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16 August 2012 Last updated at 04:26 ETWurlitzer organ restored and installed at cinemaA large pipe organ dating back to the silent film era has been installed in a south Cumbrian cinema after five years of restoration work.The Wurlitzer 2/7 organ has been fully restored and placed in Royalty Cinema in Bowness on Windermere.The instrument was built in 1927 and originally installed in the Almira Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States.The Furness Theatre Organ Project purchased the organ in January 2010.During the early years of film, a piano or organ provided live accompaniment, adding to the cinema experience.Music was often played without rehearsal and created in response to action being shown on screen.It is thought the organ was shipped to England in 1934 and installed in the Rex Cinema, Stratford, London.Horses' hoovesPart of the organ hidden under the stage Two large rooms are filled with instrumentsThe restoration team said when finished, the Royalty Cinema in Bowness on Windermere will be the only cinema in Europe with a working Wurlitzer organ.Mark Latimer, from the team, said: "This has been a massive, five-year programme of restoration by a small group of volunteers."The organ features seven ranks of pipes and has all the effects for silent movies including drums, cymbals, bird whistles and can even reproduce a sound similar to horses' hooves."Painted white with gold and red trim, the organ requires two large rooms filled with equipment to make it work.Placed beneath the cinema stage are more than 900 pipes, similar to those found on a church organ, the drums and the electronics required to activate and play connected instruments, such as violins, trumpets, flutes and a tambourine.Sound escapes into the auditorium via grills cut into the front of the stage."In the heyday of cinema, in the 20s and 30s, every large cinema would have a theatre organ either a Wurlitzer or probably more commonly a Compton, which was a British firm," added Mr Latimer."Over the years they have been taken out and put into collections."There are very few cinemas with theatre organs at all and this actually is the only Wurlitzer theatre organ in a cinema anywhere in Europe, so it is quite something."The organ will be officially unveiled in October when it will provide live accompaniment to a silent film.
The vintage 1927 Wurlitzer has been installed in the Royalty cinema, Bowness.And it was to be played over the weekend before previews of the new Keira Knightley film Anna Karenina.The rare pipe organ, which originates from the Rex Theatre in Stratford, London, had been deteriorating in storage for around 35 years.That was until five years ago when Dalton’s Mark Latimer and a group of fellow enthusiasts agreed to take the instrument from a collector in Scotland, where it lay in bits and pieces.They have raised around £25,000 through their Furness Theatre Organ Project to restore the Wurlitzer and painstakingly install it in the Royalty Cinema.Mr Latimer, chairman of the restoration projects, said: “When we brought all the bits back, I think there were five Luton vans full of stuff.“We looked at it all and thought we would never make anything of it.“But we’ve managed to put it together and it sounds absolutely fantastic – we never imagined it would sound as good as it does.“And it’s in a cinema. They were designed for cinemas in the days before the talkies when there were silent films, with the likes of Chaplin, and the organ would be played as an accompaniment.”Cinema owner Charles Morris said: “It’s very appropriate, as the organ itself dates from 1927, as does the cinema.“It’s the only Wurlitzer organ now in a British cinema and I’m very proud for it to be here.“I have six cinemas and the Royalty is the only one with a proper pipe organ and it will add considerably to the movie-going experience.”A concert to celebrate the organ’s restoration will be held at the cinema on October 6 at 2pm.Veteran organists David Ivory and David Shepherd, who played the Wurlitzer when it was housed in London in the 1970s, will perform, along with organ and keyboard entertainer Chris Powell.Mr Ivory will then play the musical accompaniment to the 1923 romantic comedy silent film Safety Last! at 7.30pm.Tickets are on sale from the Royal box office.
Live pipe organ music is evocative of old Hollywood glamour and silent movies, but has long been absent from British cinemas, until now.The only Wurlitzer organ in a working cinema in Europe has made its debut after a painstaking five-year restoration, much to the delight of cinema goers.Enthusiasts from across the country descended on the Royalty Cinema in Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, at the weekend to witness a piece of history.
The organ was originally at a theatre in Ohio but was shipped to the UK in 1934 when ‘talkies’ ended the era of silent films in the USA. It was used occasionally at the Rex cinema in East London until the 1970s.Mayor of Windermere Allan Winrow cut the ribbon at the weekend to unveil the instrument.Mark Latimer, who launched the restoration, said: 'At some points I never thought we would get this far, so it’s tremendous to see it playing - it sounds fantastic.
'People have come here from the south coast to Scotland and everywhere in between.'Visitors were treated to an afternoon concert featuring organists Chris Powell, David Ivory and David Shepherd.Organs took the place of orchestras in the heyday of silent films, designed to produce many different sounds and timbres using the fewest number of pipes to minimise the space needed.The restored Wurlitzer has the traditional horse-shoe shaped console and sits in pride of place on the right hand side of the screen at the Royalty cinema.
Describing the opening event as ‘fantastic’, Alan Adams, of Barrow, said: 'I could have listened to the organ for hours.'It was so good and it’s wonderful to see the organ being used. I am glad I came.'The celebration continued with an evening showing of silent film Safety Last, accompanied by Mr Ivory on the organ.He said being involved brought back some memories for him.'I played this very same organ 40 years ago so it’s nostalgic for me - I used to play it in an East London bingo hall. I’d entertain the ladies before bingo so it’s nice to be playing it again.'
There were also shorter films to start the cinema evening, which included the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton, with Paul Gregson at the keyboard.One of those chuckling at the comedians, John Simpson, from Lancaster, said: 'This is the first time I have seen a Wurlitzer in action so I was very excited. I’ve heard them on CDs but nothing compares to seeing it live.'Everyone has been laughing so it must be good, and the organists are so talented.'Alan Mason, of Barrow, who attended the concert and film show, said: 'The concert was very good and I am surprised at how many people turned up.'I’ve seen the organ over the years so it’s lovely to come and see it being played, especially in a setting like this because there are not many vintage cinemas about.'