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The Perth Theatre Organ Scene


Theatre pipe organs were only installed in two Perth cinemas, a 3 manual Wurlitzer at the ornate Ambassadors in Hay Street and a 2 manual at the Regent (later renamed Metro) in William Street. The Prince of Wales in Murray Street and one of Fremantle's houses featured Wurlitzer Photo player organs. These were small instruments with auto roll playing facilities. Both of these were later broken up, the pipes being installed in local church organs. The two larger Wurlitzers were in popular use until the mid forties when the Ambassadors organ was removed and re installed with some additions in the Melbourne Regent Theatre, which had lost most of it's organ in a fire.
The 2 manual instrument at the Metro was not used for about twenty years until John Fuhrmann was engaged to play pre-show and intermission music in the late 60's a position he was to hold until 1972 when the theatre was demolished and rebuilt as Wesley Arcade. A short video of the theatre's last days can be viewed HERE
During this period Ray Clements had formed the local branch of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia and was playing an electronic instrument regularly at the Town Cinema (now the Holiday Inn Hotel). Interest in Theatre organ was suddenly very high, in fact around 1970 several Perth cinemas featured electronic organs. many concerts were presented at the Metro.
It was in 1970 that the Theatre Organ Society purchased the Compton organ from the Plaza Cinema in Worthing, England. Arrangements had been made to install it in the Fremantle Town Hall, but problems were encountered and the instrument was sold to local entrepreneur Bob Purvis. The organ was installed in the new Purvisonic Sound headquarters by a team of volunteers guided by Ray Clements and John Fuhrmann followed by several concerts. The opening concert featured Hubert Selby, Ray and John and Bob Purvis himself. When Ray and John purchased the Metro Wurlitzer in 1972 their involvement in the Compton project regrettably ceased and the instrument was more or less unused until the T.O.S.A purchased the organ from Purvisonic Sound and it has subsequently been reinstalled in it's current home, the Nedlands Sports Centre in the City of Nedlands.

The Ambassadors Cinema

Located in Hay Street Perth the ornate Ambassadors theatre was the crowning jewel of all the Perth cinemas. The opening night featured the 3 Manual Wurlitzer with an Orchestra and dancers as well as the movie. For a more in depth description of this theatre and it's resident organist Les Waldren click HERE

The Karrinyup WurliTzer

This is now a composite of several organs. Twelve of it's 21 ranks (Diapason, Flute, Clarinet, Viol and Celeste, Vox Humana, Tibia Clausa, Tuba, Kinura, Krumet, Orchestral Oboe and Brass Trumpet) came from the original Metro cinema the remaining 9 ranks came from various pizza parlours and private installations in U.S.A. as noted on the specifications page.
The 3 manual console has seen considerable service and was originally shipped as Opus 977 in 1924 to Scheuter's Cinema in Long Beach, California. It was registered as a 2 manual 6 rank style "D". The console and pipe work were returned to the North Tonawanda WurliTzer factory for a rebuild and extensions in 1934. It re-emerged as a 3 manual 8 rank and was shipped to the Golden Concert Studios of radio station KFPY in Spokane, a city of 200,000 on the Eastern border of the State of Washington. In 1949 the radio station moved it's location and the organ was eventually acquired by Balcom and Vaughan of Seattle (a local firm of organ builders). Further extensions occurred before it was installed in the Rolladium Skating Rink in 1953.
Noted theatre organ technician Bill Carson purchased the instrument in the 60's and installed it in his house. He was able to acquire the top portion of a WurliTzer Style 260 Double bolster stop rail and added it to the original, resulting in the the Karrinyup console. Since arriving in Western Australia, the stop rails have been further enlarged resulting in a total specification of 178 stops. To accommodate all of the new stops an extra two WurliTzer relay switch stacks have been added to the original one. In 2009/2010 the console underwent a dramatic transformation of the stop capture mechanism, the original electro pneumatic being replaced with an Artisan digital system. This has resulted in a flexible system much appreciated by the many organists who play the instrument.