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Adastra Theatre, Port Pirie


Photo: State Library of South Australia

What was probably the last photoplayer to be built for a South Australian theatre was that installed in the Adastra Theatre in the railway town of Port Pirie in 1925 or 1926. There is very little documentary evidence about this remote instrument, but Bill Binding's remarkable memory has provided many details.

The organ was a four-rank Wurlitzer "Duplex Orchestra". According to Mr Binding, the theatre management wanted an exact duplicate of the instru-ment in Adelaide's Chinese Garden Theatre, and this was what they claimed to have ordered. What they got was indeed a two-manual, four-rank, instrument, but instead of a brass Trumpet, it had a Quintadena rank. There was a lengthy legal dispute. Meanwhile it was played by Lawrie Starr, who was later to bring his skills, as has been recorded elsewhere, to the Glenelg Theatre. Whether he also practised as a tailor at Port Pirie is not recorded.

In time, the dispute over the Adastra's little organ became academic as silent films ended. The organ returned to Adelaide, where, like its confrères, it provided a source of parts for church organs. The string rank found its way in the late 1920s to St Cyprian's Church, North Adelaide. The bass octave of the Flute went to the Methodist Church, Maylands, in 1948. The maligned Quintadena went first to the resi-dence organ of Miss M Brown, in North Adelaide, in the late 1930s, and was then recast as a Fifteenth for St Margaret's Church, Nedlands, Western Australia (1946), later moving with the instrument to St Stephen's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Katanning, W.A., in 1964. The top keyboard went to St Margaret's Church, Woodville, in 1946. What happened to the Vox Humana is not known. The upper octaves of the Flute rank were still at the Gunstar works in 1975. [Bill Binding, conversation with author, August, 1975.]

Flute pipe from the Adastra photplayer.  Note the short foot and slider tuning that distinguish it from a Wurlitzer Concert Flute theatre organ pipe


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