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Majestic Theatre, Melbourne

The Majestic Theatre, on the corner of Flinders and Russell Streets, was built by Amalgamated Pictures Ltd., and opened on 31 August, 1912. [Thorne, Ross, Cinemas of Australia via USA, p. 215] Music for the silent films was provided by "the grand opera orchestra". [TableTalk, 9 September, 1912, p. 16.] In 1916, after Amalgamated Pictures had been incorporated in Union Theatres, the theatre was refurbished and upgraded to the latest standards:

Table Talk, 9 September, 1912, p. 16.

No organ was yet provided to enhance this idyllic effect, but this was to come in the autumn of 1919, when a four-rank, Style 135, Wurlitzer arrived. It had been despatched from America, as Opus 202, on 21 January, 1919.

 

The Style 135 was an updated version of the Style 1 (an example of which had been installed at the Melba Theatre, Melbourne, a couple of years earlier) and was basically built to the same specification.

 

The organist most associated with this instrument, and who possibly opened it, was Will Westbrook, who was its resident organist for many years. Despite the organ's modest size, his performances on it drew much praise:

Everyone's, 26 July, 1922

And again, some years later:

Everyone's, 20 June, 1928, p. 19.

The only other organists known to have played the Wurlitzer at the Majestic are John Barrett and Albert Wales, both of whom occasionally relieved Arnold Coleman at the State Theatre, Melbourne.

Sound films arrived at the Majestic on 10 May, 1929, after the theatre had been redecorated and fitted with new seats. [Thorne, Ross, Cinemas of Australia via USA, p. 217] Further alterations occurred in 1936, when the gallery was removed and the area above the stalls comprised one cantilevered dress circle. [Thorne, Ross, Cinemas of Australia via USA, p. 217]

At some stage, probably during the 1930s, the piano console was replaced by "a cube design of 3-ply", [Avery, P Geoff, Letter, 18 July, 1978] the specification being modified:

Pedal

Bourdon 16

Flute 8

Cello 8

Bass Drum

Kettle Drum

Cymbal

 

Accompaniment

Bourdon 16

Flute 8

Salicional 8

Trumpet 8

Vox Humana 8

Flute 4

Salicet 4

Snare Drum

Tambourine

Castanets

Chinese Block

Xylophone re-it

Glockenspiel re-it

Chimes 20 notes

 

Solo

Bourdon 16

Flute 8

Salicional 8

Trumpet 8

Vox Humana 8

Salicet 4

Flute 4

 

Effects

Foghorn

Fire Alarm

Telephone Bell

Surf

This was the organ as it was found by Mr Geoff Avery when he purchased it from the theatre on 16 June, 1943 for 225.00, delivered to his Prahran residence. [Bill of sale to Mr Avery, 16 June, 1943]

 

Mr Avery installed the organ in his residence:

[Avery, P Geoff, Letter, 18 July, 1978]

Commenting on the pipework, Mr Avery noted in a later letter that the Salicional was of spotted metal (as opposed to the wood pipes at the Melba), and that the Trumpet was of plain metal:

[Avery, P Geoff, Letter, 23 January, 1979]

Mr Avery subsequently sold his organ to Mr George Donovan in 1967. As at 2001, the instrument is in store in a workshop in Melbourne.

Despite the sale of the Wurlitzer, organ music was still featured at the Majestic, as Jim Williams had opened a Hammond organ there in August, 1940. [Ellis, Frank, "Down Memory Lane, Part 22", TOSA News, TOSA (NSW), Sydney, January, 1986, p. 8] The Hammond organ was featured for some years.

The Majestic was refurnished as the Chelsea Theatre in approximately 1960, but plans were announced in 1974 to close it in favour of a multi-screen complex on the site of the Barclay Theatre.

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