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Capri Theatre, Goodwood

The New Goodwood Star Theatre, as it was then known, was opened by the D Clifford circuit on 8 October, 1941, a few doors away from the original Star Theatre. It was the last theatre to be built by Dan Clifford, who died on 10 December, 1942. [John Thiele and Ross Lange, Thanks for the Memory, Theatre Organ Society of Australia, Adelaide, 1991, p. 68]  Built in the stylish "depression moderne" image, its luxurious auditorium seated 1472 persons amidst a décor of geometric shapes, sweeping curves and concealed lighting. In acknowledgment of the war then in progress, a "V for Victory" motif was incorporated in the main ceiling decoration.

The theatre passed into the hands of Greater Union in 1947, after which it became known as the Odeon, but whether this appellation was displayed on its exterior is uncertain. In 1964, when the old Star, then the Curzon, closed, the vertical "Curzon" sign from that theatre took a trip along the road to be re-erected at the Odeon, which was now to be known and designated as "The New Cinema Curzon". It continued in this guise for some three years before its final change of name to Capri, its full title being "Cinema Capri - The International Cinema", occurred in 1967. Many alterations had been made to the theatre immediately prior to this change. The number of seats was reduced from 1472 to 851, curtains covered the walls and their decorations, suspended light fittings were installed - chandeliers in the auditorium, suspended globes in the candy bar, which was extended to form a coffee bar. Even the usherettes' uniforms were of traditional Italian design. Many other changes were incorporated to give the theatre an "international" appearance. [John Thiele and Ross Lange, Thanks for the Memory, Theatre Organ Society of Australia, Adelaide, 1991, p. 74-88]

Photo:  Wayne Bertram

For the first time, live organ music was heard during shows, as a Thomas electronic organ was installed on the left of the stage. This was played nightly by Les Jones for a six-month season of "A Man and a Woman", the film screened on opening night, 16 November, 1967.   [John Thiele and Ross Lange, Thanks for the Memory, Theatre Organ Society of Australia, Adelaide, 1991, p. 74-88] Falling audience numbers caused Greater Union to decide to close and sell the theatre in 1978; in this case it was not, as one might expect, demolished or converted to some other use, but was purchased by the South Australian Division of TOSA. At this point, we need to go back a few years to understand what led to this very unusual out-come.

TOSA had successfully relocated the twelve-rank Wurlitzer organ from the Plaza Theatre, Melbourne, to Pulteney Grammar School, where it was opened in 1970. Having completed this project, the Society was ready to tackle an even more ambitious project. A special meeting in 1974 approved the purchase of the four manual, sixteen-rank composite organ which had been in storage at Mike Pfitzner's house in Darwin. Pfitzner had bought the instrument from Penn Hughes, who had gradually built it up in his home in Sydney over a period of some years. Conditions in Darwin were not conducive to the erection of a large and complex residence pipe organ, and after numerous setbacks, Mike finally agreed to sell the instrument to TOSA. A six-person team from Adelaide, who became known as the "Darwurlians", flew to Darwin in late 1974, and loaded the organ into the truck in which it made the trek across the desert to Adelaide. They could have had little prescience of the urgency of their work, but within a month, Darwin was devastated by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day, 1974, when Mike and his family were forced to take shelter in the empty area which had been set aside for organ chambers, as their house collapsed around them.

With the organ safely in Adelaide, TOSA embarked on two activities - to restore and rebuild the organ, and to find a permanent home for it. In the meantime, most of it was stored at Spicer Memorial Methodist Church hall, St Peter's, where the overhaul work got under way. The component parts of the organ were at this time exactly as they had been in Penn Hughes' residence and comprised pipework by Wurlitzer, Christie and Conacher, controlled from the former "slave" console from the State Theatre, Melbourne:

During the overhaul period, three additional ranks, a Dodd Tibia, an Oboe Horn and a Harmonic Tuba, were acquired, bringing the total pipe stock to nineteen ranks.

