Beacon Theatre, New York City

Wurlitzer, opus #1891, 1928, Style 250 Special (4/19)

 

                    PEDAL    ACCOMP      GREAT          ORCH          SOLO

S Tuba Mirabilis    A 8                  A 8              8 8t        A 8

S Trumpet                                  8              8 8t          8

M Tuba Horn        16 8 16z    8 8t     16 8 4 16t     16 8          16 8 4

M Diaphonic Diap.  16 8 16t    8        16 8              8             8

? (Open Diapason?)                         B              D             B

M Horn Diapason     A          8         A 8            C 8             8

S Tibia Clausa     16 8        8 8t     16 8 4 3 2 8t  16 8 4 3 2 8t 16 8 4

M Tibia Clausa                 8           8 4 3 2     16 8 4 3 2       8 4

S Orchestral Oboe                          8              8             8

S Kinura                                   8              8             8

M Clarinet            8        8        16 8 8t           8             8

S Saxophone           8        8        16 8           16 8             8

? (Krumet?)                    B           B              B             B

S String              8        8           8              8             8

S String Celeste               8           8              8

M Viol d'Orchestre    8     16 8 4      16 8 4   2     16   4

M Viol Celeste        8        8 4         8 4              4

? (Salicional?)                B           B              B             B

S Oboe Horn                    8                                        8

S Quintadena                   8                                        8

M Flute            16 8 4   16 8 4 3 2  16 8 4 3 2 T   16 8 4 3 2 T

M Vox Humana                16 8 4         8              8

 

S Glockenspiel/Bells                       G B            G B           G B

S Sleigh Bells                             S              S

S Cathedral Chimes             C           C              C             C

S Xylophone                    X           X              X             X

S Marimba/Harp                 M H         M H            M H

M Chrysoglott                  C           C              C

 

   Accomp to ...                  4

   Great to ...        8                 16 -8 4

   Orchestral to ...   8                    8

   Solo to ...         8        8 8t 8z     8 8t 8z        8 8t

 

Tremulants: Main, Solo, Tibia, Tibia, Vox, Diaphone/Tuba, Tuba Mirabilis

 

Pedal traps: Bass Drum, Kettle Drum, Snare Drum, Cymbal, Traps 1st/2nd Touch. Accomp traps: Snare Drum, Tambourine, Castanets, Chinese Block, Tom-Tom,

               Sand Block

 

10 Thumb pistons to each manual, Suitable Bass and release to each manual

 

11 toe pistons

 

(Note: "3" = 2-2/3'; "T" = 1-3/5'; "t" = 2nd touch; "z" = pizzicato touch)

 

The blank tabs are shown in the order in which they appear on the stop jams, and I've made a guess as to their possible meaning, based upon their locations.  The letters have the following meanings in each case:

A: 16 Bombarde (Tuba Mirabilis) or 16 Bass (Horn Diapason).

B: 8 Open Diapason, Krumet, or Salicional.

C: 16 Bass (Horn Diapason), or possibly 16 Double English Horn.

D: Possibly 8 English Horn, or else 8 Open Diapason (tab before Diaphonic).

 

Except for the "D" tab, all of the others make sense as listed here, with the addition of 16' bottom octaves for the Tuba Mirabilis and the Horn Diapason.  Only the "D" tab breaks the pattern: since it comes between the Tuba Horn and Diaphonic Diapason, is was probably not meant to be an Open Diapason.  Wurlitzer placed the English Horn ("Post Horn") in various locations relative to the Tuba and Trumpet stops, so, again, it is a little difficult to be sure about this one.  Another argument against an English Horn is that all of the other blank tabs "work" as shown above and would not be candidates for the English Horn; it would seem strange to have an English Horn playable only from the Orchestral manual.

 

Ian McIver's note to TO-L (3/20/2000), containing the entire stoplist, also says that he *might* have missed 8' VdO and VCel stops for the Orchestral manual when he copied the stops from the console in 1972.

 

Bon Smith wrote the following about this organ:

 

The Beacon Wurlitzer is a Style 260 special, installed in 1929. Special because of the 4m console and four additional ranks: String Celeste, Tibia (main), Horn Diapason and Tuba Mirabilis. There are two chambers above the proscenium, Main on the left and Solo on the right. There is a heavy, curved plaster grille in front of the chambers, so heavy that an electronics specialist on our crew termed it a "low-pass filter".

