SCORES of organ enthusiasts descended on Bowness-on-Windermere at the weekend to witness a piece of history.
People from across the country piled into the Royalty Cinema where the mighty Wurlitzer organ was played for the first time after a painstaking five-year restoration.
Mayor of Windermere Coun Allan Winrow cut the ribbon to unveil the instrument, the only Wurlitzer in a working cinema in Europe.
The organ was originally at a theatre in Ohio but was shipped to the UK in 1934 when ‘talkies’ ended the era of silent films in the USA. It was used occasionally at the Rex cinema in East London until the 1970s.
Mark Latimer, who launched the restoration, said: “At some points I never thought we would get this far, so it’s tremendous to see it playing – it sounds fantastic.
“People have come here from the south coast to Scotland and everywhere in between.”
Visitors were treated to an afternoon concert featuring organists Chris Powell, David Ivory and David Shepherd.
VIDEO: Listen to the newly restored organ
Describing the opening event as ‘fantastic’. Alan Adams, of Barrow, said: “I could have listened to the organ for hours.
“It was so good and it’s wonderful to see the organ being used. I am glad I came.”
The celebration continued with an evening showing of silent film Safety Last, accompanied by Mr Ivory on the organ.
He said being involved brought back some memories for him.
“I played this very same organ 40 years ago so it’s nostalgic for me – I used to play it in an East London bingo hall. I’d entertain the ladies before bingo so it’s nice to be playing it again.”
There were also shorter films to start the cinema evening, which included the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton, with Paul Gregson at the keyboard.
One of those chuckling at the comedians, John Simpson, from Lancaster, said: “This is the first time I have seen a Wurlitzer in action so I was very excited. I’ve heard them on CDs but nothing compares to seeing it live.
“Everyone has been laughing so it must be good, and the organists are so talented.”
And Alan Mason, of Barrow, who attended the concert and film show, said: “The concert was very good and I am surprised at how many people turned up.
“I’ve seen the organ over the years so it’s lovely to come and see it being played, especially in a setting like this because there are not many vintage cinemas about.”