The Chevalier Theatre Organ Society’s 20-year effort to restore and install a 1922 Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ at Chevalier Theatre in Medford Square has reached an exciting milestone: The first public performance of the historic instrument!
This monumental occasion will occur on the afternoon of Sunday, December 4, 2022, just days after the 100th anniversary of the Wurlitzer’s first debut concert, which took place on November 27, 1922, at the new B.F. Keith Theatre in Dayton, Ohio. It will be held in conjunction with the Organ Society’s 2022 Annual Meeting, starting at 2:30 p.m. on the Chevalier stage. After a very brief business meeting (financial report, election of officers and directors for 2023), a slide presentation will tell the story the Chevalier Wurlitzer, setting the stage for the free debut concert with renowned organist Peter Krasinski starting promptly at 3 p.m.
Krasinski is well known to (and well loved by) Chevalier Theatre audiences, having performed memorable live, improvisational accompaniment at Chevalier to the silent films “Wings” in 2011; “The Red Balloon” and shorts in 2015; and the “Chevalier Charades” program in 2016.
For the December 4 debut concert, Peter will perform a program demonstrating the versatility of the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, which will be about 70% restored. He’ll play an inclusive array of holiday season music (Christmas, Hanukkah, Spirituals, etc.) along with a classical music segment and, of course, a sing-along. The concert centerpiece will feature longtime Organ Society and Friends of Chevalier board member and donor May Marquebreuck reciting the classic Clement Clarke Moore poem “The Night Before Christmas” while Peter accompanies on the organ.
The Chevalier theatre pipe organ is a 1922 two-manual, nine-rank Hope-Jones Style 210 Wurlitzer (Opus 542) that is typical of the instruments used for silent movie accompaniment in theatres nationwide throughout the 1920s. Once talking pictures emerged, the theatre pipe organs often became forgotten; the Chevalier Wurlitzer was saved from demolition by a local resident when Keith’s Theatre in Dayton was torn down in 1965. After a series of owners, the organ was donated to the City of Medford’s Chevalier Theatre in 1996 by the Pine Tree Chapter (Maine) of the American Theatre Organ Society.
In 2002, the nonprofit Chevalier Theatre Organ Society was founded to restore, install and maintain the Wurlitzer, as well as raise all necessary funds. Once fully installed and playing, the Wurlitzer will be used for concerts, silent movie accompaniment, educational programs, and enhancing other entertainment.
For more information, visit the Chevalier Theatre Organ Society’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ChevalierTOS and the Chevalier Theatre Wurlitzer Organ Debut Concert Facebook event at http://www.facebook.com/events/680750489900266/.
Photo caption: Richard Pelland (left) of Pelland Organ Co., chief technician for the Chevalier Theatre Organ Society’s Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ restoration project, with Michael Cerullo, a longtime Organ Society board member and treasurer.