to be installed, movies were beginning to include sound. The theater tried to cancel the order but the organ was installed anyway. The organ has 14 ranks built with 1,035 pipes and a four-manual console with 720 keys, pedals and combination pistons. The organ was used primarily for motion pictures until 1973. Because of the cost of paying orchestra members, most accompanying orchestras were replaced with unit orchestras.
The Berlin Philharmonic gave a concert in the theater on November 15, 1956, under its new music director Herbert von Karajan.
Yes, I have been to Warnors, and have even been in the pipe chambers--it was a tour during the National Convention of the Theatre Historical Society. Our organ specialist, Dave Moreno is now doing maintenance on the Warnors organ! It is an incredible theatre--Huge too!
Wayne, it's still happening, organs are going begging, just as pianos and player pianos are. But, I consider it a privilege to be saving this one. Our Theatre's original, albeit a bit small (because talkies were coming) still exists and is in a private home in the Livermore area. I've actually sat at the console! Here's a pic, note how much smaller it is;
For whatever it is worth? I just spent more than an hour reading some of the history and scholarly debates surrounding the Toccata and Fugue in D minor (I do get so interested in history, of many things).
Wow! And you you think we go nuts over the minutia of model T production.
In short, the piece was almost lost to history. It is believed that a single written composition survived, a copy made by an early musical historian. It is not known exactly when it was originally written, and even whether or not Johann Sebastian Bach wrote it originally is still being debated.
Fascinating stuff! (Well, maybe one needs to be a little crazy to find it so fascinating?)
Don't worry, Marty, you will no longer be able to listen to recordings of "Toccata and Fugue" - the recordings are all Baroque!
I once purchased a Cremona photo-player which had been in the opera house at Perry, Ok. I had to rent a small building to store it in . I never would have had room to set it up ,so when a doctor in OKC wanted to buy it, I sold it for over more than $3,000 more than I paid for it. I later found out that when the doctor picked it up, he immediately took it to Dallas and sold it to an airline pilot, who had been looking for a Cremona for some time. I made good money on the sale, but have always wondered if the doctor made a lot more than I did. Ed
That Doctor must have had some real muscles, it's hard to flip something that big!
There was a guy in Medford OR who had a 4 cabinet photo player in his basement--amazing instrument; his was an American Photoplayer. There's a group in New Zealand restoring one found in a garden shed in deplorable condition, but it's the only one in their country; they have a web site dedicated to it; http://wurlitzerphotoplayer.wix.com/site-rebuild#!about-us
Alexzander Pantages lived in Seattle and drove a 1909 Winton demi tonneau. He was quite the squire about town until he got married.
He lived north of Seattle in the community of Lake Forrest Park. His home still stands overlooking Lake Washington.
The Panatages chain later became "John Hamericks" theatres.
For many years my brother had a 5 keyboard Whirlitzer pipe organ in the lobby of his company. It was fully operational and was played often. Sadly he sold it some years ago and it went down under.