The Christie History
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 Opus 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 “Granada” style wooden ends. In addition the Grand Piano was also removed and the metal Tibia II (Main) 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 one of the most versatile instruments ever to emerge from the Christie works, 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 2004 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.
The Gaumont Manchester
Built in 1935 this 4 manual 14 rank instrument was designed to be the flagship organ in the Granada Theatre circuit. A week before it was due to open the cinema was taken over by Gaumont and organist Stanley Tudor was appointed. Stan was associated with this instrument for nearly 30 years and it became known as “The Tudor Rose”. It was broadcast regularly and was liked by the BBC for it's clarity across the airwaves.
It was loved by many organists who played it for being a “bright and snappy” instrument. Reginald Dixon (known as “Mr Blackpool” from his 40 year residency at Blackpool Tower's Ballroom) thought the Gaumont Wurlitzer was the closest sounding organ to that at the Tower that he had ever played- his only regret was that he hadn't got to play it sooner.
When the cinema was closed in 1974 the organ was purchased by the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust who had to store it for many years. It was then installed at Granda Television studios tour complex for just over a decade in the 1990s until the tour closed. The organ was again stored and the trust decided to sell it to someone who could make the instrument publicly available again. Paul Kirner purchased the organ for his collection in autumn 2008. It was installed over the winter in the vintage funfair at Folly Farm near Tenby in South West Wales. The organ has a digital playback system so can reproduce previous performances and is used for 2 hours daily to entertain the 500,000 visitors that attend the park every year.
The organ is on long term free loan to folly farm and is maintained by the team from the Music Palace. The pipework is installed in chambers with glass shutters so that the public can see inside this magnificent machine.
Lowrey “Festival FL”
From around 1959. It is the sister of the Lowrey Lincolnwood, which was highly thought of at the time. It is a neon valve operated instrument and is an extremely rare survivor. In 1906, when the vacuum tube was invented, research into the art of electronic music began almost immediately. Frederick Lowrey produced a working model of an electronic organ in 1918, and until World War II, experimented with many different tone-generating systems.
In the late 1940s, the Eccles-Jordan circuit was developed, a very stable generator that was a Lowrey exclusive. In 1955, Lowrey came out with its first commercially successful electronic organ. This was the Model S or Berkshire. It had two 44-note manuals and a 13-note pedalboard, and was very popular for home use.
The Festival Model FL, also from 1959, was a full console with no bottom like a Hammond B-3. Unlike the B-3, the Festival had its speakers mounted under the tone generator. During the 1960s and 1970s, Lowrey was the largest manufacturer of electronic organs in the world.
There are not many of these instruments that still exist and we do not know of any others that remain in the UK.