THE THEATRE ORGAN

Robert Hope-JonesRobert Hope-Jones (1859-1914), Father of The Theatre Organ

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PART TWO:
BUILDERS OF THE THEATRE ORGANS

THIS PAGE IS WRITTEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH
GLEN TWAMLEY (FRIENDS OF BEER WURLITZER)

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PAGE THIRTEEN:
THE WURLITZER ORGAN CONTINUED

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THE WURLITZER THEATRE ORGAN OF
THE GRANADA THEATRE TOOTING

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I have heard that NINETY-NINE Wurlitzer Theatre Organs were installed in British Cinemas and Ballrooms between 1925 and 1939.  Most were imported new, but some were second-hand following their removal from their original installations in the U.S.

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When Sidney and Cecil Bernstein founded The Granada Theatre Circuit, they installed Christie Organs in their first two custom-built Theatres at Dover and Walthamstow.  However when they built their flagship theatre, the Granada Theatre Tooting, they chose a Wurlitzer Theatre Organ and did so for each of the remaining theatres that they built.

Granada TootingThe Erstwhile Granada Theatre Tooting, now the Gala Bingo

The Bernsteins bought the Wurlitzer Organ once installed at the Majestic Theatre in Sacramento, California where it had 3 manuals and 10 ranks.  When the Organ was opened to the public at the Granada Theatre Tooting in 1931, it had been been enlarged to have 12 ranks, and in 1933, it was enlarged further to 14 ranks.  The Organ was played at the Theatre’s opening by Alex Taylor.

Alex-Taylor-2-Tooting-with-borderOrganist Alex Taylor at the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ of the Granada Theatre Tooting
This photograph appears with permission of Mr. Wayne Ivany

Granada Tooting OrganThe Console of The Wurlitzer Organ of the Granada Theatre Tooting in 2011
This photograph was taken by Mr. Andy Aldridge

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Most of the great organists of the day played this Organ and it was used often in BBC Radio Broadcasts.

John MadinClick here to hear John Madin play the Wurlitzer Organ of The Granada Theatre Tooting

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In 1973, the Theatre closed as a cinema.  In July of this year, the building was flooded leaving the Organ under three feet of water causing damage to it that rendered it unplayable.  When the Theatre became a Granada Social Club in 1976, the rake of the auditorium was removed so that Bingo Tables might be installed on a flat surface.  The building of a new floor resulted in the organ being hidden under it in the erstwhile orchestra pit.  With this construction, the organ remain in a damaged state and unplayable.

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Click here to hear Robinson Cleaver (1906-1987) play the Wurlitzer Organ of The Granada Theatre Tooting

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In 1983, the British Wing of the American Theatre Organ Society headed by the late Mr. Les Rawle was allowed to work on the organ and it was returned to working order within a year.  In 1991, the building became a Gala Bingo Cluband following a period of consultation and fund-raising by Mr. Len Rawle, work began, which was to allow the console to once more be played and the Organ heard at a concert that took place on 22nd April, 2007.

Raising the Tooting WurlitzerThe DVD produced detailing the work done to restore the Tooting Wurlitzer

Unfortunately, on 20th July, 2007, flooding occurred in the area once more that caused marked damage to the Organ.  Sadly, although all efforts are being made to restore the Organ, it seems that it will remain unplayable for some time to come.

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