I am happy to report that the Plaza Theatre Wurlitzer Balaban III has been returned to El Paso, Texas and is installed in the food court at the Sunland Park Mall, Sunland Park Drive and I10 in El Paso Texas. The organ has been refurbished and is currently played four days a week. It is owned and operated for the people of El Paso by the El Paso Community Foundation, http://www.epcf.org/epcf_index.htm . Pictures of the installation can be found on their home page as well as a brief history.
If you need more information, contact West Lee King of the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or myself.
This Sunday marks the final program on Wurlitzer opus 2123 currently installed at the Sunland Park Mall in El Paso, Texas. Our two-hour program will allow the current volunteer organ staff to play a farewell program. The first week in November the organ will be removed and undergo a complete restoration. The organ will return in early 2006 and be reinstalled where it started in 1930, the restored Plaza Theatre.This is a sad and exciting time for us. We have been performing daily (almost) for 6 1/2 years and will miss our friends we have made along the way. Putting our Wurlitzer back into the place where it started 74 years ago in the refurbished, Plaza Performing Arts Center is something that is not done very often. We are very proud to be part of this great project. The beautiful Atmospheric Plaza and its Mighty Wurlitzer will have another 70 years to delight young and old.
Back at the beginning of the theatre renovation, the 1/3, 2/3 split orchestra lift was dropped and a single lift was approved with the typical “house under the stage” for the console to live in. The wonderful people working on this project are people of vision and have a great love of the organ. We got our own lift on the auditorium left side just in front of the orchestra lift. It is pretty close to where it originally sat for 70 years. A dolly has been ordered so the console can be moved when necessary, otherwise it will reside on the lift.The atmospheric theatre, as it was originally designed, did not have drapery between the shutters and the auditorium except the decorative grill. The organ gets out unimpeded. Another nice feature of the theatre is that the organ grills are visible from the back row of the orchestra floor. The console is visible from the top row of the balcony. With the new seating, we can seat just over 2000 people.
I wanted to invite all interested to the dedication of the refurbished and enlarged El Paso Plaza Mighty Wyler Wurlitzer.Our 22 rank organ will be dedicated by Walt Strony on November 3rd at 7:30. Our Wurlitzer Opus 2123 started out in the Plaza Theatre in 1930.
Late in 2007, after I left the Nethercutt Collection...I was hired to add a third Diapason to the Plaza organ.We have the original 15" Diaphonic which sounds wonderful in that large room. We added a Horn Diapason of 85 notes during the restoration/rebuild in 2005 (specifically requested by the customer and consultant) in order to provide a lighter Diapason sound for Symphony work. This Horn Diapason proved immensely useful in the Saint Saens. To those two ranks we have added a very nice 10" Open Diapason of 73 notes. Walt Strony has used the Uniflex control system to "fake" up three different Mixtures which all sound quite good and are useful in various guises. Each of the Diapasons are used for different parts of the Mixtures and while the tuning is not perfect....the overall effect in the "grande melee" is believable.
When I got the job in El Paso I asked the customer where the original relay went. Apparently.....the classical tracker builder who tried to restore the organ that first time.....took the relay and scrapped it out......no-one knows where it went or when it went and that builder didn't use the magnets from the Plaza relay because we found the Solo Tibia all done out in Reisner magnets!! They have since been replaced by Wurlitzer black cap magnets during the restoration.I'm sure the Plaza's original relay was probably in pristine condition....just like the blower which was reputed to have a bent shaft......so said the tracker builder.....except that it mysteriously healed itself between Houston and a city in the desert southwest.....where it works splendidly to this day.
Interesting story about the Paramount in Hammond Indiana......I think this was the famous contract referred to in the Junchen book which in 1930 was cancelled by the theatre chain. That organ had its chests all built and made ready for assembly in the factory before the contract was cancelled. The Wurlitzer company turned right around and resold the organ to the Plaza Theatre in El Paso Texas. When I restored those chests in 2005 .....I found blue grease pencil in all the chests which said...."Hammond Indiana"........we left those notations alone for future generations to ponder!