The two oldest Wurlitzer Pipe Organs to be shipped to the UK back in 1925 are still delighting their respective audiences at the age of 84! The former Picture House, Walsall organ has graced the beautiful church in the quaint fishing village of Beer in Devon since 1958, while the ex. Palace Theatre, Tottenham organ has had pride of place in the hall of the Thomas Peacocke College in Rye, East Sussex since 1957.
Many years later we find these delightful instruments being given a new lease of life in their respective homes and two groups now exist to aid and further both their preservation and also their profile in the community.
Friends Of Rye Wurlitzer was formed in 1993 by Richard Moore, whilst more recently, Friends Of Beer Wurly was formed by Michael Cull. Both instruments have been the subject of an ongoing programme of improvement and refurbishment in recent years and to that effect the Rye instrument was recently re-sited and placed on a lift, while the Beer organ is about to receive a whole set of tuned percussions as we go to press. In addition, major tonal and mechanical work continues at both venues, with a complete renewal of the electrical system at Rye back in 2007.
The Beer group were delighted to receive charity status from HM Revenue & Customs this March, while at Rye, they recently received some £3500 from the Sussex Grass Roots Foundation for a camera and projection screen set-up. Fund raising is an extremely important activity for both groups and as such, readers might wish to ‘adopt a pipe’ or become a member of Friends Of Rye Wurlitzer, or in the case of the Beer organ, you can become a member of the Friends Of Beer Wurlitzer as well.
Chris Powell will be in concert on both instruments this month, firstly at Beer this coming Sunday 9th May at 2pm and then in Rye on Sunday 17th May at 2.30pm. This concert will be shared with the one and only Jean Martyn who will be receiving the coveted baton of ‘President Of Friends Of Rye Wurlitzer’ from Chris who has been the current holder of the office since May 2007.
Both organs are sounding better than ever in their current homes and it is great to know that they are alive and well over 8 decades since arriving on these shores.
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