Wurlitzer organ restored and installed at cinema

The Wurlitzer 2/7 organ The Wurlitzer organ was built in 1927 and was originally installed in America

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A large pipe organ dating back to the silent film era has been installed in a south Cumbrian cinema after five years of restoration work.

The Wurlitzer 2/7 organ has been fully restored and placed in Royalty Cinema in Bowness on Windermere.

The instrument was built in 1927 and originally installed in the Almira Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States.

The Furness Theatre Organ Project purchased the organ in January 2010.

During the early years of film, a piano or organ provided live accompaniment, adding to the cinema experience.

Music was often played without rehearsal and created in response to action being shown on screen.

It is thought the organ was shipped to England in 1934 and installed in the Rex Cinema, Stratford, London.

Horses' hooves
Part of the organ hidden under the stage Two large rooms are filled with instruments

The restoration team said when finished, the Royalty Cinema in Bowness on Windermere will be the only cinema in Europe with a working Wurlitzer organ.

Mark Latimer, from the team, said: "This has been a massive, five-year programme of restoration by a small group of volunteers.

"The organ features seven ranks of pipes and has all the effects for silent movies including drums, cymbals, bird whistles and can even reproduce a sound similar to horses' hooves."

Painted white with gold and red trim, the organ requires two large rooms filled with equipment to make it work.

Placed beneath the cinema stage are more than 900 pipes, similar to those found on a church organ, the drums and the electronics required to activate and play connected instruments, such as violins, trumpets, flutes and a tambourine.

Sound escapes into the auditorium via grills cut into the front of the stage.

"In the heyday of cinema, in the 20s and 30s, every large cinema would have a theatre organ either a Wurlitzer or probably more commonly a Compton, which was a British firm," added Mr Latimer.

"Over the years they have been taken out and put into collections.

"There are very few cinemas with theatre organs at all and this actually is the only Wurlitzer theatre organ in a cinema anywhere in Europe, so it is quite something."

The organ will be officially unveiled in October when it will provide live accompaniment to a silent film.

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