Famous Wurlitzer brings the generations together at Victoria Hall, Saltaire

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Frank Senior and James Kenny with the Wurlitzer Frank Senior and James Kenny with the Wurlitzer

The magic of the Wurlitzer organ at Victoria Hall, Saltaire, has spanned four generations to bring two great fans together.

Sprightly 94-year-old Frank Senior helped care for the instrument back in the 1970s and James Kenny, 16, has just started playing it.

The American-made organ made its debut accompanying silent films at the Gaumont, Oldham in 1937 before moving to the Dale Hall in Hampsthwaite, near Harrogate, in the 1960s.

And it was then that lifelong Shipley resident Mr Senior became involved in its upkeep.

“A neighbour asked if I wanted a lift over there to help and out and I said okay then,” Mr Senior said.

“The organ was just wonderful, but I felt ashamed to take the money on the door because the place was so shabby!”

Widower Mr Senior stayed involved with the Wurlitzer until it moved to Pudsey, then the Ritz Ballroom in Brighouse before arriving at Saltaire in 2008.

The seven-ton monster is valued at about £800,000 and cost £135,000 to install on a custom-made hydraulic ramp which enables it to disappear and re-appear at the touch of a button.

Rooms below the stage are stuffed with lovingly restored organ pipes and percussion pieces including drums, cymbals and even a glockenspiel which can be operated by the organist for dramatic effects.

“It really is one of the finest examples of a fully-working Wurlitzer in the world,” said Godfrey Neil, local chairman of the Cinema Organ Society, who now oversees its daily care with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers.

And dedicated young musician James not only plays, but is also on the local COS committee.

After treating Mr Senior to the spanish-themed tune El Adorno, James explained his fascination with the 85-year-old instrument.

“Everything about it is amazing – I really like the complexity of the three keyboards, pedals and sound effects plus the mechanical side of how it works,” said James, who is chapel organist at Rishworth School, near Ripponden, where he studies A-level music.

“I love playing it and want to be a professional musician – but that would be as cathedral organist,” said James.

As he returned to playing, delighted Mr Senior, who first saw legendary Blackpool organist Reginald Dixon perform in 1935, stood beside the old Wurlitzer.

“Well, how fantastic, I never thought I’d be on a stage with it again!” he said.

l Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom organist Paul Kelsall will play the Wurlitzer at Victoria Hall, Saltaire on Friday, March 15 as one of several performances detailed on the website www.cosnorth.co.uk

Comments (3)

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9:20am Fri 1 Feb 13

Joedavid says...

I never see any public concerts of the organ advertised, I find it strange there are seeming none.
I never see any public concerts of the organ advertised, I find it strange there are seeming none. Joedavid

9:27am Fri 1 Feb 13

Joedavid says...

In another T&A article is the present state of proposed sale and restoration of the New Victoria/Odeon also yesterday an article on the Organ removed from there and it being now up in Weardale on the new BORG website.
Are there any plans by the Cinema Organ Society to install a Wurlitzer in the New Victoria should the restoration of the building go ahead and those in charge wishing to have one, which I hope will be the case?
In another T&A article is the present state of proposed sale and restoration of the New Victoria/Odeon also yesterday an article on the Organ removed from there and it being now up in Weardale on the new BORG website. Are there any plans by the Cinema Organ Society to install a Wurlitzer in the New Victoria should the restoration of the building go ahead and those in charge wishing to have one, which I hope will be the case? Joedavid

1:44am Sat 2 Feb 13

SaltaireWurlitzer says...

Joedavid wrote:
I never see any public concerts of the organ advertised, I find it strange there are seeming none.
A quick simple google search would lead anyone to find listings of all concerts performed at the Victoria Hall on the Wurlitzer. The Saltaire tourist office lists the events both onsite and online. Posters are displayed both inside and outside the Victoria Hall. Lots of other promotion is carried out for the Wurlitzer events.

Monthly events have been advertised and held since 2009 and the current event list for 2013 is available at www.cosnorth.co.uk

I hope Joedavid is able to attend a future event soon now that I have pointed in several directions to be looking.
[quote][p][bold]Joedavid[/bold] wrote: I never see any public concerts of the organ advertised, I find it strange there are seeming none.[/p][/quote]A quick simple google search would lead anyone to find listings of all concerts performed at the Victoria Hall on the Wurlitzer. The Saltaire tourist office lists the events both onsite and online. Posters are displayed both inside and outside the Victoria Hall. Lots of other promotion is carried out for the Wurlitzer events. Monthly events have been advertised and held since 2009 and the current event list for 2013 is available at www.cosnorth.co.uk I hope Joedavid is able to attend a future event soon now that I have pointed in several directions to be looking. SaltaireWurlitzer

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