St Giles' Presbyterian Church

cnr McMahon & Park Streets, Hurstville

B. c.1930 Wurlitzer Co., Tonawanda, N.Y. (for Strand Theatre, Hobart?)
Reb. & inst. 1954 in present church Hill, Norman & Beard
(new console & 3 rk mixture supplied) (o/n 14344). 2m., 20 sp.st. (some extension), 5c., el.pn.
Gt: 16.8.8.4.4.2.8. Sw: 8.8.8.4.2-2/3.2.III.8. Ped: 16.8.8.5-1/3.4.





Photos above: Rodney Ford (November 2017)

 

 

From The Sydney Organ Journal (Winter 2013):

 

A Little-known Sydney Wurlitzer

Rod Blackmore

I am grateful to Ron Mapstone, organist at St. Giles' for the contemporary information.

 

Wurlitzer organ (opus #157) was the third substantive organ of that make to be imported to Australia. There had been a few Wurlitzer "Photoplayer" organs with a couple of pipe ranks, a range of tonal and non-tonal percussions, and roll players (but without pedal boards), as well as similar Robert Morton "Fotoplayers". These were mostly played with their roll players to accompany silent movies. Opus 157, however, with two manuals and a full pedal board, (as well as roll players and percussions), had six pipe ranks: Flute-Bourdon, Flute [Tibia], Salicional, Vox Humana, Trumpet and Viol Celeste. The console had the appearance of a player-piano with a straight stop rail.

The organ was installed by organ builder, J.E. Dodd in Hobart's (Tasmania) premier Strand Theatre from 16th November 1918. Ben Corrick was an outstanding organist there from 1920 to 1928. The theatre was remodeled in 1929 and Fincham and Sons carried out restoration of the organ, apparently reducing the height of the console with the need for roll players becoming redundant in the new era of "talkies". The altered console had curved cabinetry emulating the popular "horseshoe style" theatre organs, but retained the straight stop rail. Renowned theatre organist Manny Aarons came to reopen the instrument in 1929.

Falling into disuse in the late 1930s, the organ was removed and was in the hands of R. Shield (1940) and F. McCann (1945.)

More substantive articles about this organ and its time in the Strand may be found in OHTA News (October 2012, pp 12-15), in Kino Cinema Quarterly (Spring 2012, pp 18-19) and in my website www.theatreorgansaust.info

At Hurstville, New South Wales, there have been three Presbyterian churches bearing the name 'St. Giles'. The first was built in 1894, located on Forest Road between Carrington Avenue and Gloucester Road. It was replaced in 1923 by a new building at MacMahon Street and Park Road. In 1950 the congregation was clamouring for additional accommodation, and the third St. Giles was built "across the road" as a War Memorial, and opened in 1955.

The former Strand organ was acquired and installed in the 1923 vintage church. The organ bears a plaque:

Praise ye the Lord
The Gift of
The New Kirk Club
12th Sept., 1948


Rebuilding of the organ and re-installation in the new St. Giles was carried out by Hill, Norman & Beard (order number N344). HN&B provided a new console and the additional ranks of Oboe, Gedackt and a 3-rank Mixture. Subsequent additions by Ian Brown include a Voix Celeste, and the electronic pedal stops of Contra Diapason 32' and Major Bass 16'.

The single chamber is about 9m long, 2.1m wide and 3m high. The original Wurlitzer swell shutters and mechanisms have been used. The two sets of shutters are around 1.2m x 1.3m. It is reported, however, that the sound is restricted and "tends to echo around the chamber on full organ, with the top treble being unable to be heard." The existing pedal Bourdon and bottom octave of the Open Diapason are well away from the shutters, resulting in a weak bass, hence the installation of the electronic bass. Chimes are the only percussions remaining from the original organ but are also far away from the shutters and can hardly be heard, except on their own when there is no ambient noise.



Photo: Alan Caradus (October 2017)

 

Peter Jewkes writes... (Facebook post on 23 November 2017):

One of the most unusual and distinctive organs encountered by the Jewkes firm, the nucleus of this instrument began life in 1917, as one one of the first Wurlitzers (Op. 157) imported into Australia, serving at the Strand Theatre Hobart. In 1948 it came to be installed in the second St Giles' Presbyterian Church and was subsequently re-sited and rebuilt in 1955 in the new building erected by the church on the opposite side of the road. 

This major work was undertaken by Hill, Norman & Beard, and included the removal of some Wurlitzer ranks and the addition of other more "serious" stops to make the instrument more suitable for church use. A good quality new console was also included. Surprisingly, this work proved something of a tonal success in the new building, other than that the original Wurlitzer shutter fronts were badly placed, and tonal egress from the single large chamber into the church was not good. 

Recent work has included a major re-design of the internal layout to overcome these problems, as well as addressing major problems of wiring and winding, much of which had been altered over the years. New zinc wind trunks throughout the organ were made by Tim Gilley and Jordan Gutteridge, replacing an ageing melange of zinc, Kopex and PVC drainpipe trunking. All windchests and 4 Wurlitzer reservoirs were releathered and restored, as was the pipework, including additional ranks from the 1950s and 1990s. 

The organ now speaks more directly into the building, with the previously almost inaudible chimes now taking pride of place in the ensemble. The console with its excellent ivory keys was also restored, and a new pedalboard provided in place of an unoriginal electronic pedalboard provided in the 1990s. New Solid State Organ Systems switching and capture systems from England were provided for the console and organ, all of which was also rewired. Inspired by the "Auto Bass Couplers" recently devised for St Mark's Darling Point, these were included in the new switching so that future "reluctant organists" would be able to provide good hymn accompaniments for this very lively parish. 

Tonal finishing was undertaken on site, to ensure the preservation of the excellent balance between theatre and "church" stops, and despite its somewhat mixed pedigree, the organ makes a very worthwhile musical statement.

 

The stoplist is:

Great
Contra Viola
Open Diapason
Flute
Gedeckt
Octave
Flute
Super Octave
Mixture
Trumpet
Chimes
Swell to Great
Auto Bass

Swell
Gedackt
Salicional
Voix Celeste
Nason Flute
Salicet
Nazard
Piccolo
Mixture
Trumpet
Oboe
Chimes
Sub Octave
Octave
Tremulant

Pedal
Contra Diapason
Major Bass
Bourdon
Principal
Flute
Quint
Octave Flute
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal

16
8
8
8
4
4
2
3rks
8





8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
3rks
8
8






32
16
16
8
8
5-1/3
4



A
B
C
E
B
C
B
G
D
I




E
A
F
E
A
E
C
G
D
H
I







C
B
C
B
C



notes 1 – 12 from C








18 notes, middle C to treble F






13 – 61 only







18 notes, middle C to treble F





Digital
Digital







Compass 61/ 32

Great and Pedal Combinations Coupled

5 divisional Pistons for Swell
5 divisional Pistons for Great
5 divisional Pistons for Pedal
8 General Pistons
Next
Previous
Swell to Great reverser
Swell to Pedal reverser
Great to Pedal reverser
Set
General Cancel

20 levels of memory


















Photos: Rodney Ford (November 2017)







Photo: Alan Caradus (October 2017)




Console before restoration
Photo: Rod Blackmore (2013)