Friday, December 23, 2016

Pizza and a Wurlitzer

This past week we went to Mesa for a double-treat; pizza and music. Our destination was Organ Stop Pizza. Waiting for our pizza to be finished wasn't a hardship, with plenty of awesome music to pass the time. From our balcony table, we had a good view of the veteran organist (who was named "Organist of the Year" in 2000 by the American Theatre Organ Society) who commanded mastery over the instrument and its plethora of keys, stops, and buttons. Being right before Christmas, he played plenty of holiday songs. It was amazing to hear him play Mannheim Steamroller's version of "Carol of the Bells" in such a way that he was nearly able to replicate Chip Davis' entire band. Nary a sheet music could be seen, as he expertly switched between a variety of music styles, rhythms, etc.

This is no ordinary organ. Known as a theatre pipe organ, this 1927 Wurlitzer was originally designed to provide background music for silent movies and stage shows. Once an integral part of theatres of every size, these orchestral organs (with plenty of theatrical sound effects) fell out of fashion when talking picture movies became emerged. This particular organ started with 15 ranks/set of pipes, but was rebuilt with parts from other Wurlitzers in the early 1970s to have 23 ranks. In 1997, it was further expanded and now has 78 ranks, 17 tuned percussions, lots of sound effects, and 6,000 pipes. Four large turbine blowers provide the needed wind. The walls of the expansive restaurant are adorned with the pipes and lots of different percussive instruments and lighting designed to complement the music. The curtain in front was opened a couple times to reveal dancing marionette-style cats - perfect for the song "Alleycats." The ornate organ was perched on top of an 8,000 lb rotating hydraulic elevator, enabling all to catch a view of the maestro tickling the keys.

Oh, by the way, the pizza was excellent as well.

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