Wednesday, May 12

Yak Yak Yak: The mighty organ

- November 15, 2016


What makes you smile? Lots of things make me smile, silly things for the main will put a grin on my face but also some serious ones too, a great painting, a well crafted play, a choir that produces a sweet and powerful sound and, wait for it, theatre organ music.

Some of you will not have a clue what I am talking about, and some of you will never ever get the chance to hear this wonderful and sadly disappearing musical form. I managed to spot that there was going to be a concert a The Dome in Brighton featuring their amazing theatre organ at the hands of the quite incredible Michael Wooldridge. I immediately organised tickets to go along with a friend who is equally keen on this art form, yes I am declaring it an art form.

Theatre organs, or cinema organs are mighty beasts, beasts that merit the phrase ‘bells and whistles’ because they have bells and whistles – and a whole host of other ‘voices’. And if you ever wondered where the saying ‘pulling out all the stops’ comes from then here is the answer.

Theatre organs merit the phrase bells and whistles

Wooldridge certainly pulled out all the stops and wrested from the beast an amazing array of complex sounds, some serious and some very frivolous, that is the joy of this music, it’s capable of being rock solid and at the same time deeply shallow – I love it.

And what’s not to admire about a man that can announce that the day before it came to him to perform a medley of songs from The Sound of Music and then 24 hours later sit at the mighty organ and do just that without one sheet of written music – more than impressive.

So I loved it, it filled me with joy and admiration – and it made me sad too.

Why? Well it was a Monday afternoon and there were about 100 of us there soaking up the genius. Only 100 and at 60 I might well have been the youngest! It made me realise that this is an art that could become extinct. How many new organists are embracing the style and the repertoire, the technique required to keep this thing going. Very few I would guess. And if no one is listening and no one can play then who will keep these mighty beasts maintained, it cannot be cheap!

I cannot wait for the next one and forgive me now if I become a theatre organ evangelist and start nagging you all to go, I guarantee that you will be amazed by the extraordinary musical dexterity and amount of joyous fun that you will see and hear.

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