- July 24, 2017
A wurlitzer is a peculiar marvel. I had never seen or heard Worthing Assembly Hall’s wurlitzer theatre organ before, and was treated to a melodramatic introduction in Worthing Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the season.
I was worrying a little that I had misread the material beforehand when I couldn’t see the organ anywhere, but in gleefully theatrical fashion the wurlitzer rose out of the ground during Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony. It was all the more memorable in a classical concert, where variety can sometimes be lacking, and the evening also stood out for a tearful tribute to WSO conductor John Gibbons from soloist Nicola Benedetti.
The music was fantastic, opening with a bash of boisterous brass in Jerome Moross’ The Big Country. The most gloriously vicious moment of the evening were Benedetti’s mischievous slashes of violin in Shostakovich’s prickly violin concerto. These were underpinned with foreboding cellos and violas, deftly conducted by Gibbons. The third movement’s emotional, swooning solo was captivating. The fourth movement was more of a gallop, which the orchestra rattled off with thrilling verve.
Saint-Saëns’ famous piece Symphony No. 3 is a crowd pleaser for good reason, with a big recurring melody brought to life by the loud, but also warm and emotive wurlitzer. You’ll recognise the tune from Babe’s mice no doubt (bit.ly/1KbC1qJ).
I encourage any music lover to keep an eye for a concert with the wurlitzer (the Saint-Saëns work is a great place to start) and make a trip to Worthing. It’s important for us to support local venues and musical organisations, and the wurlitzer is a unique instrument with a beautiful sound that has to be heard live to be appreciated.