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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Small but Beautiful”

November 4, 2009

Dear Michael,

What gives "The Mighty Wurlitzer" organ such a distintive voice? I'm a real novice at this, but love organ music in general and have always been a fan of the Wurlitzer and theater organ sound.
Have you ever done a program on little organs? We've a small organ in our church, made by Hinner, probably in the 1920's and refurbished in the late 60's when it came to our church from the little country church in Duluth, Kansas.
It has about a dozen stops, one little key board and an equally smal set of foot pedals and all contained in a box about 7' square. I am continually amazed at the beauty of music it can produce in the hands or our organists.
Thanks, enjoy your show and the pictures on your website!




The Wurlitzer's distinctive voice comes from the Tibia, a large-scale flute stop with a forthright though somewhat opaque tone. The Tibia is the central, foundational voice in the theatre organ's ensemble (in the classical organ, that role is played by the diapason/principal). Combined with the tremulant (deep and fast), this throbbing tone quality is unique to the theater organ. That's just the beginning of an answer. If you sniff around for 'theatre organ' websites, you'll likely find more detail.

As for small organs, they appear regularly (one with only 6 stops was heard in the recent program of organs in Austria). Any show with excerpts from Organ Historical Society conventions will feature little instruments such as your Hinners. Little organs can be quite amazing, under the right hands (and feet).




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