The Theatre Organ, one of the few truly American musical instruments, was originally designed to accompany silent films before the advent of sound motion pictures. From about 1920 to 1930 several thousand of thse instruments were produced by sever l manufacturers, the most prominent being the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of North Tondawanda, New York.
This particular instrument is what is called a hybrid Wurlitzer meaning that it is made up of parts from many different Wurlitzer theatre organs. The original instrument was from the Lyceum Theatre in Duluth, Minnesota. A major Southern California b ush fire in 1978 all but decimated the pipe work from that instrument. Presently the organ contains pipe work from many instruments with the Philadelphia Mausbaum Theatre, the Chicago Avalon Theatre and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Theatre making up the argest portion.
The present instrument is the third organ installed in these premises. The first organ contained 26 ranks in three chambers and was mostly destroyed in the afore mentioned brush fire. The second organ consisted of 29 ranks with the same console as t e first organ but with greater unification and boasted an all electronic multiplex relay system. The present instrument is controlled by a new 4 manual Fox Special replica console built by Ken Crome, and consists of 52 ranks along with 32 channels of MIDI The instrument has been designed to provide just about every voice that was included in the original specifications of both large and small theatre organs. In addition, 12 ranks from the 1925 Mormon Tabernacle Austin are installed along with the high p essure theatre ranks. The classical antiphonal division includes six of these ranks and is installed unenclosed above the console and Steinway grand piano on the south wall of the living room. This division, when played with the main organ on the north nd of the room, results in a sound that must be described as all-encompassing and is truly unique for any California residence instrument. A Trumpet en Chamade completes this division both tonally and visually.
When this instrument was originally installed in the 1970's it was one of the first residence organs to use a unique installation idea of double floored chambers. All pressure regulating and other related noise making equipment is installed on the low r level with a solid structural floor separating this area from the sound production area called the chambers. A theatre organ installed in this manner suffers far less noise problems related to putting one of these massive instruments, usually meant for theatres of from one to five thousand seats, in a private residence.
This instrument is presently the largest theatre organ in the Western United States, and probably the most versatile with its four manual console, 418 stop keys and 96 combination pistons. In addition, the MIDI voices add the equivalent of an additional 3 ranks or percussions and are controlled by regular stop keys and combination action. Three sampled 32' pedal extensions along with seven sampled 16' extensions combine with six acoustic 16' ranks to give a building shaking foundation to the organ. 800 watts of audio power is available for the pedal extensions and other sampled/synthesized voices. An extensive digital reverberation system, which gives a totally predictable and stable reverb regardless of room occupancy, completes the electronic additio s to the instrument.
The organ contains three thousand five hundred and twenty nine pipes in three divisions. Seven ranks extend through 2'. Included in the organ are eleven ranks of strings (thirteen if you count the Duliciana and Celeste), four ranks of Diapasons, ten ran s of orchestral reeds, six ranks of chorus reeds (including three Trumpets), four ranks of flutes and three ranks of Tibias and is powered by two blowers, one fifteen horsepower and one two horsepower.
Visibility of the organ and its internal parts, pipes and percussions is excellent due to Plexiglas swell shades. A leaded glass chamber door also facilitates viewing otherwise inaccessible portions of the organ. The lower level regulator rooms are easi y entered to view the pressure regulating equipment. Maximum comfortable seating capacity is around 150.
In designing both the organ and its environment it was a constant compromise between the best organ installation technique and the visual aspect. Hopefully the over all result has proven successful. an organ this size rightfully does not belong in a residence but in a large theatre. It is hoped that someday this instrument will be installed intact in a large theatre where many thousands may experience and enjoy its truly unique sound.
For anybody who might be interested here is a list of where my Wurlitzer pipe work came from...those that I know and to the best of my knowledge!
Chicago Avalon Theatre
Philadelphia Mastbaum Wurlitzer:
VDO and Celeste
Los Angeles Metropolitan
Harmonic Flute (Berkley claims this same rank so I'm not positive but I bought it from Russ Nelson who said he purchased it with the knowledge that it came from the LA Metropolitan (???)
Marimba Harp Bars
San Francisco Golden West
Solo scale Tibia
Los Angeles Million Dollar
Marimba Harp action
Visitors are always welcome, call 818-889-8894
Click the image to download this BMP, put it in your windows directory and select it in the control panel as your wallpaper. Then you can enjoy the Agoura Organ everyday at work and home. If you have trouble downloading the BMP, get the ZIPPED version here.