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Pulteney Grammar School, Adelaide

(Wyatt Hall)

 

The Regent's Wurlitzer was the last theatre organ to come to South Australia for just over forty years. New theatres were constructed in Adelaide's city centre and suburbs, and elsewhere in the state, but these were built for mechanised entertainment centred around sound films. There was no place for live music; orchestras were quickly disbanded, the pianists packed up their music, photoplayers fell silent. Only the Regent continued to feature its organ. Despite the obvious popularity of the Regent's organ presentations, even the new Metro theatre in the city did not have an organ installed (although it was reputedly built with a roof strong enough to support a foot of snow, and there were hot-air blowers to melt any ice which might have built up on patrons' shoes!).

 

The South Australian Division of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia (TOSA) was formed in August, 1965.  [Geoffrey Smith, writing on the origins of TOSA (SA) in Celebrating the Wyatt Hall 2/12 Wurlitzer, TOSA (SA), Adelaide, 1980, preface] Soon, the fledgling group of members had developed to the point where they were ready to acquire a theatre organ of their own:

Celebrating the Wyatt Hall 2/12 Wurlitzer 12/12/70 - 13/12/80, TOSA (SA), Adelaide, 1980, p. 2.

 

The Plaza Wurlitzer was a two-manual, twelve-rank, instrument:

Solo Chamber: Trumpet (brass), Tuba Horn, Tibia Clausa, Orchestral Oboe, Oboe Horn, Gamba, Vox Humana.

Main Chamber: Diaphonic Diapason, Clarinet, Violin, Violin Céleste, Concert Flute.

It had originally contained only eight ranks when in its first home at the Regent Theatre, Sydney, in 1928. When it was removed to the Plaza, Melbourne in 1929, it was enlarged with four extra ranks, two of which (Kinura and Krumet) were later exchanged for the Oboe Horn and Gamba. [Celebrating the Wyatt Hall 2/12 Wurlitzer 12/12/70 - 13/12/80, TOSA (SA), Adelaide, 1980, p. 2]

Stoplist of the Organ

As anyone who has been involved in such projects will be only too well aware, acquiring an organ is the easy part. Once the money has changed hands, the real work and problems pile up. This was the first time that a TOSA Division had purchased an organ interstate; the logistics of dis-mantling and crating an organ at such a distance are not easy. It was here that the interstate fellowship of TOSA came into play, as a tri-state team undertook the task:

Celebrating the Wyatt Hall 2/12 Wurlitzer 12/12/70 - 13/12/80, TOSA (SA), Adelaide, 1980, p. 2

On its arrival in Adelaide, the organ was placed into storage at St. James' parish hall, Mile End, where it was unpacked and checked for damage in transit. [Celebrating the Wyatt Hall 2/12 Wurlitzer 12/12/70 - 13/12/80, TOSA (SA), Adelaide, 1980, p. 2] While this work was being carried out, the task of finding a suitable location for the organ was under way. Eventually, agreement was reached for it to be installed in Pulteney Grammar School's Wyatt Hall, on South Terrace, close to the city centre.

Two chambers to house it were constructed behind the stage of the auditorium. These both measure 17' 6" wide, 12' deep and 12' high, with a third chamber beneath them (4' high) to house the wind and relay systems and the tremulants. The blower was placed in a separate chamber of its own. The result of this is that the pipe chests are at floor level (accessible from the chamber below), and all extraneous wind and tremulant noises are excluded. The only sounds the audience hears are those created by the organist. The organ console was initially placed at the right-hand side of the stage, but now that the stage has been removed, it sits on a raised moveable dais and is usually stored at the left-hand side, immediately below the main chamber shutters.

The instrument was installed with no changes to its specification. The only difference was that the stopkeys added in 1929, which had been placed apart from the other stops at the console, were integrated with the main bolsters of stop-keys, to make the instrument easier to control. It should be pointed out that a two-manual instrument is considerably more difficult for an organist to hand-register than one with three or four manuals, particularly when it has as many as twelve ranks of pipes. Ready accessibility to the stopkeys is vital to smooth changes of registration.

 

Much valuable assistance was provided by Gunstar Organ Works in the reconstruction of the instrument, as TOSA's team worked to bring it to concert standard (it should be recalled that it had not been in top condition for years prior to its removal from Melbourne). Their efforts were to be judged at the opening concert on 12 December, 1970, when Knight Barnett and Tony Fenelon (who had used it as his practice organ when he played "upstairs" at the Regent, Melbourne) put it through its paces before the Headmaster of Pulteney Grammar School, the Minister for Lands, and, of course, a hall packed with TOSA members and supporters.

South Australian Division Opens their 2/12 Wurlitzer, "Vox", TOSA (Vic), Melbourne, December, 1970, p. 6.

Since its installation, the organ has served both TOSA and the school well. It was soon heard on radio, and records also began to be made on it. The first three were:

It has also been played by a host of interstate and international organists, and has proved itself at least the equal of any other two-manual Wurlitzer around the world. I have played and heard many such instruments in several countries, including the USA, and have yet to find one to better it.

 

 

 

In 1978, the blower received some attention, when a new fan was fitted.  [News Spot, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, January, 1978, p. 6] In 1981, the solo manual Piccolo, Twelfth and Tierce were altered to be wired into the Tibia rank, rather than the Flute. ["TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, August, 1981, p. 7]  However, at that time, no extra pipes were added to the Tibia rank to accommodate these pitches. Additional treble pipes were ordered from America in 1993  [More Ranks Installed in the Capri Organ, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, March, 1993, p. 6], but it was not until 1995 that these were installed.  [News of Our Theatre Organs, "TOSA News", TOSA (SA), Adelaide, May, 1995, p. 5]

 

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