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This AMAZING 1922 2/8 (See Note 1) Wurlitzer theater organ (Style 185 Special, Opus 490) is installed at the Virginia Theater in Champaign.
I am fascinated with this thing, because it's the 1920s version of Jazz Looping, a one-man band.
Here is a page about the Virginia's Wurlitzer on the theaterorgans.com web site.
For many years, the Wurlitzer was maintained and played by master organist and repair man Warren York. Here is my fan page about him!
I have been trying to apply my knowledge of jazz keyboards to the theater organ. I'm hoping that I'll get to play the Virginia Theater's Wurlitzer.
Here are a couple of mp3s of me noodling around on the Wurlitzer in December 2009.
|How High The Moon||(747K mp3)|
|My Foolish Heart||(738K mp3)|
Recently the Wurlitzer was completely rebuilt by Buzard Pipe Organ Builders in Champaign.
Note 1: Organ Size Designations
With pipe organs, a notation like "2/8" means the organ has 2 manuals and 8 ranks of pipes, like the Virginia Theater's Wurlitzer.
The largest theater organ in the world is at the Sanfilippo Victorian Palace in Barrington, Illinois. It is a "5/80": five manuals and 80 ranks!!. One time Warren York and I visited this place and heard this organ, it's unbelievable. Massive, highly computerized, and sounds amazing. The organ chamber behind the purple curtain is three stories high.
(Here is a video of theater organ wunderkind Jelani Eddington rocking out on the Sanfilippo organ. Here is a the end theme from Star Wars being played on the same organ.)
The largest organ CONSOLES I have ever seen are at House On Crack Rock....sorry... House on THE Rock, a very strange tourist attraction in Wisconsin. It's like someone took heavy drugs, watched Something Wicked This Way Comes 10 times, and then designed a theme park! I saw this place as a kid and loved it, but it gives a lot of people nightmares! Anyway, House on Crack Rock's Organ Room contains several ridiculously huge organ consoles and a bunch of real and fake organ pipes, none of which work or are connected to anything. Prerecorded organ music (three or four different songs at the same time) plays over hidden speakers as you walk around the room. The theater-organ-style console has FIFTEEN manuals. I guess you would call it a "15/0" theater organ. House on the Rock is unbelievable for entirely different reasons than the Sanfilippo Victorian Palace.