Mighty Wurlitzer rising out of the floor played by a dapper
organist resplendant with a smile was one of the glories
of the pre-war age of cinemas.
Nowadays, cinemas are anonymous places where projectors
mechanically whirr and stop and the curtain swishes to
and fro all day long, with scarcely a hint of human involvement.
In the days of silent movies, however, since there was
no soundtrack on the film, the atmosphere was created
"on the spot" by the pianist improvising a mosaic
of mood music, often pieced together from excerpts lifted
out of the popular classics.
The cinema pianist was in due course replaced by the more
chic, upmarket cinema organist, and the cinema organ par
excellence was undoubtedly the Mighty Wurlitzer. It was
in 1910 that the first Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organs
were introduced, specifically designed for cinema music.
These extraordinary pipe organs had between two and five
keyboards. The Wurlitzer Hope - Jones Unit Orchestra,
to give its full name, aimed to provide an entire orchestra
under the feet and fingers of one player. It's organ pipes
could imitate the sounds of trumpets, tubas, clarinets,
oboes & much more. An array of real life percussion
instruments such as cathedral chimes, xylophones, drums
and occasionally even a piano were incorporated into the
the introduction of the talkies, the filmscore was born.
Inevitably, the days of the Mighty Wurlitzer were numbered.
Nowadays, however, there is a certain nostalgia for these
old theatre organs and their distinctive sounds.
Thursford collection houses one of the finest remaining
Wurlitzer organs, in addition to one of the worlds largest
collections of steam traction engines, fairground organs
& rides and road vehicles from a bygone era. Robert
Wolfe has been the resident organist at Thursford since
1981. He took this solo position at the age of 19. From
early spring through to the autumn Robert draws large
crowds to the museum where he performs daily concerts.
Thursford Collection is currently having it's own website
built and you will soon be able to access it from this
of Thursford's many mechanical organs