Orpheum Launches Campaign to Restore the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ
In honor of the historic Orpheum Theatre's 90th birthday, the Orpheum Theatre Group launched a campaign on Friday, June 2nd to restore the theatre's Mighty Wurlitzer organ to its 1928 splendor.
The Mighty Wurlitzer organ, also celebrating its 90th birthday in 2018, was built in North Tonawanda, New York in 1928 and was shipped to the Orpheum on September 25th of that same year. The $19,000 instrument was originally purchased to play for vaudeville shows and silent movies and is now enjoyed by patrons during the Orpheum's annual Summer Movie Series. However, time has taken its toll on this precious instrument.
A recent study of the organ, commissioned by the Orpheum Theatre Group and completed by JL Weiler, Inc. of Chicago, the nation's most noted restorer of theatre organs, showed approximately $500,000 worth of rebuilding was needed to fully restore the instrument. They estimated that without the major improvements the organ will be inoperable within the next year and a half.
"We invite the entire community to help us save this important piece of the Orpheum's history," said Brett Batterson, President & CEO of the Orpheum Theatre Group. "Multiple generations of patrons have enjoyed the Mighty Wurlitzer organ and we want to ensure that future generations continue to experience it."
Ushers will be collecting donations before and after every Orpheum Theatre event. Patrons can mail support to PO Box 3370 Memphis, TN 38173 and designate the "Wurlitzer Campaign." To donate online, visit www.orpheum-memphis.com. Every gift makes a difference, and no donation is too small.
The process of restoration will involve removing the organ from the Orpheum, shipping it to JL Weiler's shop in Chicago where it will be rebuilt, and then returning it to its place of importance at the historic Orpheum Theatre.
About the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ:
The curved console organ is a registered 3/13 240 style Wurlitzer that rests on its own hydraulic lift that can raise or lower the organ out of the orchestra pit. Noted organists have included Art Hayes, Vincent Astor, John Hiltonsmith, and Tony Thomas.
About the Orpheum Theatre Group:
The mission of the Orpheum Theatre Group is to enhance the communities we serve by utilizing the performing arts to entertain, educate, and enlighten while preserving the historic Orpheum Theatre and the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education. For more information, visit www.orpheum-memphis.com.