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What is a Theatre Organ?


What is a theatre organ, and how does it differ from a church pipe organ? These are questions which are frequently asked, and the purpose of this section is to provide a brief description, as far as possible in non-technical language, of the various items of hardware which together comprise a theatre pipe organ. We then look briefly at how a theatre organist might use the tonal resources at his or her disposal - the art of "registration". We do not look here at photoplayers - they are covered separately in another section.

I do not intend to provide a manual covering the details of theatre organ building or restoration, but readers requiring such information will find references to suitable sources of such data in the Bibliography section.

You will, with no previous knowledge of theatre organs, gain a general understanding of the component parts of a theatre organ and of their function and method of operation. It will also enable anyone who has experience of playing church or electronic organs to make the most of an opportunity, should one arise, to play a theatre organ and to find his or her way around the rather daunting array of stops and controls of a theatre organ console, and thus feel a little more comfortable with this new experience.

It has been said that a photograph is frequently worth a thousand words. Even more valuable, in this case, is the chance to inspect personally the console (and if the reader is especially fortunate, the chambers) of a theatre organ, and readers are advised to seize any such opportunity which may arise. The Theatre Organ Society of Australia (TOSA) is rightly proud of its installations, and will usually be keen to show them off to those who are interested; however, concert days are not the best time to ask, as at these times TOSA officials are at their busiest.

Contents of this Section

General description

The console

The relay

The chests

The wind supply

The pipes

Percussions and effects

The swell shutters

Tonal resources

Theatre organ registration

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