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- The WurliTzer Organ in the Granada Cinema, Bedford -


   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards:      BBC in Bedford:
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Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall:
Religion and Drama:       Singers:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
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THE GRANADA CINEMA situated in St Peter's Street was built in 1934.   The proud owners, Sidney and Cyril Bernstein (Bernstein Theatres) and William and Ernest Blake (Blakes' Theatres), had provided seating for 1700, state-of-the-art air conditioning (a series of windows enabled the large unit with its air cleansing and heating facilities to be admired by the public as it queued in a side alley), a stage that could accommodate a full orchestra, and a large and well-appointed restaurant overlooking St Peter's Green. The building was sold in 1989 and later demolished.

    A popular feature of the cinema was its WurliTzer organ which, during the intermission, and bearing the organist of the day, rose slowly from its pit in front of the stage to provide twenty minutes or so of musical entertainment.

    The organ (works number 2186), which for many years gave much pleasure to Bedford audiences, was designed by James Morrison Ariba and is recognisable as a Granada instrument because of the flat tops on the left and right arms of the console.

Granadaorgan2.jpg - 42360 Bytes     The organ has three keyboards (manuals), and eight ranks totalling more than six hundred pipes. (It is NOT an electronic instrument in the modern sense!)   The top keyboard has no voices of it's own but merely couples up to the sounds of the other two keyboards.   The total weight of console and pipes is approx 6.9 tonnes.

    The pipework was installed at the Granada cinema in Bedford in two large rooms at the rear of the stage and the console was mounted on a lift unit in a pit in front of the stage.

    The WurliTzer was given its inaugural concert on Saturday 15th December 1934 by organist Harold Betts - a day after the theatre was officially opened.

    In 1979, after the closure of the Bedford cinema the organ was moved to Redcar. The first concert at the Pier Ballroom on 15th April 1979 was performed by local organist George Foster and Ernest Broadbent, who had followed famous organist Reginald Dixon as resident organist at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom.Granada.jpg - 28842 Bytes

    On 14th June 1981 under the auspices of the Langbaurgh Theatre Organ Society, who had arranged its transfer to Eston, it was re-opened in the James Finegan Municipal Hall again with performances by organists George Foster and Ernest Broadbent.   The WurliTzer essentially remains the same as at Bedford but with several important alterations. At Bedford the pipework was in two rooms or chambers. At Eston, for practical reasons, it is now in only one chamber.   A general crescendo pedal and a MIDI piano unit have also been added.

    In the nineteen fifties the days of the WurliTzer cinema organs were numbered - and they '... vanished into the depths forever, all lights blazing, like the Titanic.' (Peter Vansittart: 'In the Fifties' published 1995).   Fortunately some of the organs have  survived and the former Granada instrument, now affectionately now known as the "Eston WurliTzer" continues to entertain and thrill those who come from all over the country to attend the Langbaurgh Theatre Organ Society concerts.

(Photographs by George Gearey (top) and from Langbaurgh Theatre Organ Society - with acknowledgement)


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