THE THEATRE ORGAN
PART TWO: BUILDERS OF THE THEATRE ORGANS
THIS PAGE IS WRITTEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH GLEN TWAMLEY (FRIENDS OF BEER WURLITZER)
THE CHRISTIE THEATRE ORGAN CONTINUED
THE ONLY CHRISTIE ORGAN IN DENMARK
This piece was written in co-operation with Mr. Anton Stormlund
According to Mr. Anton Stormlund, a Danish music school director and organist, Denmark had only one theatre organ installed in the country. The organ was a 3-manual, 7-rank Wurlitzer Organ and was installed in 1938 at the Palladium Cinema in Copenhagen. Unfortunately for devotees of the instrument, it was removed in 1960 and the pipes destroyed. However, the console was left unharmed.
Mr. Stormlund says that he first became interested in theatre organs after seeing and hearing some of the remaining instruments in the U.K. After this, it became a dream of his to own such an instrument and and have a home large enough to house it.
Today, Mr. Stormlund lives and works in Vejle, which is a provincial town in the southeast of the Jutland Peninsula at the head of the Vejle Fjord. He is the owner of a house, the Village House, in Hornstrup, a small village about six kilometers from Vejle. It is here that he keeps his collection of antique Morse registers and a theatre organ! Evidently some dreams do come true!
Mr. Stormlund first heard of what would become his theatre organ in 2001. He read an advertisement in the newsletter of The Cinema Organ Society announcing the sale of a 3 manual, 17 rank Christie Theatre Organ together with a Steck Grand Piano. The advert also listed the organ ranks that would be included in the sale: Tibia, Open Diapason, Tuba Horn, Flute, String Celeste, Vox humana, together with a later addition of a Trumpet. In total, the organ consisted of 607 pipes and 4 tremolants.
The Keyboard of the 3-Manual, 7 Rank Christie Theatre Organ installed at the United Reformed Church Castle Hill, Ipswich. The Theatre Organ was originally installed at the Century/Essoldo Cinema Clacton-On–Sea in 1936. It was removed from the cinema in 1967 and installed at the church. The Theatre Organ is maintained by the Ipswich Light Organ Music Society (ILOMS).
The Christie Theatre Organ advertised in the Newsletter had been given the Job Number 2680 by William Hill & Son & Norman & Beard Ltd. and was originally installed at the Empire Kinema Stratford (West Ham) in 1929.
The Empire was built in 1914 as a Music Hall for Alexander Bernstein, who was the father of Sidney Bernstein, the founder of The Granada Theatre Circuit and of Granada-TV. In 1929, the Empire was turned into a cinema and underwent modernisation under the direction of Cecil Audrey Masey together with Theodor Komisarjevsky who was responsible for the décor. These gentlemen would be later involved in the building and decoration of many of the Theatres of The Granada Theatre Circuit.
The Empire was renamed The Kinema when it was reopened in 1929. Later in 1951, it was renamed The Century and continued as a cinema until 1963, when due to decreasing patronage, it became a Granada Social Club and was equipped for Bingo. The running of the Club eventually passed to Gala Bingo who continued to do so until 1994 when the building was closed and finally demolished in 1996. Today, the site where the Kinema once stood is now filled by a block of flats.
This was the only Granada Theatre that I went to as a child. I remember seeing the film White Christmas there in 1954. I remember little about the decor, but do recall that Burgundy was one of its prominent colours.
The console of the Christie Theatre Organ (Job Number 2680) installed at The Kinema was made in a Japanese style with 2-manuals. However in 1935 an additional manual was added and the console was altered to reflect a French style. It is known that the celebrated Theatre Organist H. Robinson Cleaver played it at some time, and that in 1940, Hubert Selby and John Howlett were the organists-in-residence.
H. Robinson Cleaver playing Manhattan Spiritual
In 1971, the Organ was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Nicol for installation in their home in Sterling. Apparently their neighbours were none-too-pleased by the noise and received numerous complaints! This prompted the Nicols to move to a new home where a music room was built to accommodate the Organ. Sadly, the music room was flooded in 1975 causing irrepreable damage to the original Relay. As a result, a new Solid State Relay had to be ordered from the company Kimber Allen Ltd. and installed. Incidentally the company still maintains the original drawing of this Relay with its specifications.
In January 1985, the Christie Theatre Organ (Job Number 2680) was installed in the home of Mr. Robert F. Leys in Bathgate in Scotland. Apparently the installation process was completed in a mere six weeks.
In 2001, Mr. Leys who was now 77-years of age decided that it was time to sell the organ and an advertisement was placed in the newsletter of The Cinema Organ Society, which was read by Mr. Anton Stormlund in Denmark!
Mr. Stormlund traveled to Scotland and after inspection and discussion, it was agreed that he would take possession. Mr. Stormlund readily admits that his knowledge of the technical aspect of the Theatre Organ was limited and he gratefully acknowledges the help of the late Mr. Gordon Lucas. Following the dismantling of the organ, it was transported by lorry and ferry to Denmark.
On Tuesday, 23rd October, 2001, the dismantled organ arrived at the home of Mr. Stormlund in Hornstrup. Since he had neither plans nor drawings to help guide him, the installation process proved arduous. Since all of the wire connections had been cut so that the organ could be moved, it took seven weeks of intensive and dedicated work for him to sort out which wire went where! Mr. Stormlund says that the full installation was undertaken in his spare time, and took about eight months for the organ to be successfully installed in its new home.
On Saturday, 25th May, 2002 the local newspaper of the village of Hornstrup carried the announcement that The Christie Theatre Organ now installed the Village House was in a ‘playable state’ and capable of ‘producing sound’.
Mr. Stormlund has made several additions to the organ since it came into his possession and these include: an electronic 32-foot pedal sound; a set of Wurlitzer 16-foot Diaphones added to the pedal; a full Oboe Horn rank in various pitches; and another set of Xylophone-Glockenspiel-Vibraphone.
In addition, he has designed and built a Cow Bell unit for the Organ. This unit consists of a set of 36 trembling and tuned cow bells. Trembling is produced by the magnet-units of the bells being switched between two circuits. An electric motor housed in the red box (shown in the photograph) brings about the switch between the circuits. Mr. Stormlund says that he is very happy with the sound that is produced.
According to Mr. Stormlund, the erstwhile Kinema/Century Theatre Stratford (West Ham) Christie Theatre Organ sounds great! Although it is not a concert instrument, it gives pleasure when heard and fills the room where it is now installed.
Unfortunately, Mr. Stormlund is unable to heat the Village House in Hornstrup on a full-time basis, which he admits is not ideal for the maintenance of the organ and plays havoc with tuning. Since the organ is in a private home, support for the organ cannot be obtained from either the municipality or the state.
Today this Christie Theatre Organ is the only Theatre Organ installed in Denmark. Mr. Stormlund says that he is proud to do his part in maintaining it and continues to do his best to spread the word by letting others know of the joy that such an instrument can bring to the listener.
I would like to thank Mr. Ian McIver for his help and kindness in the preparation of this piece.
Very special thanks are given to Mr. Anton Stormund for his allowing the piece on his Christie Theatre Organ to appear here and for his help in its writing and illustration.
I would like to thank Mr. Paul Bland for his contributions to this piece.