" Wurlitzer pipe organ"
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 Wurlitzer pipe organ

Overview

In the 1920s, the time of silent movies, before the talking pictures and long before the advent of colour pictures there existed the magnificent Wurlitzer pipe organ. Designed to provide the musical accompaniment to a film be it a dramatic, humorous or historic film the mighty Wurlitzer organs were installed in the palatial moving picture theatres of yester year. One of these magnificent instruments is the Wurlitzer Style 260 Opus No 1808 which was one of six Style 260 3 Manual / 15 Rank theatre pipe organs shipped to Australia in the 1920s. This massive instrument was installed in the palatial Regent Theatre in George Street Sydney, NSW in 1927 as a centerpiece of the theatre. The cost of the instrument was £25,000 (a mind blowing $2,000,000 in Australian dollars today) Acquired from the Theatre in the 1960’s by a Sydney enthusiast Mr John Atkinson who was keen to preserve this magnificent instrument it found a new home in the family home in Hurstville a suburb of Sydney. First in a purpose built theatrette added to the original family home and then in the 1980s in a custom built music room in a newly constructed family residence adjacent to the first family home. As part of the installation project the entire organ was extensively restored utilizing authentic glues and materials sourced either locally where available and from the overseas sources in order to maintain the authenticity of the instrument. At the time of the installation the resurgence of interest in theatre pipe organs was at its peak with several new installations being completed in Australia and concerts regularly played to packed auditoriums. A number of boutique concerts were held at the Atkinson Residence over the years with both Australian and visiting overseas artists performing on the instrument. The maintenance of the organ has always been a priority, with every effort to maintain it’s original tonal character as it left the Wurlitzer factory in 1927. Over the many years dozens of Australian and overseas experts and enthusiasts have contributed to the maintenance and preservation of the instrument. Always guided by John Atkinson’s strict adherence to maintaining the original integrity of the instrument. This has resulted in the instrument being one of the few in Australia in such prime and unmodified condition. John also completed the painstaking work of connecting a 9ft Kawai Grand Piano to the organ which is playable from the console of the organ. (The Kawai Concert grand can be seen in the left of the picture on the previous page) Current Day Sadly, John Atkinson passed away on the 6th August 2020 and the Atkinson Family is now seeking a new home for the organ where it can be appreciated and continue it’s life into the future. An educational institution would be the ideal new home where it could become a valuable asset for use both in performances and for instruction. The Atkinson family is seeking to engage with institutions who would wish to consider acquiring the instrument and have the resources to install and maintain the instrument into the future. With this in mind the family is seeking expressions of interest from institutions and their benefactors as to a possible home for the instrument. A number of theatre organs around the world have found new homes within educational settings. In Australia a notable example is St Peter’s College in Adelaide which is the home of the former Adelaide Regent Wurlitzer pipe organ which is the same model and specification as the Atkinson organ. The organ was installed in St Peter’s College in 1968 following its removal from the Regent Theatre in Adelaide and although damaged by a fire in 1985 it has been restored and continues its life in the rebuilt Memorial Hall. Another example of repurposing of a Wurlitzer Theatre Organ in Australia is at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art which purchased the original Brisbane Regent pipe organ (also a Wurlitzer Style 260) from a deceased estate in NSW in 2004. The organ has been refurbished and now resides in the ‘Cinematheque’ within the Gallery of Modern Art where it is regularly used for a variety of performances including the accompaniment of silent movies. Further examples of re-installations of vintage theatre organs in educational institutions in Australia include: Kelvin Grove State College Auditorium , Queensland - 3 Manual Christie Theatre Pipe Organ St Michael’s Collegiate School, Hobart – 3 Manual Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ Also interesting to note is the Bandrika studios in the USA which now houses the Fox Studios original sound stage Wurlitzer. Acclaimed film score composer Nathan Barr has used the Wurlitzer (in his new sound studio built to house the organ) for modern film scores including the 2018 movie "The House with a Clock in it's Walls. The same instrument was used in a host of other movies including The Witches of Eastwick and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Wurlitzer Organs are not just a piece of history but are used in modern music productions.
Wurlitzer pipe organ
Sydney, New South Wales
Australia
Contact
Rebecca Atkinson

0404 035 394
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