Learn About Theater Organs

Theater organs were designed to accompany silent films in the early 1900’s. Unlike a church pipe organ, theater pipe organs are set up like a small orchestra with trumpets, violins, flutes, oboe, clarinet and marimba harp. They also have percussion and sound effects such as car horns, doorbells, whistles, bells, drums, wood blocks, cymbals and tuned sleigh bells. No other instrument provides these real sounds from mechanical and electrical action. There are no recorded or sampled sounds here!

How does it work?

 Robert Wolfe explains!

How to play the pedals.

 This is Dr. Carol Williams playing “Flight of the Bumblebee”…. with her feet!
(Note: this is the Möller theatre organ at the West Point Academy Chapel. The pedals can be played the same way on a Wurlitzer.) 

How to play “Star Wars” on a Wurlitzer.

 Featuring Jelani Eddington at the Sanfilippo Wurlitzer.

Inside the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ

 The world’s largest operating musical instrument is located within a seven-story Grand Court at Macy’s Center City (formerly Wanamaker’s department store) in Philadelphia. This organ was built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. John Wanamaker purchased it for his store in 1909.

Play the Wurlitzer!

Imagine you are sitting at the organ console. This is what you’d be doing! Click on the arrow to begin.