The mighty Christie theatre organ provided more than 50 years of musical enjoyment in its original home - the massive Regal Edmonton in North East London.
The Christie organ (works number 2902) was opened with the Regal Edmonton itself on 8th March 1934 by the legendary Sidney Torch, then still only in his early twenties. After a scintillating career in the world of the theatre organ during the 1930s, he became famous as a highly accomplished musical director, composer and arranger - notably during his 21 years in charge of the baton of the hugely popular BBC Radio Series ‘Friday Night is Music night‘. Although Torch left the Regal in 1936, his name will always be associated with the theatre for the numerous outstanding recordings he made there.
In 1947 the organ was rebuilt by Wurlitzer, when the illuminated surround was replaced with wooden ends in the style of those built for organs on the Granada circuit. In addition the metal Tibia II (Accompaniment chamber) was replaced with the wooden Tibia from the Rink Finsbury Park. Over the intervening years the tuned bird whistles which Torch often used so effectively also disappeared.
Considered by many to be the finest of all Christie organs, and certainly a great favourite of Torch, the fourteen units were housed in two chambers on the right side of the auditorium.
The Regal closed in December 1984 and the organ was given to the American Theatre Organ Society, London Chapter and installed in Barry Memorial Hall, South Wales. It re-opened on the 1st March 1987. The organ fell silent in 2003 and was removed to storage in 2010.
Paul Kirner's Theatre Organ Collection acquired the instrument in 2013 and painstakingly restored it and installed it in purpose built chambers in the Music Palace.
On permanent loan to Paul Kirner's Music Palace, the Wurlitzer is owned by the Theatre Organ Club which purchased it in 2016 using a legacy from long-time members Guy and Ursula Bland, to whose memory it is dedicated.
The organ is a 2 manual 8 rank Model F Wurlitzer, originally installed in the Picture House, Leicester in 1925. It was moved to the Exchange Cinema Northampton in 1935, and in 1957 was purchased by Mr. Evelyn Johnson, who installed it in a converted building on his farm in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire where it became known as the Organ in the Cowshed!
In the late 1960s it was bought by Michael Candy who installed it in a purpose-built house in Hemel Hempstead. It took many years to restore and install the Wurlitzer, but by the 1980s it was complete, and was heard and played by many visitors until Mike's death at the end of 2015.
The Model F was once ubiquitous in the UK, but this is now the only completely unaltered example left in the country - quite possibly in the world.
Restoration and installation of this very special Wurlitzer has been undertaken by the Music Palace team, with the wind regulators being restored off-site by Les Allitt of Boston, Lincolnshire. The two chambers for the instrument are behind the pannelled wall of the tea room, with the swell shutters speaking through black fabric which has replaced the glass in some of the panels. The main chamber speaks from behind the bar counter, and the solo chamber from the other end of the room, with the contents of this section being illuminated and visible through double-glazed panels.
The Wurlitzer is played to welcome guests prior to most events taking place at the Music Palace, and has been heard in concert in its own right during some two-day weekend events.
This organ was assembled by Ben Snowdon and previously installed, in two different forms, at his parent's residence in Cardiff.
Starting with the 7 rank Compton from the Ritz, Potters Bar, Ben then acquired the majority of the 13 rank Compton from the Dominion Tottenham Court Road which had been removed from the cinema in the 1950s to Llanelli Parish Church.
It had never been successful there, having been “bodged” in most way, and the original console had been cut down for church use, so a replacement had to be sourced. This came from Aylesbury Civic Centre, having been built in the 1970s by David Pawlyn - and is based on the design of the Radio City Music Hall Wurlitzer in New York but utilising Compton components. The remainder of the pipework was carefully sourced by Ben from other instruments to bring the specification to 21 ranks, and the illuminated surround (modified to fit a larger console) came from the Majestic/ABC Gravesend Compton.
In February 2017 Ben Snowdon donated this large instrument to Paul Kirner's collection, and it was removed to storage at Ynyshir. Installation has been a continuous project since 2018, and the opportunity has been taken to use the much larger space available at the Music Palace for the organ chambers (on the rear of the balcony) to add further ranks to give the most comprehensive specification possible. The chamber space is shared with the 2 manual 4 rank Compton from the Ritz, Hereford, and those ranks are also playable from the four-manual console, along with other choice ranks by Wurlitzer, Christie, and Jardine which will bring the installation up to around 30 ranks when it's finished.