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St. Peter's College, Adelaide

The three-manual, fifteen rank Wurlitzer organ from the Regent Theatre was removed immediately after the closure of the theatre in 1967, overhauled by Gunstar Organ Works and relocated in the Memorial Hall of St. Peter's College. No changes to it were made in the process. In June, 1968, it was announced that the installation had been completed.

Regent, Adelaide, Wurlitzer, "Vox", TOSA (Vic), Melbourne, June, 1968, p. 4.

 

The Memorial Hall was a gothic-style building finished in stone, with a square masonry proscenium. The organ was installed in two chambers on either side, behind the proscenium, with the shutters speaking through openings into the stage area. The console (restored to polished wood finish) was placed on the floor to the right of the stage, underneath the balcony, which extended to the proscenium on each side of the auditorium. The piano was unenclosed, placed in the left-hand balcony. This arrangement meant that the two chambers spoke towards each other across the stage, losing much of the organ's sound to the stage, and making it difficult for organists to obtain an accurate impression of the sound balance between the chambers.

The console and main chamber pipework in 1975

Just over a year later, a happy reunion occurred:

South Australian News, "Vox", TOSA (Vic), Melbourne, September, 1969, p.p. 7-8.

Knight Barnett has just concluded a "Century of Song" broadcast in September, 1975

The following year, visiting American organist Lyn Larsen made some recordings for the ABC, [Lyn Larsen Records Adelaide Wurlitzer for ABC, "Vox", TOSA (Vic), Melbourne, August, 1970, p. 7] along with Tony Fenelon and Knight Barnett, for a series of theatre organ broadcasts. Knight Barnett continued to record his "Melody Land" and, later, "Century of Song" weekly broadcasts at St Peter's College until June, 1976. The final recording for "Century of Song" was made on 21 June, 1976, there being sufficient material "in the can" for programmes to continue until the end of September. It was Knight Barnett's 1584th ABC recording session:

A Further Loss for Adelaide, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, July, 1976, p. 1

 

 

Over the years, several theatre organ concerts were staged at the College by TOSA, and when re-pairs became necessary in 1982, TOSA contributed $1000 towards the cost of these:

The St. Peter's College Wurlitzer, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, March, 1982, p. 3.

A near-disaster for the organ occurred in December, 1985:

A Lucky Escape for a Grand Old Lady, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, January/February, 1986, p. 6.

Less welcome was the discovery, when restoration of the organ in the rebuilt hall was commenced, that around two hundred pipes had been stolen from the chambers.  [Tom Menzies, Organ Pipes Theft Hits Restoration, "The Advertiser", Adelaide, 21 February, 1987]  Despite the offer of a $5000 reward  [Missing Pipes Reward, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, May, 1987, p. 4]  for the return of the pipes, only a handful were recovered.  ["The Advertiser", 11 March, 1987] The missing pipes were replaced by identical pipes obtained in America.

 

The original brass Saxophone and Trumpet pipes in 1975.  Many of these pipes were stolen

 

 

 

 

By the time the organ was preparing to celebrate its 60th birthday, restoration work on both it and the hall was well under way:

John Thiele, Of Theatres and Theatre Organs, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, March, 1988, p. 6.

The Memorial Hall was re-opened on 11 March, 1988, following a $3 million "facelift", by the State Governor, Sir Donald Dunstan. Its capacity is 1100.  ["The Advertiser", Adelaide, 12 March, 1988]  The completed organ was first heard in concert on 16 April, 1989, with Ray Thornley at the console for this TOSA-sponsored event.   [Ray Thornley in Concert - The Regent Organ Still Lives!, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, March, 1989, p. 5]

 

 

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