Salem, OR US
Fine Arts Building, Smith Auditorium
Organ ID: 30885
Updated from a letter of 2012 by Thomas Mathiesen paraphrased by Eric
Schmiedeberg. -- I discovered this instrument during my Freshman year as an organ major at Willamette in the Fall of 1964. At that time, the Wurlitzer was rarely used and in quite poor condition. The console was installed in an alcove under the Main chamber on the left side of the auditorium.
On the right side of the auditorium, the Solo chamber was separated from an upstairs classroom by a simple door. Thus, it was impossible to use the organ--or even work on it--during any classroom periods.
Because of my background with theatre organs as a member of the American Theatre Organ Enthusiasts (ATOE), I was interested in the Wurlitzer and managed to persuade the Business Manager of the university to let me do an inventory of the problems in order to determine the feasibility of repairing the instrument so that it could be used more frequently.
We agreed that I would do this when I returned to campus in the Fall. I got back a week or so before classes began and worked diligently with the help of a friend to resurrect the Wurlitzer. By February of 1966, all but 6 notes scattered throughout the organ were playing. There had been more than 100 dead notes.
All of the missing tuned percussions were recovered from their hiding places and reinstalled; as well as the non-tuned percussion instruments and some sound effects equipment. I had tuned the organ several times by this time and the organ was sounding quite good. I did not attempt any revoicing or structural modifications because that would have run counter to my ideas about restoration.
I would have also needed a second person to help with this; and time and money were restricted for a student like myself. I also felt that the instrument's tone was already quite beautiful and refined and I would accomplish nothing through modification. Once the organ was usable, I began to play it prior to every university colloquium presented by guest lecturers at least twice a month. We persuaded the faculty adviser for the Educational Film Series to let us present a silent film, with organ accompaniment. I played an improvised accompaniment to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This involved a dual-mirror set-up to allow me to see the screen from the console's awkward position in the alcove mentioned above. To be fair, the university did not have the presentation of silent movies in mind when the organ and console were installed. The Hunchback of Notre Dame and subsequent showing of D.W. Griffith's classic Intolerance proved to be great successes and interest in the Wurlitzer began to spread.
By the time I finished my Junior year, I had pretty well gone through the whole organ and had it in well-tuned, well-adjusted condition. All but the four tremulant tabs on the back rail had been removed at some time. These missing tabs were for the Piano--which never made it to Willamette from the theatre--and the second-touches for the Accompaniment and Great manuals
. I put new tabs into the back rail for the second-touches and also rewired the crescendo pedal for proper operation. To protect the organ, I made a console cover and a shade for the relays and switchboards which were installed next to a window where sunlight streamed in. My Senior year did not see much work done on the organ. The year after I graduated, they invited me back from California to play a series of silent features as part of a film festival put on by the Educational Film Series. So, I got a chance to play "my" Wurlitzer one last time. The organ was sold and removed shortly thereafter. I enjoyed working on this instrument almost as much as playing it. I thought it was a beautiful instrument with an impressive sound; and I was very proud to have brought it back to life.
Thomas J. Mathiesen
Distinguished Professor, Emeritus
Jacobs School of Music Indiana University
Updated through online information from Eric Schmiedeberg. -- The Piano originally specified in this organ was not re-installed at Willamette and the stopkeys related to it were removed. Its disposition is unknown.
A stoplist/specification sheet for this organ was compiled in 1969 by Cliele D' Autremont when the organ was put on the market for sale by Willamette University. In that list he indicates that the Sleigh Bells stopkey at the end of the Accompaniment Manual stopkey section was removed and a 16'Tibia Clausa TC playable from the Great Manual took its place.
Also, the Great Second Touch 8' Tibia stopkey was changed to a 4' Piccolo. Both of these changes yielded 16'TC and 4' pitches in the Tibia rank which were sorely lacking in the factory incarnation of Opus 1003. It is unknown to me when these changes were made, but there is photographic evidence that at least the 16'TC Tibia was added by 1966.
It is very plausible that the two changes were made at the same time when the instrument was still at the MacDonald Theatre in Eugene by, or at the behest of, a dissatisfied organist. The 4' Tibia pitch is crucial to that rank as the solo and chorus stop that it would have been seen as in 1925.
The 16' pitch enables the 16'and 4' Tibia combination so effectively used by the great Jesse Crawford in some of his open-harmony passages. It also acts a "thickener" to mezzo-forte and louder combinations; and enables the registering of a 16-8-4 Tibia chorus.
Identified through online information from James R. Stettner. -- Originally built for the McDonald Theatre in Eugene, OR. It was a style H "Special." It was donated to Willamette University in 1955 and installed by Clele d'Autrey of Portland. The installation is said to have been poorly executed. In 1969, it was acquired by Ed Lippert who installed it very well in his Spokane, WA home.