Our friends Lisa and David came over to our part of the city last Saturday night, but before they did, they did a little research about what we should do for our “play-date.”
Well, I’m pleased to tell you that they found a venue I had kind of heard of, but never gave a second thought. That is so sad, because the Old Town Music Hall, home of the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ, in El Segundo, CA is a real gem.
We thought we were only going to see the 1952 film, “Singing in the Rain,” but were we in for a surprise. Bill Field the theater owner strolled down the aisle in his wheel chair, transferred himself to the organ’s seat, and played it for us for about an hour. His tunes demonstrated the capabilities of the organ’s pipes and percussion instruments and accompanied our sing along and an old Monty Banks silent film.
Here’s what the music hall website has to say about this great old venue:
Old Town Music Hall is a concept that started in 1958 by Bill Coffman and Bill Field with the purchase of the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from the Fox West Coast Theater in Long Beach CA. This concept became a reality in 1960 when this fully restored instrument was installed in a small studio in Los Angeles for the purpose of presenting organ concerts and silent films to public and private audiences. Due to inadequate space the instrument was dismantled and stored. In November 1968, the search for a new and suitable location resulted in its present home of 188 seats in the original El Segundo State Theater at 140 Richmond Street in El Segundo California.
The instrument consists of four manuals and twenty-two sets of pipes. The console has 260 stop tablets plus an array of controls and pedals. The console is connected to a Devtronix Computer thereby controlling over 2000 pipes plus many moving percussive instruments and effects.
I took this on Saturday Night
The pipe tonal sources include the following pipe sounds: Vox Humana, Concert Flute, Viol D’Orchestre, Viol Celeste, Salicional, Clarinet, French Horn, Oboe Horn, Tibia Clausa (2), Kinura, Orchestral Oboe, Quintadena, Tuba, English Post Horn, Brass Saxaphone, Brass Trumpet, Gamba, Gamba Celeste, Horn Diapason, Diaphonic Diapason, and Krumet.
Percussion instruments include: Piano, Marimba, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Sleigh Bells, Vibraharp (2), English Handbells and Chimes. A rhythm trap section includes: Bass Drum, Kettle Drum, Cymbal, Crash Cymbal, Snare Drum, Tamborine, Castanets, Tom-Tom, Chinese Block and Triangle. A sound effect assembly includes: Siren, Car Horn, Bird, Whistle, Surf, Fire Gong, Boat Whistle, Telephone Bell, Horses Hoof, Chinese Gong, and Police Whistle.
The entire system is air-powered from a 10 hp. Spencer Turbine Orgoblo. This source of wind pressure runs the entire mechanical system as well as playing the pipes. The organ requires constant maintenance – it is a mechanical nightmare! But… there is no sound as great as the theater organ emanating from any other instrument.
So if you live in Southern California or plan to visit here, I recommend going over. You’ll see an old movie and be quite entertained by Bill’s organ music. “Singing in the Rain” turned out to be a wonderful surprise as well – what dancing! – but with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and a very cute young Debbie Reynolds in it, how could it be otherwise?