Large organs – the Compton, Christie and Wurlizter

Just been reminded about cinema organs by a question at a recent presentation on the Curzon project – organ music features on the app (performed by Bernie Brown, who I filmed back in 2006) – but I haven’t made a real feature of it in the app in terms of the memories.

The current 1922 building originally housed a church organ that accompanied the silent films.  According to the Curzon website: “The organ in the actors’ left front box was fitted on opening of the new Picture House and removed by Cox in 1929, presumably just prior to installing sound. Whether Percy Daniels, a local organ builder, was responsible or not remains obscure because the organ is thought to have been a Casson, although research still cannot confirm this.”  No-one really mentions the organ in the video memories I recorded with Education Officer Cathy Poole, accept the Kathleen and George Dimond who recall  Blanche Cox singing in the intervals with Mrs Morrison of Madera Road accompanying (whether this is on the organ or some other instrument is unclear).

The Curzon currently houses two organs, the Compton Melotone Deluxe, pictured immediately below, which is often heard playing before the films and a Christie pipe organ which is currently being renovated and installed ready for it’s inaugaral concert on the centenary weekend, Sunday 22 April, with Byron Jones.

I never realised that the console/keyboard is actually playing real instruments hidden away in another room (see image above), until I made a short documentary about the Wurlitzer cinema organ that used to be housed in the 3000+ seater Trocodero, Elephant and Castle.  Wind and electronics manipulate banks of pipes and percussion instruments – look out for the marimbas – and even a piano!

The film documents the last performance of the organ in the London South Bank University’s Edric Hall, prior to being dismantled in 2004. The organ has since found a new home at the Troxy, Stepney, London.   If you want to donate to the “Tank Up the Troc” Fund to restore the organ to public use then you can do so here.

I’m toying with whether to screen Wurlitzer on Projection Hero – it’s about 15mins so a bit long, but could be one of the Easter Eggs that Tarim has hidden in the alternate controls.

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