THE THEATRE ORGAN
BUILDERS OF THE THEATRE ORGANS
THIS PAGE IS WRITTEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH
GLEN TWAMLEY (FRIENDS OF BEER WURLITZER)
THE WURLITZER ORGAN CONTINUED
THE ISLE OF MANN WURLITZER ORGAN
Click here to hear Len Rawle play the Isle of Mann Wurlitzer Organ
The Isle of Man Wurlitzer Organ has an interesting history and has been installed in several locations since being built at the Wurlitzer Factory at Tonawanda, N.Y. and its arrival in England in 1929. Originally, the Organ was to be installed at the Marlborough Cinema Holloway, but once it arrived, it was deemed too small for this cinema and was installed instead at the smaller City Cinema Leicester where it remained until 1957 when it was removed and put into storage.
The Organ was later purchased to replace the Walsall Wurlitzer Organ, which had been the first Wurlitzer Theatre Organ exported to Britain (2 Manuals, 6 Ranks) in 1925 for installation at the Picture House Walsall and later installed at Dormston House, Sedgely, Staffs.
Click here to hear Brian Sharp playing The Wurlitzer Organ
In 1989, the Organ was sold to the Government of the Isle of Mann (in Manx, the island is known as Ellan Vannin) and installed at Summerland where it remained until 2004 when the venue closed. Following this, the organ was fully restored by Mr. Len Rawle and installed in the Villa Marina complex on the island.
I received the following comment from Mr. Len Rawle regarding The Isle of Man Wurlitzer Organ:
The IOM installation in the Summerland Leisure Centre sadly was not satisfactory, as the chambers were in a position where they could not be heard by the organist! I was called in to advise on whether the organ was worth saving ……… since they were planning to demolish Summerland!
Originally the Organ consisted of 2 Manuals and 8 Ranks, but the organist, Brian Sharp, had a third keyboard and an English-made English Horn Rank added to the Organ together with various additional electronic sounds such as a String Bass, Tympani and Orchestral Violins.
The authorities of The Isle of Man were very keen on preservation and I was delighted when they agreed with me that the organ should be put back to its original specification and overall appearance. I did however decide to review the possibility of keeping the added Rank once I had the chance of hearing it in its new home.
It took seven years to decide on, and eventually completely rebuild its new home, the Villa Marina Arcade in Douglas. My specification for the Organ chambers and the new performance area were all accepted and we have ended up with one of the most attractive settings for local theatre organ concerts in the UK. The acoustics are excellent and there is room for up to two hundred people to be seated in the audience area. In addition, the illuminated pipework can be viewed through large glass panels and the Organ is now housed in a temperature-controlled environment, which of course, greatly assists stable tuning.
The English Horn has been re-voiced as a Trumpet and this fits in much better with the original 8 Ranks. The two-manual Console has been extensively refurbished and returned, as closely as possible, to its original French-style and natural wood finish with gold gilding.
It is an installation of which I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity of restoring and saving. I continue to maintain it on a 6-monthly basis. In addition to its fortnightly use by The Friends of the IOM Wurlitzer, the Organ is used during a number of major concert opportunities each year.
Click here to watch John Leeming’s video, A Wurlitzer at the Troxy!
I would also like to thank Mr. Len Rawle M.B.E. for allowing his communication to appear here.