Meanwhile, the search for a suitable building in which to locate the instru-ment continued. In June, 1978, a special meeting of TOSA was called at the Capri Theatre, where members were informed that the theatre was available for sale. A vote was taken and it was decided that TOSA should negotiate to acquire the Capri.    [Jan Rover, Capri Corner, "SA TOSA News", TOSA, Adelaide, May, 1985, p. 7]  After some anxious months, TOSA members were happy to read in January, 1979, . [TOSA now the Proud Owner of the Capri Cinema, "SA TOSA" News, TOSA (SA), Adelaide, January, 1979, p. 1] that their Society had acquired the theatre on 15 December, 1978, and had re-opened it as a commercial cinema from 26 December, 1978. The purchase price was $145,000, of which $120,000 was funded by a 20-year bank loan, the balance being loans and donations from TOSA members. [Concert programme, opening of Capri organ, 2 April, 1983, p. 20] The theatre was (and still is) operated with a professional manager and key staff, with TOSA volunteers assisting in many varied capacities. The level of professionalism displayed was confirmed when the accounts showed that during its first year of TOSA operation, the theatre made a net profit of $24,189. [TOSA Income and Expenditure Statement, 1979, "TOSA News", TOSA, Adelaide, March, 1980, p. 12]

Photo: Wayne Bertram

Naturally, the acquisition of a venue spurred on the efforts to rebuild the organ, and a new task arose - the construction of organ chambers in the Capri. Plans for the construction work were approved by Unley Council in 1980 and work could then proceed. [News Spot, "SA TOSA News", TOSA, Adelaide, September, 1980, p. 4] The original proscenium arch was re-moved, and spacious chambers, which could accommodate with ease far more than the current nineteen ranks were created on each side. They were built with large glass viewing windows, with the swell shutters high above. Lights are placed in the chambers so that when the organ is played its entire pipes and mechanisms can be clearly seen by the audience. At other times, the chambers are concealed behind curtains. Audiences were given a foretaste of what was to come when a Conn electronic organ was installed in the theatre in 1981. [News Spot, "SA TOSA News", TOSA, Adelaide, May, 1981, p.4]



Photos: Wayne Bertram

The organ was first heard at its official opening on 2 April, 1983, with Tony Fenelon, Ray Thornley and John Atwell at the console. Thirteen ranks were available for this occasion, which must have tested the nerves of the organists to the extreme. Work had fallen behind schedule, despite the installation crew working for 36 hours non-stop, and it was only six hours before the doors opened that the final connections were made and the organ was playable.

Few in the audience would, however, have realised that none of the organists had even played through a complete tune on it before the concert, and that none of them had any real idea of how it was going to sound. It was a tribute to the professionalism of the organists that the opening concert went off with scarcely a hitch.

Photo: Wayne Bertram

As opened, the organ was fitted with a time-multiplexing control system in place of the traditional system of switches and relays, which meant that the console was linked to the chambers by a cable con-taining only 56 wires instead of 1216 which the normal system would have required. The system was designed by a TOSA member, and was an innovation in Australia.

As time passed, the number of ranks in operation gradually increased. A major improvement was completed in 1987 when the console was enabled to rise to stage level on a lift. [Capri Corner, "SA TOSA News", TOSA, Adelaide, March, 1987, p. 6] This was the first time that an organ console had risen on a lift in Adelaide.

During this time, the commercial operation of the theatre had proceeded so successfully that the bank loan was able to be paid off over ten years early, so that in June, 1988, TOSA was able to announce that it owned the theatre - freehold. [The Capri Theatre is Now Ours - Freehold, "SA TOSA News", TOSA, June, 1988, p. 1]

Photos: Wayne Bertram

At the end of 1988, it was decided to replace the time multiplexing system used to control the organ with a state-of-the-art computerised control system by Devtronix (America), a type of system which had been successfully installed on a number of American theatre organs. [Capri Organ to be Computer Controlled, "SA TOSA News", TOSA , Adelaide, December, 1988, p. 5] By June, 1989, the new system had been installed, and the organ was back in use. [From the President, "SA TOSA News", TOSA, Adelaide, June, 1989, p. 3]

The size of the organ continued to grow, as additional ranks were acquired from numerous sources in Australia and America. It is interesting to examine its sound in the many recordings issued between its initial opening and its completion, as the ranks were added and replaced.



By 1995 it was complete as a four manual, twenty-nine rank instrument, and American experts Walt Strony and Ed Zollman were commissioned to spend some weeks in Adelaide, directing the voicing and tonal finishing.

