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 HARWORTH CHRISTIE THEATRE ORGAN
Once interest in the enjoyment of hearing Theatre Organs played in cinemas began to wain, the instruments began to be sold and removed from their original installations. Unfortunately some were broken up while others went to museums, others to Halls, a number went to schools and churches and some to private homes. One such organ, a Christie Theatre Organ (Job Number 2912), eventually came to rest at The Harworth Community Hall in Bircotes just outside of Doncaster in Yorkshire.
The Christie Theatre Organ rising from under the stage – This video appears here with permission of the Harworth Christie Organ Enthusiasts
The Christie Theatre Organ of The Harworth Community Hall was originally installed at the Regal Cinema Durham in March 1934 where it was opened by Herbert Maxwell. The Organ had 2-manuals and 7-Ranks, which consisted of Tibia, Diapason, Tuba, Viol d’Orchestra, Clarinet, Vox Humana and Flute.
The Harworth Organ Enthusiasts was founded in 1971 by a group of people with a strong interest in the preservation of Theatre Organs. The aim of this Society was to purchase a Theatre Organ and install it in a Hall where it would be played for concerts and dances. Until they were able to obtain their own Theatre Organ, they contented themselves during their first year with concerts performed on a Hammond RT3 Organ in the nearby Miner’s Hall.
In 1972, it came to The Enthusiasts’ attention that the Regal Cinema Durham was to close and that its Theatre Organ would be available for sale.
Following their inspection of the Organ, a bid was offered and accepted and they began the process of removing it from the cinema. It took working over two weekends to achieve this and to transport it to Bircotes. The Organ was refurbished in an office at the Colliery, and once work was complete, it was installed in the Welfare Hall.
On the 30th September, 1973, The Organ was opened to the public by the organists, Robin Richmond and David Hamilton. There were some 500 enthusiasts in attendance at the Grand Opening. In 1977, The Enthusiasts quietly purchased a lift for their Organ. They did this since they wanted their Organ to rise up from its place of storage under the stage and so give their concerts that extra added excitement and a sense of occasion. After all, there are few sights able to generate the excitement produced by a Theatre Organ rising up onto a stage with a virtuoso playing! Such a sight is guaranteed to produce goose flesh and to make the hair on the back of the head stand upright!
Click here to see the Theatre Organ rise up from under the stage
(This begins at ~ 1 minute …… patience is a virtue and well worth cultivating here!)
The lift came from a cinema in Stratford and was installed secretly. I believe that it was from the Rex Cinema, but have not been able to confirm this, as of yet. If a reader is able to answer this question, please let me know.
The lift was in place and ready to present the audience with a spectacular surprise at the start of the Christmas Concert of 1977. The entrance of the Organ onto the stage proved to be a great success and was enjoyed by everyone present. Members of the Society are allowed to play the Organ and this has inspired a number of young members to take up the playing the instrument seriously. Since its original installation at Bircotes, changes have been made to the Organ: a third keyboard was added, as well as some additional Ranks. The added Ranks include a Diaphone, Trumpet, Krumhorn, String Celeste and Xylophone, as well as a Phantom Piano on stage.
The Christie Theatre Organ has since been played regularly at recitals and dances over the past forty years and has given tremendous pleasure to those who have been lucky enough to hear and see it being played.
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THE BIRCOTES & HARWORTH CHRISTIE THEATRE ORGAN
I would like to thank the Mr. Mick Mason and Mr. Scott Harrison of the Harworth Community Hall for allowing me access to their glorious Christie Theatre Organ and for help in naming the ranks. Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Alan Wilson for organising the visit.
I would also like to thank Mr. Ian McIver for his help and kindness in the preparation of this piece and also to Mr. Paul Bland for his contributions to this piece.