From: Allen Walker, Apr. 1999

I have just come from a wonderful theatre organ experience. I attended the opening of a newly-installed Wurlitzer organ. The instrument is a 4/34 organ assembled with almost all Wurlitzer parts, at the Shanklin Conference Center in Groton MA. Everything has been restored or rebuilt to new standards. The room was constructed especially for this instrument, and seats about 400.

The opening concert was played dazzlingly by Ron Rhode. He pleased the crowd with a mixture of old and new pieces, as well as orchestral transcriptions. His excellent playing and musicianship should be well known to members of this list. His style has aspects of old traditions, jazz, and classical techniques. He was a wonderful choice to open this new instrument; he managed to show us the instrument's many, many different colors and moods. The concert was magnificent!


The owner, Garrett Shanklin, had the intention to duplicate the instrument that was in the Metropolitan Theatre in Boston MA (now called the Wang Center). [That was a Publix 4 organ (4/26), installed in 1930, and removed in 1974 for parts for the Organ Grinder pizza chain.] By good fortune, Garrett was able to acquire the original Met console! The core of the pipework is a Style 260 Wurlitzer originally in the Palace Theatre, Cleveland OH. Other Wurlitzer pipework and chestwork was acquired. All was professionally restored to new condition. The resulting instrument is basically the Boston Metropolitan Wurlitzer with a little filling out (mostly some more strings and celestes, plus an extra or so). Here is the specification (with more description after):

4 Manuals -- 34 Ranks Plus Percussions
All parts are Wurlitzer except as noted.


Tuba Horn16-485
Diaphonic Diapason16-485
Open Diapason8-473
Tibia Clausa8-285
Violin8-473 *
Violin Celeste8-473 *
Viol d'Orchestre8-285
VDO Celeste8-473
Oboe Horn861
Harmonic Flute461
Concert Flute32-2109 **
Flute Celeste461 *
Unda Maris8-473 *
Vox Humana861
Chrysoglott49 notes
* Not in Publix 4 specification
** 32' octave unenclosed; 32' octave not in Publix 4 specification


Tuba Mirabilis16-873
English Post Horn16-873
Brass Trumpet861
Horn Diapason16-485
Horn Diapason Cel.8-473 *
Tibia Clausa16-297
Orchestral Oboe861
Brass Saxophone861
Solo String16-297
Solo String Celeste8-473
Gamba Celeste8-473
Solo Vox Humana861
Master Xylophone37 notes
* Not in Publix 4 specification


Pedal Tibia832 *
Trumpet-en-Chamade (Trivo)861 *
Cathedral Chimes25
Sleigh Bells25
Saucer Bells25
Upright Piano (Wurlitzer)85
Grand Piano (Mason & Hamlin)85 *
Traps & Effects
* Not in Publix 4 specification


4 Manuals, 280 Stop Tabs
5 Expression Pedals plus Crescendo Pedal
2 Piano Pedals, 2 Swing-Out Trays

Organ Relay: Z-Tronics
Combination Action: Sterling
Recorder/Player: Trousdale


20 Regulators, 15 Tremulants
25 HP, 1150 RPM, 3-stage Spencer Turbine Blower

This entire installation has to be seen and heard to be believed. The workmanship is the best I have ever seen. The chambers are spacious, with floors clean enough to eat off of. The regulators and trems are in a room below the chambers, and cannot be heard in the auditorium. The blower is in its own spotless and soundproof room, with only filtered air allowed in. The console is on a turntable on a dias, and has been restored to the same look as when I worked on it late nights so many years ago. And, of course, the instrument and the room have been fitted to each other so well the sound is magnificent. They have really gotten the sound of a large organ in a large theatre there.

Credit where credit is due:
Proprietor and Visionary: Garrett Shanklin
Organ Specification: Lyn Larsen
Initial Installation & Console Restoration: Crome Organ Co.
Final Installation and Maintenance: Donald L. Phipps
Tonal Regulation & Electronic Technician: Allen R. Miller
Acoustic Consultant: Accentech, Inc.

I don't know who should get the most credit for this most excellent result; I expect all of these parties (and more) made completely essential contributions. I would like to mention in particular the tonal finishing, though. I have heard too many TO installations where pipes that were suitable for a large theatre were shoehorned into a small space, and were either too loud and raucous, or were toned down so they had unsteady speech and a muted raucousness. And, of course there are those Post Horns that had all the sensitive sound of a chain saw cutting through nails. In this case, the instrument fills the room well with the kind of sound and volume one might hear in a large theatre.

Allen M. informed me that, actually, the pipes are not toned down; they are voiced just as if they were in a large theatre. The effect I described was obtained by using very very large pipe chambers, which therefore made the swell shade openings small relative to the chamber size.

Somehow, with stunning skill, the pipes have been tamed and have been made to make music together. The Post Horn (at 16' and 8') has plenty of sizzle, yet does not rip the ensemble apart; it's just the right compromise. The decision to extend the Concert Flute down to 32', rather than following Wurlitzer's usual practice of a 32' Contra- Diaphone, was an excellent idea; it's just right for the room. There's plenty of 32' tone available, even for full organ, but those Flute pipes know their place: to support, not to take over the organ. Besides, they look great standing out in the open against one wall.

I have to mention the Trumpet-en-Chamade by Trivo. This has drawn brass resonators with flared bells and is mounted on the back wall, projecting horizontally toward the front. The top two octaves are harmonic (double length), and the scale is obviously larger than a Wurlitzer Brass Trumpet. I do not include this stop in my description of the refinement and balance of the rest of the organ. Rather, it embodies the motto: "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing." This set of party horns is LOUD! It was used in one piece, and a good time was had by the consenting adults present.
According to Allen M., it is the same scale, although there are detailed dimensional differences. He suggested that perhaps I am not used to looking at Brass Trumpets from the "top." He's right. By the way, he said it operates on 15" wind. [It sure sounded like 150" wind.]

Two tonal additions won my heart. The first was the 4' Harmonic Flute. It has a gorgeous sound, very much like a real orchestral flute. My favorite use of it was by itself, but it is also fine for small ensemble registrations. The second was the additional strings and celestes. These gave the instrument an added lushness and a greater variety of softer sounds.

It is wonderful to have this reincarnation of the Boston Met organ back in my home area. Welcome back!

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