RCCO visit to the Orpheum Theatre’s historic Wurlitzer Organ

By Rachel Alflatt

On January 26 2019, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 100th anniversary with a day of free events, including a performance by our vice-president Michael Dirk on the historic 1927 Wurlitzer organ in the Orpheum Theatre (the VSO’s home venue) in downtown Vancouver. On that occasion he accompanied the Laurel and Hardy silent short “The Second Hundred Years” for a very enthusiastic audience of about 3000 people.

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Thanks to Michael’s connections, and to the financial help of organist Koos van Nieuwkoop, we were able to return to the Orpheum for an organ crawl on February 23, during which local organists had a chance to either try out the organ or to listen to all its sounds, from flutes and trumpets to the “surf button”, with Michael also giving a guided tour into one of the organ chambers.

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Those who were there at the beginning or end of the session had the privilege of either seeing the organ rising up to the stage or descending back again.

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This was a unique opportunity for us to get to know a different kind of organ from the more classical kind many of us are used to, and to make some fascinating discoveries. This organ is a treasure and hopefully will be preserved as such.

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Installed in 1927, it remains the only theatre organ in Canada in its original location, and on its 90th birthday, was designated Heritage Level 1 by the American Theatre Organ Society.

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