Theatre Organs

One of life’s great disappointments is that most of us were too young to truly appreciate the regular experience of attending those magnificent picture palaces of years gone by when their mighty Wurlitzer organs thundered our stirring tunes which reverberated around the auditorium pre-show and at interval.

Perth had two Wurlitzer Theatre Organs – a large one at the Ambassadors Theatre in Hay Street just down from the Perth Town Hall, and a smaller instrument at the Regent (later Metro Theatre) in William Street alongside of the Wesley Church which still stands. The Ambassadors Theatre Wurlitzer, which was moved to Melbourne in 1945, was played by well known artists such as Les Waldron, Standfield Holliday, Horace Webber, and Tony North. Except for North, these artists were employed by Union Theatres and visited Perth for an extended season on a rotation basis. Waldron at one stage was stationed at Northam Army camp, and when on leave used to travel nearly 60 miles to Perth to play the organ.

Some people may remember Waldron also played around Perth with a dance band called the Melvinians. The “Broadcaster” (June 1942) also mentions his sensitive accompaniment of the organ of singer Nell Shortland-Jones from radio station 6KY.

AMMPT is fortunate to have amongst its members, theatre organist John Fuhrman who has played at the above long demolished venues. The appeal of organ music has proven to be one of the special attractions at our monthly fil shows at the Cygnet where John puts our donated Conn electronic organ through its paces.

Cygnet exhibitor and AMMPT member Graham Kahn behind the organ with John at the Cann keyboard

John has provided a list of the location of current operating Wurlitzer Organs in Australia (note: a manual = keyboard).

QLD

Location Manuals Ranks
Gallery of Modern Art 3 15

NSW

Location Manuals Ranks
John Clancy Residence 2 14
John Atkinson Residence 3 15
State Theatre Sydney 4 21
Orion Recreation Centre Campsie 3 16
Marrackville Town Hall 2 11
Orpheum Picture Palace Campsie 3 11
Chatswood Town Hall 2 10

VIC

Location Manuals Ranks
Regent Theatre Melbourne 4 36
Dendy Theatre Brighton 3 15
Moorabbin Town Hall 4 21
Howard Terrill Residence Heathcote 2 10
Geelong College 2 7
Bill Glasson Residence Caulfield 2 13

SA

Location Manuals Ranks
Capri Theatre Adelaide 4 29
St Peters College Hall 3 15

Tas

Location Manuals Ranks
St. Michael’s School Hobart 3 9

WA

Location Manuals Ranks
Karrinyup Community Centre 3 21