From: Write-up issued at concert, Oct. 2002
Welcome to the first concert on the newly refurbished Singing Hills
Wurlitzer Organ. Since the last concert the organ has undergone enormous
changes and we hope you will enjoy hearing the result today.
The majority of the work has been carried out by Alan Baker who, in
conjunction with project supervisor David Houlgate, has masterminded the
rebuilding and spent an average of some ten hours a day here every day since
March, a total in excess of 1,800 hours, often working until one or two in
the morning so as not to disturb the golfers.
Besides putting in many hours of labour; organist Michael Wooldridge has
drawn up a fresh specification for the organ, building upon the original by
Michael Maine to try to create that can now, he hopes, suit every style of
playing. This task was made much easier with the addition of extra stop tabs
on the new double-layered back rail. These stops were all mounted and wired
by our concert organiser and M.C. Frank Cornish and then Bob Hercock
finished the woodwork so that it matched the rest of the organ.
Regulars will recall that some of the strings were swapped with Viole
d'Orchestre ranks before Michael Maine's concert here and, since the
replacements sounded much better, they have now been added to the original
Gambas; they have all been up to Leeds for the attention of expert pipe man
Duncan Booth. At the same time he has worked on the Kinura, Brass Trumpet
and Brass Saxophone ranks so that they now play evenly from end to end and,
in the case of the brasses, shine like new.
In Michael's new specification he has added a new Krumet rank as this
will enhance the sound for the English styles of playing, most especially
when recreating the Blackpool sounds. This is a brand new rank which has
been manufactured to Wurlitzer specification by F. Booth and Son who, at the
request of David Houlgate and Michael Maine has also made a 16' English Horn
for the organ, although this is not yet installed.
Still to be added is a Concert Flute Celeste which Michael W believes
will make the organ sound more rich; we have the chest installed and wired
in but can't have the pipes yet as they are currently playing in the
magnificent Worthing Wurlitzer and will not be available to us until about
Christmas time when a new Oboe Horn will be taking their place at Worthing.
Also from Worthing, we now have a Wurlitzer Open Diapason which, although
originally from one of their church installations and of a slightly smaller
scale than the one we had, benefits from being properly regulated so that
the notes sound even and have a nicer character than their predecessors.
If you look up to the pipe chamber grille above the bar you will see
that Alan and Michael W have built two new pipe chambers, one on either
side, to house all of the percussion and effects which had previously
sounded very quiet as they were right at the very back of the original pipe
chamber. They now speak out clearly through refurbished shutters with
openings skilfully made by Michael Jury. A second swell pedal, the middle
one - obtained through Larry McGuire of the Scottish Theatre Organ
Preservation Society - has been installed to control the percussion
shutters, allowing organists to balance the volume of the percussion in
relation to the pipes. Whilst moving the 'traps', some have been made to
work for the first time here, listen out for the Klaxon and Siren. Top
drummer Phil Solomon has helped to fit a replacement Snare Drum, Crash and
It was felt that some of the pipework was not receiving a suitable wind
supply and, consequently, not sounding its best. To overcome this we have
completely re-winded the whole organ by tipping up every chest and doweling
it into its new location, relocating all of the regulators (adding some so
that we now have 13) and tremulants (now 11) to make the wind lines more
direct. Of course, to do this, we had to delicately remove all 1,500 pipes
and the n carefully place them back again. The windpipe at the blower is 15"
in diameter and then goes into a square trunk to feed the regulators. From
there on the pipe varies in size from 10" down to 6", 4" and a little 3",
depending on what it must supply. Setting tremulants and regulators is
something of a black art and certainly will be an ongoing project. It is
necessary to make an initial setting and then gradually adjust them over
time so that not only do they work well in themselves but also create a good
blend with the other ranks.
With the new layout in the chambers and the new wind supply, it has been
decided to remove the digital reverb from the organ in favour of allowing it
to speak naturally into its own environment and, consequently, develop its
own character. We do still have some electronic sounds here and there, most
notably the piano, now relocated to the bar roof, and in the very near
future, a Marimba Harp (we had a real one ready to install but at 7' long
and 7' high we just couldn't find anywhere to put it). We also still have
some electronic bass, the 16' Tibia, Flute and Tuba. The 16' Tibia is soon
to be joined by a real wooden pipe Tibia so organists will have the choice
between the chiff and warmth of a natural wind bass and the power of the
electronic bass, now playing through two huge 24" cinema speakers, or both.
Perhaps because he had re-specified the organ, it fell to Michael W,
greatly assisted by Alan, to reposition the stop key units in the two main
stop sweeps and to change the named stop tabs. Although an apparently little
job, like so many others, this has taken quite a time, a couple of days so
far, and you will see that there are still just a few to be changed over
when the last of the new tabs arrives from the USA. Once they were in place,
electronics wizard David Houlgate undertook the mammoth task of making them,
and all of Frank's back rail tabs, work with the piston setter system and,
more importantly, do what they say!
Many other jobs have been completed including much re-leathering inside
various chests, changing of faulty magnets and the creation of easier on and
Whilst the work in progress has been enjoyable, there have been a few
setbacks plus, especially during the summer months, very uncomfortable
conditions as Alan and Michael spent night after night working in awkward
and uncomfortable conditions in the chambers which, at that time, were
always around 90 degrees and, even now, are still in the mid 70s. Then, when
things were going nicely, we had a lightning strike or, to be more accurate,
a very near miss. The resultant electrical field set off and wrote off the
fire alarm, telephone exchange and around 400 computer chips in the organ -
the ones that link the console to the pipes. It was fortunate that the fire
alarm was replaced as, just this last Monday, some wiring in the chambers
overheated and melted. Were it not for the chamber smoke alarm detecting the
thick acrid smoke, a fire could have developed. As it was it took Michael
and Alan some 9 or 10 hours to repair the damage, and the crew of two fire
engines had a guided tour and were truly fascinated by the wonders they
could see in the organ chambers!
With these set backs and delays it gas been all hands to the pumps this
last week to make the organ playable in time for today's concert. Michael,
Alan and David have been in for many, many hours this week, both day and
night. Bob and Frank had a major all night long tuning session on Friday and
even owner Michael Hunt took time out from his hectic schedule to lend a
hand installing some pipework. Because of this eleventh hour finale, the
organ has not been tested as much as we would have liked. We hope that you
will bear with us if we have a few more ciphers than usual.
Obviously there are still jobs in hand and today you are hearing the
organ playing at 21 ranks, two more than it used to be. By the next time you
join us the Tuba should be back on and then, by the New Year, the Flute
Celeste, bringing us up to a huge total of 23 ranks of pipes.
As the organ becomes complete, we hope that it may be possible, at least
during the Winter months, to have some evenings when enthusiasts will be
able to come along and play the organ. Next Spring, top organist and theatre
organ advisor Clark Wilson will be travelling over from the United States to
spend some of his valuable time improving the organ further. This is only
possible now that we have moved everything about and created the new wind
We very much hope that you appreciate the difference in the organ today
and will enjoy the continuing improvements.