Concert at the Wurlitzer
At the Capri Theatre, Adelaide,
Also available is a special Live! Concert Experience recording. This version has been edited as little as possible, and includes the ambient sounds and audience reactions. Not as good as actually being there, but as close as we can provide!
The Capri Theatre in Adelaide, Australia belongs to The South Australia Chapter of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia and it houses what is unquestionably the finest theatre organ in the Southern hemisphere, and certainly one of the great instruments of the world. What a fortunate group to own such a theatre and organ! The theatre is also a financial success, and shows movies daily, usually with organ intermissions.
Don likes to have a theme for his concerts and the theme of this one is "A Tale Of Two Cities," the cities being London and Paris, of course.
He takes the listener on a musical tour and we stop first at Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. Our artist first heard the march "The Thin Red Line" played by the band of the Grenadier Guards at that ceremony.
Then we go up to the West End of London to see a show, in this case, the first one Don himself saw there, "Kiss Me, Kate."
In Leicester Square in the 1950s there were six cinemas, all with pipe organs played nightly. "Leicester Square Looks Round" was written by John Howlett, the organist at the Odeon. When Don played at that theatre during a concert tour in 1974 one of the tunes he played was "Im Just Breezing Along With The Breeze" and that arrangement is re-created here. Jesse Crawford played for a brief time at the Empire, Leicester Square and Don plays "My Old Flame" in a slightly tongue-in cheek- version of the Crawford style.
Reginald Dixon, the famous Blackpool organist, also played in London during the winter seasons in the 30s and recorded "Love Makes The World Go Round/ Change Partners" at the Granada, Clapham. That arrangement is re-created here.
"Ebb Tide" is one of Dons most requested numbers and he first played it on a recording for the BBC in London.
Sidney Torch was one of Londons most popular organists in the 30s, and he played at the Regal Edmonton, The Gaumont State Kilburn and the Odeon, Marble Arch. "Hot Dog" is one of his most famous arrangements, recorded at the Odeon.
The first side ends with Don taking his listeners on a tour of London on a foggy day.
On side two we begin with the Jerome Kern favorite "The Last Time I Saw Paris" and go on to hear the march which became the theme of the French Resistance during the 2nd world war. "April in Paris", like the first tune this side, is a song about Paris written by an American, this time by Vernon Duke.
Louis James Alfred Lefebure-Wely was a truly extraordinary composer, years ahead of his time musically. Writing in the 1840s he produced pieces that were very close to ragtime, but written for (and played in) the church services of his day! The Marche-Offertoire is one such piece.
Louis Ganne, who wrote the March Lorraine played earlier, is also responsible for the gorgeous, lush "Extase" which was in its day salon music, played among the potted palms in fine hotels by string orchestras.
"Orpheus in the Underworld" is the quintessential French piece and its flamboyant can-can typifies Paris and Montmatre.
Noel Coward wrote a show and film called "Cavalcade" and used not only his own music but also much of the contemporary music of the period of the piece. If you listen carefully you will hear the audience singing along to some of these old favorites.
"While Were Young" was an encore at the October 1996 concert. However, "Carillon De Westminster" ended the first half of the original show but we thought it more appropriate to move it the end of this selection. Sharp ears will detect a tiny cipher at the end of the piece.
A TCD-D7 Sony Digital Tape Recorder was hooked up to the theatre house mikes hanging from the ceiling. To aid in editing the album, there were a couple of recording sessions done without an audience. However, the engineer, Graham Ward, commented that the live performance was so much better than the sessions! Don Thompson is one of those artists who is really uncomfortable and ill at ease at recording sessions but he comes alive when an audience is present.
The result is that for the most part, the live in-concert performances were used for this tape. Generally audiences do not applaud until a couple of seconds after the piece has finished and so there is time for the decay to die away before the first handclap, and usually applause can be edited out. A couple of times, however, the enthusiasm was such that applause began before the piece had even finished so we had to do a quick fade down. Several pieces ended in cymbal crashes and of course applause impinged on those, so the precaution was taken of recording several cymbal crashes the day after the concert so that they could be patched on to the end of pieces and thus spare you the applause on the recording. Coughs and sneezes were edited out wherever that was possible without affecting the integrity of the music, although once or twice you may detect the slightest pop where that happened. Better that than a loud sneeze or a slamming door in the middle of a song.
If you want all of the sneezes, bangs, and applause of a real concert experience, order the Live! Concert Experience version.
Don Thompson wishes to thank the crew at the Capri for doing such an excellent job of maintaining the instrument. It is always immaculate. Also thanks must go to the theatre management and the Chapter for permission to record the organ. It is always a real delight to play this superb instrument.