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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:
"Knight Barnett has returned to the Wurlitzer pipe organ 'Melody Land' broadcasts for a trial series from 27 July . Since the last 'Melody Land' broadcasts made on the Regent Wurlitzer ran out in March, 1967, Knight Barnett has been using a Hammond at the ABC studios. We join the S.A. Division in commending the ABC in South Australia for this forward action, and hope that the broadcasts from St. Peter's College will be as successful as they were from the Regent."
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:
"Several stalwart theatre organ lovers quietly crept into the Memorial Hall at St. Peter's to hear the last numbers for 'Century of Song'. It wasn't a long session nor a maudlin one; it was just a few people paying tribute to a man who star-ted his Adelaide association with the ABC in September, 1949, with 'Melody Land' and Alec Regan; then, after a break, followed on as the featured organist in 'Century of Song' with first of all Alistair McHargh as compère, and later Bob Moore. Many guests have been accompanied by Knight Barnett at the organ as well as the Kevin Kitto Singers and the Mike Kenny Orchestra, who provided other entertainment in the programme."
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:
"TOSA's initial gift has releathered all the tibia chests and packed the stoppers in the pipes. To this initial sum, the College have allocated $5000 in this year to be spent on the organ and eventually plan to go through the whole instrument, including upgrading the blowing apparatus eliminating the air noises."
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:
"Monday, 2nd December, 1985, was a gloomy day as South Australia woke to the news that the Memorial Hall, St. Peter's College (home of the ex-Adelaide Regent 3/15 Wurlitzer) had been destroyed by fire. Several anxious hours were spent as varying news reports of the extent of the damage came through.
After the all-clear was given, TOSA member and organ builder George Stephens was invited to in-spect the organ and assess the damage. Good news - amazingly, the organ had escaped serious damage.
Briefly, damage was confined to - shutter fronts, cabling between chambers and wind-line, console requires re-polishing and minor restoration. All pipework is OK, so the organ will sound as before when repairs are completed."
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:
"Restoration of the hall after the tragic fire is nearly complete, and the hall is expected to be re-opened around Easter this year . Changes and improvements have been made in the rebuilding so that a much more theatrical atmosphere will be enjoyed there in future (even one of the Regent chandeliers will hang in the foyer). And, in fact, after all the years the organ console remained motionless on the floor of the Regent, it will at last be able to rise on a lift in the new hall. An orchestra pit has been included in front of the stage, and a hoist installed which will not only accommodate an orchestra, but will be able to include the console. The organ console will be able to be located in its former position at stage right as well, making it quite versatile for theatrical productions.
In addition, the Wurlitzer will sound forth much more clearly - two openings have been cut into the masonry either side of the proscenium to allow swell shutters to be included, and the organ will now be able to speak directly out into the hall. It is anticipated that it could sound more like it used to in the Regent! The organ is to be enlarged, with the addition of a four-rank Mixture, which, I understand, will be on 10" wind pressure and is likely to have a similar effect to a post-horn. All of the stolen pipes and percussions have been replaced, the console has been restored and re-polished so that it looks like new, the blower has been rebalanced and is now working better and quieter than ever before, and all re-leathering has almost been completed... About half of the organ is expected to be playing for the re-opening of the Memorial Hall, and the rest will be completed over the following few months."
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]
Stoplist of organ
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