THE THEATRE ORGAN
BUILDERS OF THE THEATRE ORGANS
THIS PAGE IS WRITTEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH
GLEN TWAMLEY (FRIENDS OF BEER WURLITZER)
IMPORTING THE WURLITZER THEATRE ORGAN TO THE NEW GALLERY CENTRAL HALL
Later that year, it was refurbished as a cinema. One of the unique features of the auditorium was a Greek Frieze of 256 feet in length along its walls and which was the work of Ms Gertrude Halsey.
For more photographs of the New Gallery Cinema, click here
The fourth Wurlitzer Organ to be exported to the UK left the U.S. on the 8th April, 1925 and destined for installation at the New Gallery Cinema in Regent Street where it remains today although un-played. The organ is a Model F with 2-manuals and 8 ranks and was installed with its pipes concealed in two chambers on the right-hand side of the screen.
Some sources report that it was the third Wurlitzer Organ to be installed in the U.K. at the New Gallery Cinema, again a result of the Plaza Lower Regent Street not being ready to receive its organ, allowed it the first to be installed in the West End of London.
The organ was opened to the public by Jack Courtnay in June 1925. Despite there being other organs installed in cinemas at this time, the New Gallery Wurlitzer Organ was the largest and tonally complete and was the first to be featured in a radio broadcast and the first to be recorded in the U.K.
The radio broadcasts featured Reginald Foort at the organ and were of a quarter of an hour in duration. However, once their popularity grew, the broadcast was increased to one hour. The combination of the virtuosity of Mr. Foort’s playing and the lush sound of the New Gallery Wurlitzer Organ is believed to have started a Theatre Organ Boom in the U.K., which resulted in over six hundred instruments being installed in cinemas during the 1920s and 1930s.
Mr. Foort made twenty-five gramophone recordings for HMV, His Master’s Voice playing the New Gallery Theatre Wurlitzer Organ and his rendering of In a Monastery Garden sold over one million copies, which was a record at the time.
Nipper (1884-1895), the dog that became the logo for His Master’s Voice Gramophone Records. When Nipper died, he was buried in a park in Kingston-Upon-Thames, which later was cleared to build a bank. A short street (Bottom, middle) was later named for the dog. Right (Upper & Lower) shows the HMV Store in Oxford Street during the 1950s
Cick here to hear Reginald Foort play In a Monastery Garden recorded in March 1927
Reginald Foort resigned as principal organist at the New Gallery Cinema in 1927 and Miss Florence de Jong took his place and remained until June 1938. Miss de Jong’s sister, Miss Edna Baga was an assistant organist here in 1928.
Click here to watch a short video of the sisters remembering The Silent Film Era
Click here to hear Miss Ena Baga at the Tower Ballroom Wurlitzer Organ
Recently I learned from Mr. John Wright who produces a wonderful semi-monthly Podcast featuring British Dance Band Music that the Theatre Organ of the New Gallery Cinema was also featured in several recordings with an orchestra.
In 2009, Mr. Wright played a piece of music on one of his Podcasts of a recording (HMV B5391) made by Jack Hylton (1892-1965) & His Orchestra with Claude Ivy at the Theatre Organ of the New Gallery Cinema, and was recorded on 11th November, 1927 at the cinema. The music is from Les Millions D’Arlequin (Russian: Миллионы Арлекина) by Riccardo Drigo (1846-1930) and features the Sérénade.
The Sérénade from Les Millions D’Arlequin performed by Jack Hylton (1892-1965) & His Orchestra with Claude Ivy at the Theatre Organ of the New Gallery Cinema
Regarding the recording, Mr. Wright said on the Podcast that ……. Les millions d’Arlequin (also known as Harlequinade) is a ballet with music by Riccardo Drigo and was first presented in St. Petersburg in 1900. Some of the music, known as The Serenade, was later given lyrics and performed by many noted singers.
In addition, Mr. Wright also played a second recording (HMV B5390) of Jack Hylton & His Orchestra with Claude Ivy at the Theatre Organ of the New Gallery Cinema which was also recorded at the cinema on 11th November 1927. The musical piece, entitled, Just Once Again, was written by Walter Donaldson and Paul Ash. The recording features the singing, as a trio, of Jack Hylton, Chappie D’Amato and Hugo Rignold (1905-1976).
Just Once Again performed by the Jack Hylton & His Orchestra featuring the singing trio of
Jack Hylton, Chappie D’Amato & Hugo Rignold
The recordings featured here appear with the permission of Mr. John Wright.
I remember being taken to the New Gallery Cinema sometime in the early 1950s to see the film, Hans Christian Anderson, with Danny Kaye. Although I remember the film, sadly, I do not recall the cinema, much to my regret.
The New Gallery was in effect the Head Office of Provintial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT), which was Britain’s first serious cinema circuit, which had been founded in 1909. PCT built a Picture House in the centre of most cities, many of which were cinemas with luxurious interiors. The company built the glorious Regent Cinema Brighton between 1919 and 1921 at a cost of £400,000. In 1925, William Edward Trent (1874-1948) was appointed as PCT’s chief architect who subsequently became one of the leading cinema designers in Britain and designed a number of distinctive and lavishly appointed Gaumont cinemas in England, including the New Victoria Theatre, once the company was taken over by Gaumont British in 1931.
The New Gallery Building had a Music Library housed behind the cinema in Vigo Street, which housed a small Wurlitzer Organ (Number 2042) with 2-manuals and 6-ranks and with a Special Style 165 console. The Organ was housed in the Georgian Room of the New Gallery and was used during the auditions of future organists.
This Organ has an interesting history and was originally installed in 1929 at the restaurant, Les Gobelins, found adjacent to the New Gallery. The restaurant did not remain in business for long and, once it closed, the Organ was moved to the New Gallery where it remained until 1932 when it was removed and then installed at the Gaumont Cinema Exeter. Following a number of other moves and installations, it became part of The Burtey Fen Collection where it is played during concerts.
Click here to hear Terrance Casey play the Wurlitzer Organ of the New Gallery Cinema (1929)
A point of interest is that the cinema was never altered to accommodate a new wide screen for presentation of films produced in CinemaScope since it ceased being a cinema in 1953 just when wide-screen processes were being introduced. At this time, the cinema was owned by the Rank Organisation, but due to the fall of ticket sales, closed it and the building was leased to the Seventh Day Adventists who used it as a church, which it remained until 1990. During this time, films were screened here only on rare occasions and generally had a religious theme.
The building remained in dis-use between 1990 and 2006, when Habitat took it over for retail use. The organ was played periodically between 2006 and 2008 presumably for the entertainment of shoppers. It was not played again until December 2010. Habitat gave up the lease in 2011.
The erstwhile New Gallery. which once had the address of 121 Regent Street, has reopened in 2012 as the new Flagship Store of Burberry. The Organ is still present and stored within the store confines.
In November 2014, I was given a tour of the new Burberry Store on Regent Street and shown its Theatre Organ. I am told that concerts will soon be given in The Store once more.
To see the photographs that I took of the Theatre Organ, please
to read about the history of the Burberry in the U.K. and around the world.
I would like to thank Mr. John Wright for providing information of the recordings of Jack Hylton & His Orchestra featuring Claude Ivy at the Theatre Organ of the New Gallery Cinema and for allowing two of them to appear here.
I would also like to thank Mr. Paul Bland for his help with the collection of the material which also appears here.
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