Walt Strony demonstrated the results of their work to an enthralled audience on 5 December, 1995, when for the first time the organ was heard as a complete entity, with all ranks regulated to match each other and the building. The effect was a revelation:


The organ's ranks are now:

Main Chamber (left)

Photo: Wayne Bertram









Diapason - Wurlitzer (ex-Wintergarden, Brisbane)

Flute - Wurlitzer (ditto)

Flute Céleste -  Wurlitzer (ex-USA)

Musette - Trivo (new)

Salicional - Christie (ex-Empire, Dunedin)

Salicional Céleste - Wurlitzer (ex-Ernie Manley res., Seattle)

Gamba  - Christie (ex-Empire, Dunedin)

Gamba Céleste - Wurlitzer (ex-USA)

Viol d'Orchestre  - Wurlitzer (ex-Wintergarden, Brisbane)

VdO Céleste - Wurlitzer (ex-Ernie Manley res., Seattle)

Tibia Clausa - Dodd (ex-Elder Hall, Adelaide), Kimball bass

Trumpet  - Trivo (new)

Tuba Horn  - Wurlitzer (ex-Wintergarden, Brisbane)

Vox Humana - Christie (ex-Empire, Dunedin)



Chrysoglott - Wurlitzer

Toy Counter - Wurlitzer









Solo Chamber (right)


Photo: Wayne Bertram

Clarinet - Christie (ex-Palatial, Burwood)

English Horn - Trivo (new)

Harmonic Tuba - Wurlitzer (ex-USA)

Kinura - Wurlitzer (ex-King's Cross Theatre, Sydney)

Lieblich Flute  - Wangerin

Oboe Horn - Unknown (ex-church)

Orchestral Oboe  - Trivo (new)

Quintadena  - Stephens

Solo String  - Robert Morton (ex-Gerry Duffy res., Portland)

String Céleste - Robert Morton (ditto)

Tibia Clausa - Stephens (new - Wurlitzer copy)

Vox Humana - Wurlitzer

Horn Diapason  - J B Meyer & Sons

Saxophone  - Trivo (new)



Piano  - Kimball

Chimes  - Wurlitzer

Glockenspiel  - Wurlitzer

Xylophone - Wurlitzer

Sleigh Bells - Wurlitzer


Rear of Stage

Diaphonic Diapason - Wurlitzer (44 notes - available only on Pedal)

Tibia Clausa (bass)  - Kimball (13 notes)

Marimba Harp  - Wurlitzer


Total Pipes: Main 1069, Solo 950, Stage 57, Total 2076


Click here for great diagram of console layout


The four-manual console contains 273 stopkeys. There are three General stopkeys, one of which mutes the appropriate Célestes from whichever string ranks are in use (all string ranks are normally double ranks), another mutes Célestes from the Concert Flute, the third causes the percussions (Marimba, Glockenspiel, Xylo-phone) to reiterate. The organ is unusual in containing two acoustic 32ft stops, a Grand Resultant, and a Tibia Resultant. The composition of each varies according to what other Pedal stops are drawn, so that the effect remains in balance. The Grand Resultant therefore draws from the Tuba Horn, Tibia Clausa, Diaphone and Open Diapason ranks as appropriate, at various pitches. The Tibia Resultant comprises the Flute at 16 and 10 2/3ft pitches, the Tibia also being added at 10 2/3ft if all the 16ft flue and diaphone basses are also drawn. The Great manual contains a four-rank Mixture (19, 22, 26, 29), the unison pitches drawn from the Open Diapason, the quints from the Horn Diapason.

Other special effects available include sustain, legato touch, sostenuto (selective sustain), a melody coupler, transposer and MIDI connection. The Solo manual includes intramanual couplers at 6 2/3, 5 1/3 and 4 1/7 pitches in addition to the more normal Sub Octave, Octave and Unison Off couplers.


As the control system is computer-based, it is possible to vary the specification virtually at will, to link any rank (or part of a rank) to any stopkey, by a simple adjustment to the program. It is also possible to record anything played on the organ and play it back at a future date with total reproduction of notes, stops, swell controls, etc., so that organists can play duets, trios, or more by successively re-recording their performances. The organ can reproduce recordings when no organist is present.

It should be recalled that all these special effects are purely optional extras for the organist, and that the organ can be played just as a very fine traditional theatre organ, as Jesse Crawford and his contemporaries did in the 1920s. It is an instrument which belies its eclectic components, as its overall sound achieves a conceptual unity as an instrument designed and built as a single entity.

Of particular interest is a video recording "A Pipe Dream Comes True" issued by TOSA in 1997. This hour-long tape in digital stereo shows in detail the story of the organ from the time of its purchase by TOSA and removal from Darwin up to 1997.


Chris McPhee at the Console

Photo: Wayne Bertram

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