 

Access to the chambers is difficult: Walk to the back of the theatre, up to the Mezz, up to the Balcony, up to the projection booth, up to the spotlight booth on top of the projection room, out past the battery room and onto a hanging steel catwalk above the ceiling. Continue back toward the stage area, down a 2 story ladder, across a short catwalk, down another short ladder and you are (gasp) at the chamber. Ironically, just a few feet away, on the other side of a concrete block wall, is the stairway and elevator for the dressing rooms. Ever wonder why the organ is still there?

 

The organ is an enigma. It is a large-scale Wurlitzer in an impressive building, but is not particularly successful for several reasons:

 

1. The chamber position puts the sound back over the head of the organist, which is unsatisfying for the organist. The organ does not begin to "bloom" until about the 10th row back. It was best at the front of the balcony. And the grille muffled the organ to a great extent.

 

2. The specification and the unification were all quite bland. Possibly the organist at the time wanted an "orchestral" sound. It desperately needed a Post Horn and brighter voicing to please our generation. I made some minimum voicing changes, but was hesitant to make changes that could not be reversed.

 

Billy Nalle was a good friend at that time. He came by often to play and check our progress. He often commented on the mild sound at the console, and I always responded, "You wouldn't believe how loud it is in the chamber!" So one day Billy trekked to the chambers with me. He sat neatly on the cleanest walkway with an innocent smile, waiting for the organ to be played by a friend. When the sound commenced, it was incredibly loud. Billy's mouth dropped open, both eyeballs nearly fell out, and he clapped his hands over his ears. He shook his head to indicate the organist should stop. I radioed a signal down to the console. Billy left the chamber obviously shaken. He said he would never have believed the difference.

 

I should point out that in 1962, NYC did not abound in available Wurlitzers. There was the Paramount, which was played for ATOE functions on rare occasions and still maintained by Dan Papp, and Radio City Music Hall. The Brooklyn Paramount was still a theatre with very heavy, dirty grille draperies, and the organ unused, as was the Brooklyn Fox with its disastrous Wurlitzer (even worse than the Beacon). So when I "discovered" the Beacon organ, it was about the only one available. Plus it was convenient for me. I was never paid for working on the organ, but the work was appreciated by the theatre manager and I had carte blance to the organ. I was helped by the ATOE chapter to gather a volunteer crew. We all became good friends and had great times working on the organ.

 

Maybe you don't go back this far, but there was quite a lot of publicity on the organ in years past. Tom B'hend's Console magazine had many articles on the organ, even did a feature issue on the organ and theatre when the organ was "reopened" by Gaylord Carter. Lee Erwin then began a series of silent movie programs, which brought him to the fame he now enjoys. Lee recorded the music from his "The Eagle" score for Concert Recordings. I still have a couple of the tapes.

 

The chamber/rank arrangement:

 

MAIN (left chamber), left chest, from shades backwards: Bourdon-Flute (to 16') VDO Viol Celeste Horn Diapason Clarinet

 

Right Chest:

Vox Humana

Tibia Clausa

Diaphonic Diapason (to wood 16', no 32')

Tuba Horn (to 16')

 

Percussion: Chrysoglott

 

(Sliding door between chambers)

 

SOLO, left chest:

Kinura

Oboe Horn

String

String Celeste

Orchestral Oboe

 

Right chest:

Brass Saxophone

Brass Trumpet

Quintadena

Tibia Clausa (to 16')

Tuba Mirabilis

 

Percussions:

Chimes

Glockenspiel

Xylophone

Tuned Sleigh Bells

Marimba

usual toy counter

 

A final memory: At one time, Allen Miller was trying to reintroduce the Austin Quadruplex player for use with home theatre organs. As a publicity stunt for one of the ATOE meetings at the Beacon, Allen temporarily hooked his Quad to the Beacon organ. He had a roll specially prepared for the stunt. Allen began playing "Roller Coaster" on the organ. At an arranged time, I came running out from backstage, waving a paper and shouting at Allen to come with me. Allen immediately got up from the console and ran offstage with me, leaving the organ still playing and the audience stunned! It was perfect! At the same moment, we had pushed the "up" button for the orchestra elevator and as it rose, it revealed a big spotlighted sign that read, "QUAD IS HERE!". Wow!

 

(With many thanks to Ian McIver and Bon Smith!)

 

Larry Chace  (Originally posted to TO-L on 6/30/03)

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